The state should harness the potential in art for inclusive governance

Posted by on 8th October 2019

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The curtains of the 2019 Too Early for Birds (TEFB) Tom Mboya edition came down after five 3-hour shows that were a rollercoaster of emotions. The cast had the audience on the edge of their seats, delivering facts in between puns and new-age music and social media references that resonated on so many levels. To imagine that the life story of the iconic Thomas Joseph Odhiambo Mboya would have hundreds hooked, who were born decades after his assassination, is unfathomable.  Even more interesting, was the fact that the cast was one that probably experienced the Moi era during its last decade, but whose delivery felt as though they lived during his time and experienced him.

Beyond the bursts of laughter were many learning moments. History was being experienced in a different and memorable way that almost felt like a new encounter with this story. It was a realization that perhaps certain facts were omitted in the history books most grew up reading or these unknown facts finally hit home by the simple act of humanizing this political firebrand.

The play did more than re-enacting the events of the short life of the celebrated Mboya. It reawakened a sense of ownership of the country. The heavy scenes of his death, burial and a distraught nation mourning the loss of their adored son and leader hammered the message home, that indeed we cannot run away from our history. It was a realization, especially for the young that our country’s distant history has everything to do with the discourse of our nation’s politics and leadership.

The bold Mboya’s achievements as captured in the play were a symbolic reminder to an audience that despite being rendered helpless over the past few years, they can and they should be in prominent positions of leadership to drive change.

The young demographic has over time been associated with a sense of resignation and pessimism in the face of politics. Rightfully so, considering how murky the political waters are, it only takes the brave to attempt a dip and very few manage to navigate them. However, by the end of the shows, the mood spoke of a reignited fire to take the reins of the country back and achieve what Mboya was able to do at his age.

But this wouldn’t have been made possible had the delivery of this story taken another format, attesting to the power of art and the need for it in the political space. During the launch of the Kenya Arts Diary, Cultural Analyst and Managing Director, Dr Joyce Nyairo urged the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Arts to start prioritizing art. Her sentiments being that beyond the need for expression by artists, there is a worrying vacuum in the social justice space that can be addressed through art. Artists over time have used their voices to address and influence political issues, reggae legend Bob Marley being a prime example.

Art presents a unique opportunity to reach out to a huge chunk of young Kenyan voters who have missed out on or refused to exercise their democratic right, for the simple fact that they don’t feel like they belong. There is a great need to bridge the gap between voter apathy and civic awareness & engagement among the youth. Through art that delivers history in a palatable way, youth will have a chance to make informed decisions whenever called upon to.

It is clear as day that young people have a burning desire to engage in politics and governance that needs to be satiated. So to have an artist who looks like them, speaks like them and hears them is the solution we just might need if we’re ever going to tap into this demographic that has the right numbers to drive change.

The recent “Play Kenyan Music” wave is a perfect case study of how much young non-conforming folks can achieve, so the task lies in the hands of the government and civil society organizations be in tune with them and achieve the vision they have for our nation.

Government agencies let down Mariam and her daughter

Posted by on 2nd October 2019

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It’s certainly become a norm for death stories to top daily broadcasts to a point where we’re becoming numb to it. News of the death of a mother and her daughter cued in the last quarter of the year, and what has most infuriated most Kenyans is the way these deaths happened and the attention or lack thereof, that they’re being given. Mariam Kigenda and her 4-year old daughter Amanda Kiveu drowned on Sunday after their car slipped from the ferry and into the ocean as captured in several videos that have been making rounds online.

This is one heartbreaking memory that will be etched in the minds of the family of the deceased who now have to deal with the agony of waiting for the bodies to be retrieved from the ocean. Unfortunately, the incompetency displayed by Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) and all other maritime state agencies has subjected the family to more pain as they have to wait a while longer before laying them to rest. Kenyans are angry and rightfully so, because this is one thing that would and should have been avoided. When one pieces together different elements in this tragedy, it wholesomely speaks to the magnitude of negligence that has become the norm in this country.

Many hoped that appropriate rescue and recovery measures would have been put in place following the Mtongwe ferry tragedy that claimed 257 lives, but it appears that even 25 years later no one in leadership has been keen enough to make the Likoni ferry channel safe. As witnessed on the Sunday incident, the rescue personnel; equipment and protocol is wanting. But it makes one wonder whether it is an issue of inadequate funding, ignorance by leaders or utter disregard for people’s safety. What most may not know is that this incident is not in any way unique, since a Kenya Ports Authority accountant died in similar circumstances in 2016. An Unga Limited canter also plunged into the ocean earlier this year. It may seem that the government has buried its head in the sand hoping that the impending danger at the Likoni ferry channel will somehow go away.

This terrible attitude risks the safety and lives of the 300,000 Kenyans who use the ferry every day. Perhaps Kenyan lives aren’t valued anymore since all these deaths and injuries that have been reported over time are yet to strike a nerve that will drive immediate and permanent solutions.

That aside, most of the Kenya Ferry vessels have been an eyesore for years with cranky parts that are beyond maintenance. Many have had to deal with ramps that endanger the lives of commuters both in cars and on foot. The ramps are either so old and immobile or missing some parts, forcing passengers to jump off and on to the incline risking to fall or getting their shoes wet in the process. Logically speaking a functional, raised ramp would have stopped the car from reversing backwards and plunging into the ocean but we have a tendency of being reactive rather than proactive to pertinent issues.

State agencies such as Kenya Ferry Services, Kenya Navy and the Kenya Coast Guard that was launched in 2018 are all funded by taxpayers’ money, so to provide decent services while safeguarding Kenyans’ lives is the bare minimum. Those heading these offices have questions to answer. Calling for the resignation of the officials responsible will not only spark accountability but it will demand responsibility from those in charge. During such moments when emotions are high and there’s enough blame to go around, Parliament needs to step in and step up its oversight role.

MPs particularly Coastal MPs need to truly represent those who voted them in and demand for conclusive investigations into the management of KFS, establish whether KFS has adequate funds allocated to it and demand an audit of the spend of said funds. Furthermore, MPs need to rise to the occasion and push for progressive and impactful change.

Those who have had a hand in these deaths, either through negligence or corruption should face the full force of law as we’ve seen with the owner of the Precious Talent School that claimed 8 lives. If this doesn’t happen, then the government will just be complacent in these deaths.

The Ground Addresses a Great Concern For Frequented Oversight

Posted by on 27th September 2019

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Kwa Ground Vitu Ni Different a common Kenyan phrase among the youth, which translates matters on the ground are different. The same is the state of most sectors in our government. It is without question that our parliament has perfected the art of lawmaking. In fact among its parliamentary responsibilities, the legislative role outweighs oversight and representation. But even as our parliaments craft these laws, what is to be questioned is how they’re implemented and overseen at the grass-root level.

Overtime our parliaments and ministries have proven to take a back seat on laws and resorted to reactive rather than a proactive approach that has been costly to the citizenry. Lack of proper oversight in implementation has proven the unfathomable power of tragedy in waking the conscience of our parliaments and ministries on crucial matters. As always last-minute stances have been sought through coercive measures such as parliamentary summons, ministerial and presidential directives to back up the many legislations in place.

Recent occurrences in and around the education sector paint a picture of negligent institutions and officers; the death of young Chepng’eno linked to period shamming by a teacher and the tragic accident of the one-storey classroom building at Precious Talents Academy in Dagoretti South that cost the lives of eight, leaving more than 60 learners injured and hundreds with trauma to deal with for the rest of their lives, are instances that could have been solved by simple oversight.

Whereas the parliament, through legislation, in a bid to promote the rights and interests of the child developed the Basic Education Act, 2013, which among many things seeks to provide for accreditation, registration, governance and management of institutions of basic education, many killer schools such as Precious Talents are still in existence a demonstration of widespread noncompliance to minimum set standards for schools.

Offices of the National Education Board, the Education Standards and Quality Assurance Commission, and the County Education Board established by the same Act are unheard of in stopping such schools to operate and to make matters worse confer licenses to the same schools. The fatal accident at Precious Talents Academy as evidently shown was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode and even the relevant ministries, the Education Standards and Quality Assurance Commission, the County Education Board and the area MP John Kiarie despite their knowledge and powers mandated by the constitution made the least effort to diffuse it only to join the rest in mourning.

Amidst blame shifts and finger-pointing and political sideshows by MPs who seemed to be cashing on disasters it is clear that the mere push even from the same members who form the government for the government to intervene, presidential or ministerial directives without proper implementation and oversight is all PR. How many policies and legislation do we need to assure the safety of our school-going children? The ground addresses a great concern for frequented oversight.

For most parents living in informal areas admitting your child in a private school is an ultimate sacrifice which should not be the case in a country that boasts of free primary education. It is also uncalled of for an area with representatives and a spatial plan to lack a public school. It is thus undeniable that our good laws and committee recommendations tabled in parliament can only hold water when they are propelled by proper oversight.

Our parliaments and ministries need to have future-proofed thinking and address the gap in need-based planning especially in education  and budgeting recognizing the fact that the present  increase in population leads to an increased need for enrollment in public primary schools. There will be less impact in the call for the resignation of the Minister of Education without a clear plan to improve implementation and oversight.

Finally, 16-year-old climate champion, Greta Thunberg, in her address at the United Nations General Assembly highlights the cost of petty negligence and empty words among our leaders and states, “The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.”   This makes perfect sense in light with the pain and loss of young generations because of the mistakes of adults.

Normalization of menstruation needs to start from the top

Posted by on 20th September 2019

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Aisha Hinds of the Shots Fired series once said, “It goes against natural order for a parent to bury their child.” Jackeline Chepng’eno’s parents were dealt with this sad reality when their 14-year-old took her life after being subjected to period shame by her teacher. This unfortunate incident speaks of failure on several levels of the young girl’s ecosystem. Failure by the teaching system, the government and society to create an accommodating environment for a girl hitting puberty.

In an all too familiar move, questions started being asked after the milk was already spilled. In June 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed to law a Bill to amend the Basic Education Act that would bring to effect the free sanitary pads to primary schools. What followed was an allocation of Sh 420 million in 2018 which supplied 3.7 million girls with sanitary towels according to the Ministry of Gender. As it turns out, the tendering process of this programme wasn’t spared from controversy. Some members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have linked Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang to Konyipad Construction and Supplies Company Ltd that was awarded the tender to supply and deliver sanitary towels to schools despite not being the lowest bidder.

The opaqueness of this and many other government tendering processes have overtime affected service delivery and is now threatening more than half of the Kenyan population. Which therefore means that Parliament has been slacking on its oversight mandate. It’s been said before that we do not face an absence of laws rather a lack of good will to implement them. It was just a month ago that Kwale Women representative Zuleikah Hassan was ejected from Parliament for bringing her 5-month old baby into the parliament chambers. Reason being that the Parliament buildings did not have a functioning crèche 6 years after MPs passed a motion directing the PSC to set aside a room for nursing mothers. Parliament needs to pull up their socks in gender responsive legislation if we ever want to end gender inequality in this country.

It is only right that this process is properly audited to ensure that it covers all bases in the next round of distribution. Furthermore, it may be in the best interests for all interested parties to move this function to the Ministry of Education to avoid any delays that stem out of the bureaucracy that is involved in acquiring the pads from the Gender Ministry.

This incident has not only put the PAC on the spot but the Education Committee from whom Bomet women representative, Joyce Korir sought answers with regards to the disciplinary action that will be taken against the teacher. Among the enraged women legislators was Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo who urged the family to sue the Ministry of Education and called for disciplinary action against the teacher. She did not leave TSC behind in the trail of blame and accused the commission for failure to train their teachers. Her sentiments underscore the need for sensitization of teachers in approaching sensitive matters but more importantly the need for trained counsellors in every educational institution to avoid such abrasive and insensitive approaches that threaten the well-being of children.

But there is a saying that goes, “the fish starts rotting from the head”. If we are at all going to achieve a society that normalizes periods it needs to start from our leadership to trickle down to the citizenry.

Rise above political entitlement and focus on making an impact

Posted by on 16th September 2019

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It is written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer. But you’re making it ‘a den of robbers’,” said Jesus as he drove out traders from a temple in Jerusalem. If one were to exclude the context and source of these words, they’d still have great relevance to the Kenyan political space in relation to the church. Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro and Nominated MP Maina Kamanda had an altercation at Gitui Catholic Church on Sunday following an aggrieved Nyoro who claimed that protocol was not observed at the church function.

Many Kenyans were left surprised as to when politicians held this much importance to the point of having the audacity to desecrate a place of worship. But the blame doesn’t fall solely on them, the church has been an enabler. Churches have provided a platform for politicians to attack opponents and for the latter to give rebuttals, with the leverage largely being the huge sums of money contributed in church harambees. The Messiah would probably throw a fit in light of this incident seeing that the church has become the very thing he forbade; a marketplace.

This incident validates the premise of the Mzalendo Civic Awareness report that sought to understand the public’s perception of public and state officers. Leaders have become so bold in displaying an inflated sense of self-importance making it apparent that their positions aren’t meant for service but to satiate their hunger for power. Power that they can wield to pursue personal and political interests. They have in turn lost sight of their goal and mandate and become what Chapter Six of the Constitution speaks against. Article 75 (1) (c) states, “A State officer shall behave, whether in public and official life, in private life, or in association with other persons, in a manner that avoids demeaning the office the officer holds.” Mr Ndindi and Kamanda’s conduct in Murang’a was disrespectful of the church, its congregants and their respective constituents. Their actions led to a ban by Gitui Catholic Church on politicians attending church functions, which frankly, was long overdue.

While Nyoro tried to get off the hook by terming his arrest as a political attack by the “Kieleweke” camp, he wasn’t spared from the fact that long before this incident, he had courted controversy before. The sycophancy disguised as loyalty has reduced him and many other young politicians as mouthpieces for the different political camp leaders. To live up to the expectations of the positions these leaders hold is actually the bare minimum, sadly many refuse to see the world of possibilities by failing to shift their focus from myopic goals.

If any of the elected leaders doubt whether this is possible then the late Kibra MP Ken Okoth is a prime example of what one can do with a great vision in mind. The teacher turned politician proved naysayers wrong when he made true his promise to construct schools in his constituency. Most MPs who have either failed to drive tangible development through their CDF fund or misappropriated it had no excuses to fall back on when Okoth made the constituency that is home to the biggest slum a subject of envy. This is a legacy that many will struggle to attain leave alone outdo. Which would then mean that the Kibra electorate in the upcoming by-election will have an uphill task in finding a worthy replacement from the candidates who’ve been floated by various parties so far. The late Ken Okoth’s shoes are too big to fill and the successful MP-elect will have to do more than sell empty rhetoric. The candidates owe it to the departed illustrious legislator to see the education goals he had outlined come to realization.

Ken Okoth’s achievements and values should be a great point of reflection for the likes of Nyoro and the entire Parliament as it resumes sittings. There needs to be a shift from constantly politicking to having conversations that drive development. In any case, when 2022 comes, won’t the citizenry judge MPs’ performance based on this period that is being lost to talks of an election that is three years away?

Strengthening the National Values in Our Civic Space

Posted by on 6th September 2019

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I’d rather die on my feet, than live on my knees,’ states Spencer Sankale a senior accountant in Maasai Mara University in an expose dubbed the Mara Heist aired on Citizen TV. In the expose Spencer gives a tale of rot, backed with phone call and video recorded evidence, of top university officials who have mastered the craft of money laundry from public institutions; milking bank accounts dry day in day out and even heartlessly denying the same institutions and young minds from Narok County and the country the chance to quality education and essential services such as medical care.

This might just be the right spirit for a country that is focused on eradicating corruption and a citizenry that is choked by graft cases at the expense of service delivery and infrastructural development. Spencer joins the list of Kenyans such as David Munyakei, the late Paul Oulo and John Githongo who saw and still find it best to live for values that guarantee them comfort with dignity and respect rather than losing self-respect by moving with the flow. To a greater extent, these acts are driven by patriotism, bravery, integrity and a desire to uphold and promote national values.

While the 2010 Constitution of Kenya under Article 232 advocates and provides for principles that inform the public service such as high standards of professional ethics, effective and economic use of resources, individuals who are keen to expose contrary happenings in public offices and service have always been left between a rock and a hard place. At most times there is no sound reaction from relevant authorities beyond prolonged court cases, trending hashtags, tweets and retweets by the public; formality stances from the government and then comes yet another expose that numbs our conscience with an even appealing case.

Thus even with clear and convincing evidence, most citizens will choose to go silent on wrongdoings and acts of corruption in the public offices. Such citizen inaction is always propelled by a great sense of fear for victimization, discrimination and job security. Hence the government needs to be clear on the legislation towards the protection and promotion of the individuals who are ready to promote national values at all costs. The assurance for protection of these individuals acting in good faith and on solid grounds or reasonable belief from discriminatory action is still unclear and debatable.

There exists a Whistleblower Protection Bill, 2017 that outlines the procedure for disclosure of information relating to improper conduct in the public and private sectors and also assure protection of persons who make such disclosure against victimization. The bill still sits in the office of the cabinet secretary. For an officer who is keen in promoting national values, the bill should have moved to parliament for amendment into law. But as of now the cabinet secretary exposes individuals like Spencer acting in good faith and on reasonable belief to discriminatory action and victimization.

Finally, blowing the lid on abuse of office and mismanagement of funds is a sign of an active citizenry that recognizes its civic duty and regardless of the negativity around it; it is always ready to die on their feet for the national values.


The success or failure of the census all lies in the planning

Posted by on 28th August 2019

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Unto whom much is given, much is expected. This aptly applies to Dr Fred Matiang’i, a man on whose shoulders many responsibilities have been placed.   It is no surprise that all eyes are on him during the census,  an activity that takes place once every decade to ascertain how many Kenyans exist. This one, however, could possibly be the most controversial coming at a time when the mood is rife with referendum and 2022 succession talks and a citizentry weary of any government efforts to harvest personal data. That’s besides the stringent last minute measures that were put in place by the ‘Super CS’ in an effort to capture every single Kenyan in the count. A nationwide lockdown of bars and clubs aggrieved many revelers who complained of having lost on a weekend to unwind while most are yet to have a moment with enumerators doing rounds in every household.

This rushed move was symptomatic of poor planning by the government which would have been solved had there been extensive and prolonged civic engagement and sensitization. Had the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Planning used the communication arsenal employed during the Huduma Namba registration to educate the public on the census process, then perhaps the hostility that enumerators have been met with in some areas would not have been reported. While Dr Matiang’i was stamping his authority with the closure of bars he failed to factor in the complexities that come with conducting such an exercise during late hours. Not only did this move expose Kenyan homes to risks such as robbery but this put the enumerators in harm’s way. In an all too familiar move by the government, the ministry has just changed the working hours to 6am to 10 pm a little too late after this past weekend’s tainted exercise that saw an enumerator gang-raped.

Security matters aside, it is becoming evident that the training of enumerators wasn’t consistent across the board with several Kenyans reporting inconsistencies in the exercise. Some easily breezed through some questions that were considered mandatory while others approached some sensitive questions such as gender, based on their assumptions of one’s physical appearance. It not only waters down the landmark recognition of intersex persons but it means that the final data compiled might be inaccurate as not all intersex persons will be mapped out.

Kenyans who’ve participated in previous censuses noted with a lot of caution that the ID requirement was new in the census raising concerns over this being a mass data collection exercise. Despite government spokesman Cyrus Oguna assuring Kenyans that the ID number will be done away with to achieve anonymity, Kenyans have every right to exercise caution since threats have preceded transparency in government processes in recent times. It is noteworthy that the question of one’s ID number doesn’t rank high up as crucial information in as far as planning is concerned. There were no questions on one’s proximity to a medical centre, a school, a tarmacked road, market centre, bus stop, chief and police station/post. Which means that without a proper heat map on the gaps in different regions, development equality will remain elusive.

Not to say that the Kenya Bureau of Statistics’ efforts will all go to waste. The question on one’s migration to another county will be a good issue for leaders to ruminate on. Reason being that most people move because they seek good education and jobs that may not be accessible in their counties of origin, meaning that leaders will have to put in extra effort to achieve and accelerate development in all fronts.

There’s a lot of insight to gain from this census but it’ll only prove to be useful if politicians choose to look at the bigger picture rather than the myopic route that only considers “numbers” to advance their political interests.

Stalemate on Revenue Bill will only hurt Kenyans

Posted by on 26th August 2019

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The current show of might between the National Assembly and the Senate is escalating to unpleasant heights and the casualty of this is not only devolution but the people of Kenya. We’re about to hit two months since the 2019/2020 financial year began yet there’s no sign of the stalemate on the Division of Revenue Bill ending soon. The second round of mediation hasn’t been promising either given the hardline positions being held by members from both Houses during their first meeting.

With a financial crisis looming, counties are waiting with bated breath to see how the mediation talks slated for this week will pan out as some are already dealing with the headache of staff strikes who are demanding for their July dues. The Council of Governors who sought the intervention of the President earlier this month hit a wall as he insisted that the government lacks sufficient funds to meet their demands. These sentiments were shared by the team from National Assembly who challenged the Senate to prove how they would acquire the additional Ksh 18.5 billion they proposed. The result was an exchange between the two sides over several issues including the supplementary budget that Senators poked holes into, forcing the chair of the mediation, Senator Mahamud to adjourn the meeting.

Kenyans now have every reason to worry because chances are that once the census is concluded we will wake up to the surprise of counties coming to a standstill over lack of funds. Interestingly, the Auditor General has faulted the National Assembly for using revenue figures from his office dating three years back to distribute funds to counties, despite the most recent audited revenue from his office dating back to June 30th 2018. This invalidates the proposal by National Assembly of Sh 316.5 billion that is based on the audited accounts of 2016 yet Article 203 (3) of the Constitution states, “the Equitable share shall be calculated on the basis of the most recent audited accounts of revenue received, as approved by the National Assembly.”

“People must wake up to realize we do not have two Parliaments; we have one Parliament with two Houses. We do not have two houses; one for the national government and one for the counties. We have one parliament and that one parliament must work together because all Bills in my opinion concern counties. You come from a county, you live in a county, you sleep in a county there’s no territorial boundary called national government and one called counties even the national government is domiciled within a county called Nairobi.” These were sentiments shared by Senator Isaac Mwaura which address the basis upon which National Assembly has justified denial of more funds to counties while allocating more money to the Executive.

The 12th Parliament risks being on the wrong side of history as enemies of devolution who denied counties a chance to fulfil their mandate to the people and attain their full potential. As representatives of Kenyans, it is disappointing to see our leaders getting caught up in supremacy battles and losing sight of why they were elected in in the first place. Where a devolved function is involved, for example health, a comparison between the health ministry against the counties would be a great starting point to see whether it makes sense for the latter to have less money with the Universal Health Care goal in mind.

Since corruption in counties has been brought up in the Revenue Bill discussion, the Senate has gone ahead and tabled the Public Finance Management Bill sponsored by Dr Agnes Zani that will curb corruption through the proposed county revenue collection system that will operationalize the collection system and prepare annual reports. Failure to implement this will result in denial of funds to counties. With such a framework in place county governments will be compelled to account for every single coin allocated to them, putting the matter of corruption to an end. To have a system is one thing, for it to be faithfully implemented it takes political will and the ball is in the governors’ court to prove the naysayers wrong by efficiently using the monies that’ll be allocated to them should this stalemate come to an end soon.

Law to effect public participation is a timely proposal.

Posted by on 16th August 2019

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The timing of the Public Participation Bill sponsored by Senator Amos Wako couldn’t have been better with the rising interest by Kenyans to take part in the legislative process. Despite some shortcomings, the Bill forms a good basis to address concerns and doubts raised by many Kenyans who have termed public participation as just a formality. Reasons for this have been the time-constraints, inaccessible information and venues of participation, language barrier and an inefficient feedback mechanism just to mention a few.

The recent call by the Dr Matiang’i led Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government for public views on the controversial Huduma Bill 2019 disregarded the public participation rights as enshrined in several articles in the Constitution. As murmurs on the Bill started getting louder, the Ministry officially made the Bill public and days later, notified Kenyans of a public hearing that was to be held in two weeks. Two weeks that wouldn’t be enough for wide circulation of the notice to all Kenyans for them to familiarize themselves with the Bill before submitting their memoranda to their County Deputy Commissioners. Because of the technical nature of written memoranda, public hearings were made an alternative through which views by the public can be presented. But of what use are they, if they are confined to one location during a day when most Kenyans are attending to their day jobs? That aside, it didn’t escape Kenyans that the cart was put before the horse in the Huduma Namba context when a law governing the registration of persons came months after millions had already been pushed to share their personal information during registration.

The lack of clarity on the order of events in public participation is what the Busia legislator, Wako, seeks to address in Clause 4 of the Bill that spells out the principles that guide public participation. As it stands many are aggrieved by Ministry of Education which had very little consultation before rolling out the Competency-Based Curriculum which is now inviting views from the public to inform this new education system that has resulted in more confusion than clarity. It doesn’t help that the only channel officially employed is the newspaper that reaches a select few; those who can afford to buy it and those who have easy access to it in the first place.

This calls for diverse, innovative, creative, efficient and inclusive mechanisms to be put in place if at all every Kenyan is to enjoy this right. If it is a matter of reach, social places like places of worship, school, community centers are a low-hanging fruit that can be used to inform and collate views from locals on pertinent issues as stated in Clause 4 (2) of the Schedule of the Bill. Traditional and digital media channels are a welcome suggestion to conduct civic engagement to avoid excluding anyone.

The language barrier has proven to be a challenge when it comes to interpreting laws from English to Swahili, which are both national languages. This has left out a great segment of the Kenyan population who are conversant with their vernacular languages or mixed Swahili. To circumvent this, the Bill proposes, “Where the targeted participants are not conversant in the national languages, the responsible authority shall provide an interpreter for those participants who wish to make their remarks in their local language”. This shall mean national and county governments working closely to task counties with interpreting Bills in the local dialect that covers the larger part of the population in their respective regions.

We can’t have oversight without public participation, and you cannot have participation without information,” said Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja during a debate on the County Oversight and Accountability Bill. His sentiments though captured in the county context are relevant on a national scale. Kenyans cannot fully hold leaders to account without information. Information, in this case, isn’t just what is given during the inception of a law but also feedback on the views presented by the public and the rationale by the relevant bodies on how final decisions were reached. This will, in turn, build public trust in public offices.

To demystify the notion that public participation is complex, you’re highly encouraged to pay attention to the famous speech by West Pokot County Governor, Paul Lonyangapuo to actually see that beyond the jokes he was actually informing his citizenry on the county budgets and spends.

On the matter of citizens’ perception on MPs’ roles

Posted by on 8th August 2019

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“If I don’t promise my people roads, bridges, hospitals and schools, I won’t be elected as an MP,” said nominated Senator Abshiro Halake during Civic Awareness Research that was launched last week. Perhaps this marks the origin of the mismatch between legislators’ constitutional mandate against the public’s perception and expectations of them.

In reality, lawmakers’ output which is mainly measured by the policies and laws passed may not be as appealing as that of the executive in both national and county government level that is heavily measured on the number of development projects brought to life. Kenyan MPs are yet to translate their roles into a palatable form of development that their citizenry can and should yearn for. As the Senator would explain, when a legislator is met with the pushback of “I can’t eat laws”, they easily cave and copy the manifesto of the executive which then comes back to bite them at the next ballot over failing to deliver their promise.

The report further reveals that MPs are evidently victims and perpetuators of the Big Man Syndrome. “They love to show up in convoys and awe the public”, Churchill Suba noted during the launch which then sets the precedence of the public’s dependency on leaders to meet their individual personal needs. Attesting to these personal demands by Kenyans, not a day goes by without Mzalendo receiving a call or message directed to one of the MPs concerning medical emergencies, school or business needs. Bringing to fore the misunderstanding of MPs’ mandate. During our interactions with our representatives, most of us have been guilty of using a self-serving approach that is problematic as the results borne out of those interactions are short-sighted and less impactful. We’re then challenged to see the bigger picture and bring the attention of our lawmakers to ailing systems that require their intervention in the form of laws that will provide the framework upon which, say, healthcare across the country will improve.

On the matter of MPs being victims of the Big Man Syndrome, this came to light through the stories that have been told numerous times on various media. First, the very same manifestos they float during campaigns become the guillotine that is used for their public execution. Failure to fulfil these promises that are beyond their mandate makes them subject to criticism. The task, therefore, falls on the media to educate the public on the actual mandate of the MPs, investigate whether they are effective in their respective roles and give a breakdown of how laws passed affect the livelihood of a Kenyan. It is through these stories that citizens will then start relating the law-making process to better lives. As Ms Halake would explain, “both MPs and media need to make people understand that if I sponsor a law that states every town has to have enough street lighting, this will mean longer hours of business for people and a thriving economy. Isn’t that better than handouts?”

A proper grasp of legislators’ mandate, gives us more insight when we hold them to account. Where we get an understanding that their stance on pertinent issues brought to the floor of the House matter more than their contributions in harambees. If anything, these harambees encourage a “Messiah mentality” that is not progressive.

If you look at a governor like Sonko, why would he continue to have his rescue team and yet he’s a governor and other Members of Parliament who continue to run their private foundations yet they have their CDF kitty. So it is an egg and hen situation because if you do not do it someone else will so we become victims of this vicious cycle, but it has to be broken at some point and that is why I really value President Kibaki because he had stopped that nonsense of harambees. Harambees will never develop the country”, said Senator Isaac Mwaura during his interview with Mzalendo, on the matter of MPs’ allowances and citizens’ demands. Food for thought?