Mzalendo Trust and Transparency International-Kenya (TI-Kenya) jointly sponsored the Machakos Senatorial Debate that was moderated and aired on Musyii FM’s morning show on Friday 19th 2021. This comes after the seat was declared vacant following the untimely demise of first-time Senator Boniface Kabaka on 11th December 2020. Nine candidates attended and participated in the debate with only one – UDA candidate Urbanus Muthama alias Ngengele – skipping the debate.
The debate was aimed at enhancing social accountability among voters, in this case of Machakos County. The motivation behind this initiative was pegged on a research released by Mzalendo Trust dubbed “Beyond the Ballot: An analysis of citizens’ perception of the roles of public and state officers” that sought to gauge citizen’s understanding of the respective mandates of the various elective positions in Kenya, post the 2010 Constitution.
The findings revealed that there was a great mismatch between the mandate of these public officers and citizen’s expectations. A matter that has come in to play during the campaign period when aspirants make unrealistic promises that aren’t within the scope of their mandate. To this end, the participants of the Friday debate were put to task to articulate the issues of Machakos residents and give possible approaches through the office of the Senate to address them.
Pending land cases in Machakos County became a matter of interest during the debate with majority of the candidates pledging to specifically address the tussle over the East Africa Portland Cement Land at Athi River and the KBC Malaa Land in Kangundo. In addition to these, the candidates stressed on the need to apply their skills and knowledge to oversight and hold the Machakos County Executive to account with regards to spending and managing County Funds. Furthermore, the candidates also spoke about promoting inclusion of special interest groups in the decision-making process at both county and national level.
The importance of such debates cannot be stressed enough. Unfortunately, a huge portion of the electorate are still of the belief that their choices are limited to the ballot, which is not the case. The process of holding leaders is continuous and the campaign stage is a great place to begin with. With the help of media such as Musyii FM, the public is able to question the attainability of manifestos fronted by candidates. At this stage, the populace can weed out non-serious candidates based on whether or not they speak to mwananchi’s needs.
Once a candidate is voted into office, the citizenry can then evaluate and the score the performance of their representative against the manifestos and their constitutionally outlined roles. This not only compels political parties to front a candidate that speaks to their values and vision. When candidates own their parties’ ideals and vision, then they can proceed to propose legislative interventions.
Failure by political parties to immerse their members in their vision leads is what leads to the poor delivery of these manifestos, this is one of the challenges highlighted in the report we commissioned last year dubbed “From Promise to Implementation – A Review of the 2017 Political Party Manifestos”. It is our hope that such initiatives will translate to an informed voting process that is slated for March 18th 2021.