A budget is as Good as the Implementation and Oversight Mechanism in place

Posted by on 24th June 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

Cabinet Secretary National Treasury Henry Rotich was quite upbeat about the 2016/17 budget that he presented in Parliament, terming it pro-poor. He further admitted that he was glad the government was allocating money to among other areas, education, health and Agriculture. But that wasn’t exactly accurate.

Compared to the 2015/16 budget, a summary of the budget by Jane Kiringai, a senior Economist, Macro Fiscal Management GP reveals that, Agriculture, rural and urban development allocations remained stagnant. Meanwhile health and education allocations in the budget shrunk.

Additionally, in 2015/16 recurrent budget was 84.6%. That is to mean this percentage (84.6%) was used to cover ongoing activities and projects that last less than a year. Simply put, the government in 2015 had less money for capital expenditure that builds a country’s economy. The same report by Jane Kiringai puts expenditure on development that year at 45.8%.

Perhaps something to mull over is the fact that our tax collection is way above the regional average but we have the highest debt compared to other countries in East Africa. Our public debt stands at over 50% while other EAC countries are at an average 30%. That the debt is soaring this fast despite reports that growth in recurrent expenditure is contained is something of a wonder.

It does not matter how wonderful the budget prospects sound, as long as corruption is still having an upper hand. On that note, it is rather impressive according to Jane Kiringai’s report that the 2015/16 budget had an over 77% overall execution.  It is impressive because to date we are not yet sure just how much the country lost in youth projects like NYS.

Maybe to understand the gravity of this matter, CS Treasury explained how the government had allocated Ksh. 29.5 billion for water supply and sanitation, and another Ksh. 2.1 billion for water storage and flood control. Meanwhile it is anyone’s guess whatever happened to the Ksh. 5 billion that was meant for El-Nino rains. This is indeed a good example why, mere allocation of monies should not excite anyone unless we have proper accountability mechanisms.

It is good the CS noted there is a need for an effective service delivery. He mentioned that the government was on course on implementing robust Public Finance Management. Moreover, while this is exciting news, so was the much touted state-of-the-art Integrated Financial Management Information Syatem (IFMIS) which proved to be just as prone to corruption as rudimentary financial management services.

In fact the Director, Mr. Jerome Ochieng had said, much to the surprise of most Kenyans that IFMIS did not have a disaster recovery centre in case its servers malfunctioned. Take time and let that sink. It does not matter how much CS Rotich preaches about eProcurement in government. So long as we are not seeking solutions to ensure oversight is strong and public officers are accountable, the idea that the 2016/17 budget is pro-poor will just be that, an idea.

However, this is a good a budget as any could be, considering the current challenges in the country. It has the right tone and if well executed indeed Kenyans will greatly benefit. This is where Parliament comes in as the oversight arm of the government.

Nonetheless, as the ever-shortsighted legislators, MPs had threatened not to approve the budget if CDF allocation is not part of the kitty, obviously because of selfish reasons rather than national. That the  budget estimates were approved this week only after the President reprimanded MPs allied to the Jubilee coalition is not lost on us. If only the 11th Parliament could get this aggressive over lack of tight control mechanisms in the movement of money in government then the budget making process would be a key indicator of the country’s direction and overall economic growth.

Crackdown on Hate speech Welcome but Implementation of TJRC is the key

Posted by on 18th June 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

This week has been interesting. For starters, Nairobi politicians, Senator Mike Mbuvi alias Sonko and Governor Evans Kidero decided insulting each other wasn’t enough and engaged in a physical fight to the amusement of the other politicians present and indeed most Kenyans who watched the video. Indeed leaders elected mirror the electorate. The behavior of the two leaders is a direct reflection of the voters in Nairobi.

Meanwhile, it appears Ole Kaparo’s team is finally proving it can bite, albeit late. The fact that eight legislators from both CORD and Jubilee are spending time in a prison cell for hate speech for at least four days is quite refreshing especially because some of them have been spewing hate like their life depended on it. The high court upheld the lower court’s decision to deny them bail and detain them citing public interest over individual interest.

Politicians have perfected the art of pitting Kenyans against each other for their own selfish gains with little or no repercussions. Since the 2005 referendum, hate speech has been entrenched among Kenyans and encouraged by politicians over the years, especially during election period. It is therefore interesting to see how the mighty feel the wrath of the law. A journalist remarked that they should use their experience as a “benchmarking trip” to improve prison conditions.

Nonetheless this might not exactly do the trick as hate speech is a mere symptom of the disease. As long as we are not willing to deal openly and honestly with the real issue, National Commission and Integration Commission should be prepared to make more arrests. That hate speech is still alive and well is proof NCIC has not only been sleeping on the job but also failed terribly. These knee-jerk reactions are just that. But the commission can redeem itself if the chairman stops hiding under “lack of evidence” when the rest of Kenya sees it in captured video all the time.

There are documented reports of politicians inciting their communities against others. In fact some politicians became popular because of their notoriety to whip their community’s emotions. Despite NCIC’s Act that stipulates a jail term of up to 5 years or Ksh. 1 million fine, none of these notorious hate speech mongering politicians have ever paid for their utterances.

The 2007/2008 Post-Election Violence (PEV) wasn’t just about stolen elections. One of the main motivating factors was land and inequitable distribution of resources and feelings of disenfranchisement from “power”.  TJRC in their report mentions these challenges and more and provides for an adoption process of the report submitted.

The government can help end this vicious cycle of hate speech every dawn of general elections by implementing the TJRC report. The hate or dangerous speech as Umati defines it is like the first labor pains that precede the chaos. Let us stop postponing the inevitable.

We have serious problems in this country. From run-away corruption as evidenced by the NYS saga and unscrupulously acquired fertilizers that enrich a few and leave majority poor and hurting. IEBC demonstrations and the drama we’re witnessing with the Supreme Court too are just symptoms of the disease.

While NCIC for the first time appears ready to go for the big fish, the government should save us all from the dangerous speech that might lead to violence and act on the TJRC report. Talking tough about hate mongers may have short-term effects but we need long-term sustainable solutions.

Youth and Women must Ensure their Votes Count in 2017

Posted by on 10th June 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

The budget read this week by government’s admission was supposed to be pro-poor. This is no coincidence considering it comes a few months to elections. Women and the youth who form the bulk of the electorate are poor and the kitties linked to the two groups received larger allocations. The consideration extended to women and youth in the budget shows politicians are aware of their significance in the coming election.

This demographic therefore must be ruthlessly selfish if they are to make their value to politicians count. It appears both our women and youth have embraced a subject  political culture where despite having knowledge of political institutions and actors they play little or no role in the inputs and outputs of government policies, except for cheerleading their favorite politicians.

That the ICC cases that kept us sane in 2013 may not do that this time round is reason enough for the youth to take stock and decide how things should turn in their favor. Already a Bill that wants to remove Kenya from ICC’s jurisdiction is in the first reading in Parliament. On the other hand, a decision on the two-thirds gender principle is still pending in Parliament after the legislation having been defeated twice.

The budget was a win for youth as the government announced a tax rebate for employers that will offer  6-12 months training programs to at least 10 fresh graduates to gain experience.  While this is good, majority of the youth are not able to proceed to college mostly because of financial circumstances. The youth can therefore (through their representatives in Parliament and different youth caucuses) push the government to ensure NYS gives opportunities to the underprivileged.

Additionally, the government has decided to tax beauty products yet they are essential to women’s grooming. Consequently, their cost of living has risen yet women and lately the youth have ventured into manicure, pedicure and salon ventures in a bid to earn an honest living. Therefore, they must use their numbers to demand the government see things their way.

Furthermore, the government must reverse the decision to tax kerosene for the sake of the poor who rely heavily on the product. Women and youth should demand through the relevant channels for the government to cushion them from the increased cost of living.

Indeed, it’s about time the women and youth took keen interest in individuals vying to represent their interests. They must refuse the bandwagon mentality of voting in uniform; that only rewards politicians but does not affect their own long-term interests. In the 2017 election, they should elect leaders selectively across different political parties considering their past record and ability to deliver to the demographic interests rather than the sponsoring party.

In addition, youth and women should use their numbers to bring public officers implicated in corrupt deals to book by holding to account the responsible institutions. In fact they should be matching on the streets until these culprits are prosecuted. This is even more meaningful than the IEBC demos.

And while we’re on demonstrations, it’s disturbing that whenever Parliament calls the public to give views on Bills in Parliament, the youth and women who often are most affected hardly make time for this important activity. The same applies for public meetings by organizations that want to demystify the budget making process.

This demographic must realize how important they are to the country and demand what they are worth. Arguing on social media and exchanging insults in rallies across political affiliations renders women and youth but mere pawns in the hands of the political class. It’s time we invested that energy into making political choices that will transform Kenya to the nation we need and want.

 

Restore Trust in our Institutions

Posted by on 4th June 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

Trust was the key theme in this year’s National Prayer Breakfast. It’s a timely topic to discuss in the country right now considering the fact that we are a few months from elections and key institutions that we expect to depend on are losing public trust. If it’s not yet lost.

In the last general elections in 2013, we experienced Post-Election-Peace (PEP), even where media reports, especially international, predicted violence. This happened simply because there was a general trust in the then newly constituted IEBC. When half the electorate doubted the IEBC results shortly after they made their official announcement, the country had trust in the courts and indeed the opposition sought redress at the Supreme Court and accepted the verdict that it had lost.

However, the events following the 2007 general elections are grim and will forever haunt us every election period. We did not have the Supreme Court that had the trust of the public, and therefore the International Criminal Court (ICC) had to step in. We had an electoral commission that was solely appointed by the incumbent and therefore could not be trusted to give a fair verdict. But that changed after we passed the new constitution in 2010.

Sadly, in less than four years we have reversed the gains we made in so far as credible institutions are concerned. To begin with IEBC lost its credibility after the ‘Chickengate’ scandal. Controversies around the late acquisition of BVR kits that were substandard have not really been concluded despite the go ahead given by Justice and Legal Affairs Committee to proceed with procurement for new kits for the 2017 elections.

The Supreme Court that was supposed to be above reproach is limping with corruption allegations. From unscrupulous procurement deals that have seen the former Chief Registrar Gladys Shollei charged with abuse of office to bribery allegations where Supreme Court Justice Tunoi is accused of taking Ksh.200 million bribe from Governor Kidero to influence the outcome of the petition to nullify his 2013 election.

Worse still, the Supreme Court President, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga is set to retire this month leaving behind a shaky team. For instance the Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal had an uphill task clearing her name of allegations of fraud following the linking of her name to the Panama papers. Not to mention the ongoing case where she controversially asserts that she ought to retire at 74 and not 70 because she was sworn in under the old Constitution.

Unfortunately for us, Parliament too does not seem to be the arm to look up to in such challenging times. Not with the double speak and the unnecessary tag of war between opposition and government MPs. Admittedly, there are a number of MPs like Kabando wa Kabando and David Ochieng who have championed for a bipartisan parliamentary caucus to resolve the IEBC impasse. But there are other members who claim the Parliamentary caucus will fail.

The presidency too which is expected to symbolizes national unity flounders too. Whether the Jubilee sponsored President Uhuru to statehouse is inconsequential. He remains President of all Kenyans and must therefore deal with opposition supporters as President and not like an enemy. As a unifying figure he ought to restrain from partisan reactionary politics. This is the sure way to restore trust in the Presidency. He should also not allow politicians who claim to speak for him mislead the country with sensational and senseless politics.

In the same breath, the opposition needs to play a more proactive role as the watchdog that can help strengthen these institutions. For instance, did CORD just realize IEBC is incompetent? Where were they the last three years? This reactionary politics only leaves Kenyans, especially the vulnerable group more hurting. If opposition proactively sought to strengthen IEBC we wouldn’t be here today.

And while we are talking about institutions without public trust, we need a serious debate on commissions formed to help strengthen governance. What we have in Kenya today is strong individuals rather than strong institutions. Is this what we call being on track? Will the true leaders rise to the occasion?

Will Ole Kaparo’s Commission Bite as Temperatures Rise?

Posted by on 27th May 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

Rick Warren, an American Evangelical Christian author couldn’t have captured the mood in Kenya better when he made this statement, even though it was not intended for a Kenyan audience, “Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

In Kenya today, people hate (probably fear) each other and are ready to kill each other over difference in political opinion. Worse still, Kenyans will agree with their political leaders even when they are out-rightly wrong because they love them. They feel, they owe them loyalty. This is absolute nonsense.

CORD’s IEBC protests are getting uglier by the day with reports of increased police brutality. The people suffering the most are women and children who unfortunately, are not directly involved in these demos. You would therefore expect that for the sake of our humanity majority Kenyans would at least condemn the excessive use of force even as they demand that CORD seek to follow the rule of law. But no, some are going as far as justifying those killed.

John Githongo the former anti-graft czar speaking at a conference on Integrity this week reasoned that culture is the foundation of a nation and further suggested that we have drafted enough laws, we must now go back to our cultures. His reasoning is echoed by former presidential candidate Martha Karua who argued in the same conference that the problem in Kenya was not lack of laws but enforcing them.

Picking from their argument and putting Rick Warren’s quote into context, we can safely assume that, we are cultured to engage in public theft, insult those we disagree with and be dishonest with each other for as long as our political leaders believe in these vices.

Where laws exist but can’t help, you expect institutions such as the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) to fill these gaps. Sadly, the recommendations TJRC made are gathering dust somewhere despite promises by the President that it will be implemented.

While Kenyans are breathing fire against each other on social media over the IEBC demos – as we have been cultured – you would expect that an institution like the Directorate of National Cohesion and National Values whose mandate is among other things, “to promote healing and reconciliation” would take seriously the flaring tempers we are witnessing in social media and among our leaders.

Already, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, sensationally claimed that, “Police should have killed more..” as reported by local media based on his Facebook post. While Kuria asked opposition to ask the “four dead fools from Siaya and Kisumu to wake up and go home.” CORD on the other hand were also making sensational claims that the police were targeting Luos.

These reckless statements is what got us to the Post Election Violence (PEV) witnessed in 2007/2008. Sadly, the instigators of these violent activities are never hurt in the process. Neither Moses Kuria nor CORD leaders were directly harmed in the chaos and perhaps that’s why they have no qualms pitting Kenyans against each other.

While the sober ones among us question where we got the culture of violence and disregard for the law, some wonder what became of Ole Kaparo’s National Cohesion and Intergration Commission?

Firstly that we have two bodies performing similar functions is a Tax payer debate for another day. But shouldn’t they be running serious campaigns against the negative political temperatures? Shouldn’t they be making examples of politicians with reckless and emotional statements to help the commoner calm down?

As Parliament hammers out a deal to resolve the IEBC impasse, it’s about time we looked at the work of the NCIC. Their inability to stem out the culture of hate over different political ideologies, destruction of property whenever aggrieved or the constant insults wanainchi hurl towards those they disagree with for the sake of wenyenchi is reason enough to call them out on this.

May 2016

Posted by on 27th May 2016

Categories: Elections 2017 Uncategorized

Demos by the opposition Cord were at their peak. In the street protests, three people were shot dead in Kisumu and Siaya. Opposition was adamant dialogue on IEBC reforms could not be brokered within Parliament under the standing orders.

  • 4th May: The Council of Governors stated that the IEBC needed to be a commission that meets the satisfaction of everyone.
  • 4th May: The Methodist Church led by its presiding Bishop Joseph N’tobura distanced the Church from the NCCK stand on disbandment of IEBC. The Bishop in his statement claimed that the stand is wrong and misguided and that IEBC can only be disbanded through constitutional means.
  • 6th May: IEBC Commissioners dared CORD leaders to table evidence that they have an agreement with President Kenyatta’s Jubilee to rig the 2017 elections. If such evidence is tabled the commissioners said they would resign immediately. The IEBC officials accused the opposition leaders of character assassination and peddling falsehoods.
  • 8th May: Parliament offered to solve the IEBC conundrum. A proposal tabled by Hon Samuel Chepkonga proposed to have a joint sitting of both the National Assembly and Senate’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committees. The joint committee was to have hearings from all the stakeholders and produce a report within 90 days. To boost Chepkonga’s proposal a bipartisan caucus of 50 MPs led by Hon. Kabando wa Kabando and Hon. David Ochieng wanted all stakeholders to clarify the issues that need to be resolved before 2017. The caucus sought to draw up comprehensive proposals on legal and institutional reforms aimed at preparing the country for peaceful, transparent and credible elections.
  • 10TH May: Diplomats representing various donor countries – US Robert Godec, UK Nic Hailey, Australia John Feakes, Belgium Roxane de Bilderling, Canada David Angell, Denmarks Mette Knudish, France Remi Marechaux, Germany Jutta Frasch, Norway Victor Ronneberg, Netherlands Frans Makken, Sweden Johan Borgstam and Head of EU delegation Stefano-Antonio Dejak – countries spoke out and condemned opposition protests and lobbied for dialogue to avoid chaos in 2017 elections. In a statement, the envoys stated, “Violence will not resolve the issues regarding the future of IEBC or ensure the 2017 elections are free and fair.” These diplomats reacted after police and protesters clashed leaving three dead and several injured.
  • 13th May: Kenya African National Union (KANU) party joined CORD in their agitation to have the IEBC disbanded. KANU is one of the political parties that have scores to settle with IEBC since their loss in Kericho Senatorial by-elections.
  • 13th May: Parliament questioned the IEBC’s request for Sh45 billion to conduct 2017 general elections. The Justice and Legal Affairs Committee evoked questions raised by the Public Accounts Committee when auditing the procurement of electronic equipment used in the 2013 general elections. The Commission was asked to clear the integrity questions raised by PAC before their budget could be approved. The commissioners were supposed to answer questions on the BVR tender and irregular payments amounting to sh258 million.
  • 15th May: The president met senior Jubilee Members of Parliament in State House to discuss the IEBC stalemate. In the meeting were majority leaders of both houses. After the meeting, their hard stance of having a parliamentary led dialogue was cemented. Their position remained that, IEBC commissioners shall not be sent home unless by law.
  • 29th May: Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi re-stated that IEBC reforms can only be initiated through Parliament. He emphasized that the Constitution ought to be adhered to. He pleaded with CORD leaders who are scared of Jubilee’s numbers in Parliament that the House has goodwill in reforming IEBC.

Analysis: In the continued hullabaloo on IEBC, no particular group that has come up with substantive enforceable reforms. The dominant talk in the political market is on the resignation of the IEBC commissioners. In all fairness, change of individuals at the helm of an institution doesn’t amount to electoral reforms.

The opposition CORD isn’t so clear on what it wants whereas the ruling party appears unclear on what to do with IEBC. The entire debate has been reduced to a playground of power play and meaningless political bickering.

Lack of leadership and consensus has resulted to weekly protests that bring the capital into a stand still. Away from the capital, protests have been held in opposition strongholds mostly in Luo Nyanza where the police has unleashed brutality in dispersing rowdy protesters (Police brutality is a no but so is a reckless protest). In Kisumu and Siaya, three people have lost their lives so far.

Police Brutality is a No! But so is Reckless Demonstration

Posted by on 20th May 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

This week the country was treated to horrific pictures of police brutality reminiscent of the “Nyayo days”. When the police appeared to be a law unto themselves. The name General Service Unit (GSU) evoked fears that could chill your spine.

It is not clear yet how the “peaceful demonstrations” against IEBC, as CORD terms it, turned so ugly and quickly. But, as expected fingers point to police’s overreaction. Perhaps, the Law Society of Kenya puts it better, that, the police show lack of training and inability to handle unruly demonstrators professionally.

“.. The police must be trained to efficiently and safely extract from lawful protests those whose behavior falls outside Article 37 in a manner that respects even such persons’ unlimited right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 25(a)).” LSK said in reference to the unorthodox use of force during the IEBC demonstrations.

It is not lost to the country that not so long ago, Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) launched investigations over GSU policemen. There were allegations of them using excessive force and raping rioting University of Nairobi students. Additionally, it’s still vivid in our minds how police teargassed Lang’ata Primary School pupils. Our men in uniform appear to be less and less interested in the rule of law.

This is worrying trend, especially as we near the general elections with political temperatures rising. The horrific events of 2007/2008 post-election violence should remind us to exercise restraint and tolerance with one another. In the meantime, we are following keenly the investigations by IPOA on the anti-riot police who were out of order.

However, while the right to picket and demonstrate should be respected and accorded to all Kenyans, it should be a last resort. The opposition should adhere to the rule of law for the sake of the nation. Ways that are legally structured can help tone down the political temperatures. CORD’s demands are echoed not only by the civil rights groups and activists, but also by certain quarters in the government. Indeed with such a large backing, IEBC impasse can be resolved without much mayhem unless there are other ulterior motives. Having said that, the government should also purge from within the security forces those bent on disregarding the law.

We have already lost too much as a country from important regional infrastructure projects that Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda are enjoying. In the name of political instability and insecurity. The government should therefore re-evaluate their strategy and take serious the call to create a peaceful environment in the country because it has everything to gain from political stability.

Meanwhile, when our MPs resume sitting in June, it would be prudent that they revisit the security laws in this country such as the Security Laws (Amendment) Act that had vague areas that could lead to infringement of individual’s rights, the freedom of expression and the media as guaranteed under Articles 33 and 34 of the Constitution.

Indeed, for the sake of the country’s prosperity, our MPs should table new laws or amendments that will ensure rogue police are winnowed out of the forces and professionalism entrenched in the security system and where such laws exist, seek better ways to enforce them.

A starting point would be to consider not only the training of our police force but also the time spent in training. Additionally, is it wise to recruit otherwise irresponsible individuals with weak academic background to the Police Force? Does this have anything to do with the deviant behavior witnessed among the police?

Lastly, recruitment officers should be trained on better recruitment practices. Outdated recruitment procedures should be done away with, in favour of scientific methods in tandem with the best global practices. Otherwise, 2017 elections could become our worst nightmare.

How Did Your MP Vote on the Gender Rule?

Posted by on 18th May 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

For a second time running, the National Assembly failed to raise the threshold required to pass the 2/3 Gender principle even though it is a Constitutional bill. The amendment dubbed “Duale Bill” was tabled on 5th May. The Bill has divided the National Assembly into two with some Parliamentarians being decisive while others being fence sitters. On the voting day a half of Parliamentarians boycotted the session, three of them women.

How did your MP vote? To find out see the list: Gender Bill vote 2. Please call, text or email your MP to inform them how you would like them to vote next time. Remember to commend those who voted yes

Give Two Thirds Gender Principle a Chance When it is Re-introduced

Posted by on 12th May 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

Kenyans celebrated Mother’s Day a few days ago and the social media was awash with praises for our loving mothers. The hypocrisy of mother’s day celebrations however, is how most of us are willing to testify of our mothers impeccable abilities yet deny those very women a chance at political leadership. Nothing could be more controversial.

A Bill that was supposed to level the playing field for women was not able to go through because some MPs feared it would be used to “reward people’s girlfriends” or that “women are not ready for leadership” needless to mention that these are quite sexist statements..

Here’s what those opposing the Bill are missing. The two thirds gender principle is not about women. No, it’s about equality. The principle aims at preventing domination of one gender at the expense of another. Perhaps, the National Gender Equality Commission’s (NGEC) overall goal should guide us here. There website notes, “The over-arching goal for NGEC is to contribute to the reduction of gender inequalities and the discrimination against all; women, men…” The gender debate is not about women but equality for all gender.

If anything, the duty of a member of Parliament and County Representatives is to represent Kenyans. This representation has everything to do with how Kenyans live at home. Who is better placed to offer accurate representation than one who is or has been involved in the day-day budgeting of the family and knows the needs of every member of the unit? To elect a woman is to simply give her an opportunity to perform the same job she’s been doing, which is solving the needs of the people but on a bigger platform.

Take Rwanda for instance. The country has the biggest number of women MPs anywhere in the world and it is on an upward trajectory in matters development and many continue to wonder how a small a country as Rwanda can continue outperforming bigger countries endowed with more resources, the answer is sober leadership. And in truth a country is only as good as the policies and the laws it creates. With women MPs at 64% Rwanda is telling us why we need to trust more women with leadership.

South Africa, the largest economy in Africa with 40% women MPs also can attest to success. Namibia which is also outperforming Kenya on many fronts has a high number of women Parliamentarians too. And we don’t have to stay in Africa; enough leading countries in the world have a good number of women parliamentarians; from Sweden to Finland. And these are the countries that are also leading in crucial areas like education with quite ingenious methods.

These examples should make us elect women, especially in Africa where women bear the brunt of both preventable and non-preventable disasters such as floods. We believe this is what informed the need to make the two thirds gender principle a constitutional issue. This principle only seeks to ensure we do not elect one gender at the expense of the other and if unfortunately we do, then the affirmative action applies but only as a last option.

As the government plans to re-introduce the Bill in Parliament once more we can only hope that our MPs put all blinders aside and protect all genders by passing the bill.

11th Parliament on track with the passing of Access to Information Bill

Posted by on 9th May 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

C.S Lewis once said, “If you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.” The 11th Parliament has done one good deed in passing the long overdue, Access to Information Bill. The bill sponsored by Hon. Priscilla Nyokabi ends an over 10 years wait.

Kenyans for a long time, have had to conform to the idea that information was a privilege of a few powerful bureaucrats both in private and public institutions. But it’s the government officials that intimidated anyone who sought information by invoking the Official Secrets Acts of 1968 but that is now set to change. This Bill reasserts the fact that access to information is the right of every citizen and that the government is only a custodian of that information.

The Bill went through the third reading in the National Assembly and now awaits input from the Senate before being presented to the President for assent. When the law becomes operational, any public or private institution that withholds information requested by a private citizen or any Kenyan for that matter will face criminal charges.

If any requested information has not been provided as requested within 21 days, one can seek redress in High Court on grounds of violation of rights and if found guilty the individual can serve up to 3 years in jail or fined up to Ksh. 500,000.

Furthermore, in the event that a secret information has been leaked through a whistleblower, anyone can seek to have the leaked information, arguing that it is already in the public domain. However, leaking of classified information that may compromise national security would lead to a jail term of 3 years in a maximum security prison or a fine of Ksh1 million.

While this is good for all Kenyans, the biggest benefactors are journalists, civil rights groups and activists who have long had antagonistic relationship with public officials and corrupt private entities with regard to sharing of information.

With the passing of this Bill, we are likely to see more prosecutions as information that was previously held on dubious grounds will no longer be an impediment to justice. This will indeed lead to a proactive reform within and without government as most of the culprits will begin to put their houses in order before they are caught flat footed.

This Bill reinforces the country’s commitment to press freedom and indeed the media fraternity will reap hugely from it.

Most of the challenges Kenyans experience are directly related to lack of information. From misdiagnosis to criminal activities; even elections. A country’s leadership is as sound as the electorate and indeed an informed electorate makes informed choices when voting in leaders.

Once it becomes law, the civil rights organisations that have been pushing for open governance and transparency in government dealings with its public can rest easy knowing that their concerns did not fall on deaf ears.

But having a good law is one thing, following it is another all together. It is now upon Kenyans to take advantage of this Bill once it becomes law to make leaders in government and private sector accountable to the people by adhering to the law.