Citizens Should Remain Steadfast in Holding Leaders to Account

Posted by on 22nd February 2021

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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.

Good on Parliament to Reject the Public Order Bill

Posted by on 16th February 2021

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On February 11th 2021, the National Assembly shot down the Public Order Bill, 2019 that was sponsored by Ruiru Member of Parliament, Hon Simon King’ara. The proposal sought to amend the Public Order Act to make a provision for organizers of public meetings or public procession leading to loss of property, life or earnings to take responsibility for the loss and compensate the affected persons.

While moving that the bill be read a second time, Hon. King’ara informed the house that the government incurred a loss of Ksh 700 billion during the 2017 post-election demonstrations, therefore, urging his fellow legislators to pass the bill to restore sanity even as members of the public exercise their right to picket as provided for in Article 37 of the Constitution. On the other hand, the seconder of the bill, Nominated Members – Hon. David Ole Sankok, highlighted the plight of persons living with disability (PWDs) during demos as he tried convincing the house to curb the chaotic protests that are especially witnessed after a hotly contested election as was the case in 2007, 2013 and 2017.

This alone, however, could not convince their colleagues to pass the law that threatened to claw-back on the gains made on the civic and human rights of Kenyans. To ask that organizers shoulder the burden of ensuring no damages are caused during demos would present a loophole that rival groups can use and abuse. Take for instance the recent claims made by former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko about certain groups within his party posing as NASA protesters and in turn causing damage. Had this law existed then, innocent NASA protesters would have unfortunately been victimized for a crime they had not committed.

Secondly, the mandate to protect property and life is one that sits with the Kenyan Police not organizers of demos. This bill brought in an element of fear that would see Kenyans shy away from heading to the streets whenever they want to air their grievances despite the existence of a robust law that encourages freedom of speech.

Furthermore, the sentiments shared by the mover and seconder gave the impression that the law was politically motivated and targeted a particular political affiliation. Lawmakers should refrain from making laws that are only self-serving and seek to settle political scores. Minority Leader, Hon. John Mbadi warned against such moves and urged members to think of the future as law-making is done for posterity and not because one sits a point of great advantage in the political space at any given moment.

Considering that we are about to head into the campaign and subsequently, the election period, legislators should exercise caution in proposing laws that would come back and bite them. A law that violates the rights of one Kenyan threatens to violate the rights of another regardless of status, gender, age, race and political grouping. The civic society is calling on politicians to exercise wisdom in serving Kenyans and to be the leading defenders of the Constitution.

Legislative Agenda for 2021 Already Cut Out

Posted by on 10th February 2021

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Parliament is set to resume regular sittings of the First Part of the Fifth Session this Tuesday. With several items on the Priority Agenda already released, it seems that Parliamentarians have a full plate this session.

In the previous year, Parliament was heavily engaged with various issues, the most prominent being the pandemic. It is quite laudable that Parliament was able to leverage on technology during the onset of the pandemic in the country and was able to hold Committee sessions initially before moving to a hybrid model that encompassed both the members in Parliament chambers and those following the sessions virtually. The amendments to the Standing Orders showed the commitment to provide legislative direction and leadership during the pandemic despite the stringent guidelines on social distancing.

A good example is the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on Covid- 19 Situation in Kenya that was established on 31st March 2020 with the mandate to oversight actions taken by the national and county governments in addressing the spread and effects of Covid-19 in the country. Through virtual means, the Committee was able to engage with various stakeholders across the board on health matters and subsequently tabling reports relating to the Pandemic Response and Management Bill, 2020. The Health Committees of both Houses also took advantage of virtual forums hold their sittings.

Going forward, 2021 appears to be promising with numerous Bills on the floor on the House as upcoming business. The Public Participation Bill seeks to provide parameters on public participation and define obligations of State Officers and public offices in conducting public participation. The courts have also understated the importance of public participation and there have been instances decisions where public body decisions have been overturned due to lack of public participation. However, there are several challenges that public participation has faced in the past year. Firstly, there is a concern that the timelines provided are short and do not offer the public adequate time to analyse the legislative proposals in depth and provide sound Memoranda. Secondly, there appears to be a feeling that where public participation is carried out, it is carried out to fulfil an obligation or to ‘check a box.’ Lastly, there are still issues surrounding accessibility and comprehensibility of legislative information and how to provide their voice.

Mzalendo attempts to fill in this gap through Dokeza that provides an online platform for citizens and corporate entities to track the legislative process in both the National Assembly and the Senate, in a modern and accessible manner. Kenya has a reputation as one of Africa’s most wired nations with high internet subscription and low internet prices. This is therefore an opportunity for citizens to leverage on Dokeza to comment on Bills tabled in Parliament for eventual forwarding to Parliament.

Another area of focus this session is the inclusion of youth and women. An example of a youth-centric Bill is the Higher Education Loans Board (Amendment) Bill, sponsored by nominated MP, Gideon Keter, that seeks to waive the imposition of interest on the principal amount of a loan advanced to the youth and person with disabilities until such time as they have secured their first employment. For women,  the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2019 proposes to amend Article 89 so as to empower the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to designate adjacent constituencies and wards for the election of women to Parliament and county assemblies.

Noting our growing reliance on technology, there are a few legislative proposals touching on ICT that require concerted stakeholder efforts and attention to ensure that certain rights are not curtailed. These include the Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and the Information Communication Technology Practitioners Bill, 2020.

With only about a year left, what legacy does the 12th Parliament intend to leave behind? Parliament needs to protect the shrinking civic space by implementing the PBO Act. In the wake of the calls for a law change, the 12th house should ensure passage and enactment of the Public Participation to guarantee enhance and inclusive public participation of all Kenyans, especially those among special interest groups. Seeing that President Uhuru Kenyatta has in the past two years made efforts to address the state of mental health in Kenya, National Assembly should consider and fast-track the Mental Health Bill that was already passed by the Senate.

Finally and most importantly, legislators should mind their utterances in public spaces to avoid stirring up chaos as it threatens to cause death and destruction as we’ve seen in previous years. We hope that in their undertakings, Parliamentarians will be guided by the fact that the interests of Kenyans take priority before anything else.

Reverend Wainaina’s Civic Education Moment is Timely

Posted by on 27th January 2021

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Reverend Sammy Wainaina has caused quite a buzz since delivering his Sunday sermon that spoke to current political affairs in the country. A move that has been termed bold and refreshing considering the church’s tainted reputation in recent times as being complacent in the conversation on bad governance.

While he is lauded as brave for speaking truth to power, some Kenyans are of the view that the church should stay out of the business of politics. But how can an institution with so much reach and influence be blind to something that has direct and serious implications on the day-to-day lives of its congregation? The church has a unique and integral role in shaping politics in Kenya and the world over, whether it’s by action, inaction or simple complacency. Unbeknownst to Rev Wainaina, he may have reignited the conversation on civic education in such religious gatherings, something that has been minimal in recent times.

Globally, the church has played a key role in nations’ politics. As it was witnessed in the recently concluded American elections, popular evangelists came out to show their support to former President Donald Trump. While such bold support of a rather controversial leader is not openly seen in our context, in the name of neutrality, churches in Kenya have offered a platform for politicians to sell their agenda. Politicians have previously taken to pulpits to attack their rivals’ and used the church as a means to display their “philanthropy” through generous donations.

Though he hasn’t been the first, Rev. Wainaina went ahead to ban any politicians from speaking in the church he leads. Such a move is not only wise but necessary considering that the nation is heading into what’s expected to be a highly contested election period. The reverend’s civic education moment is indeed rare in recent times though not unique in the history of Kenyan politics.

In the 1980s and 90s, one Reverend Timothy Njoya was known for being one of the church leaders who publicly spoke and protested against the autocracy and brutality of the then President Daniel arap Moi. Reverend Njoya used his sermons to call for the reintroduction of multiparty democracy and strongly defended the freedom of expression and association as enshrined in the old Constitution. He endured several arrests and faced condemnation from the church leadership. He is also remembered for being one of the people that led the Saba Saba multiparty demonstrations on July 7th 1990 that forced the repressive Moi regime to allow the re-introduction of multi-party state.

Indeed, the church’s role cannot be understated especially when the country is headed into an election year. It is not enough to preach the gospel of forgiveness and moving on from the past. In fact, such teachings cannot be held in isolation while neglecting the aspect of accountability. Keeping in mind Kenya’s volatile election history, it is necessary for religious leaders to intervene and objectively educate their masses on their rights as enshrined in the Constitution.

It will be remembered that Jesus Christ drove out traders who turned the church into a marketplace, exchanging money for cattle, sheep and doves. How different then is the modern-day church that gives audience to politicians who desecrate the pulpit in exchange for their generous donations? The time has come for the church and people of all other faiths to speak truth to power.

 

Maraga retires and leaves a legacy that will outlive him

Posted by on 18th January 2021

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The curtains came down on Chief Justice David Maraga’s tenure on January 11th 2021 who leaves a legacy of being one of the most upstanding state officers. A quick Google search on his famous quotes and one comes to mind. “The greatness of any nation lies in its fidelity to the constitution and adherence to the rule of law and above all respect to God.”

This was said just moments before the Supreme Court ruled that the August 2017 presidential elections be nullified owing to irregularities by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). At the time, Kenya became the fourth country in the world nullify a presidential election, a move that many thought was unlikely. The ruling by the Supreme Court that nullified the re-election of an incumbent was not only rare but spoke volumes to the firm and unshaken courage of the 15th Chief Justice of independent Kenya.

The ruling by the Supreme Court would then set the stage for verbal attacks on Justice Maraga and the judiciary from offices as high as the president’s at the time. Not only did he have to endure this but he also had to fight budget cuts on the judiciary that threatened to cripple some of the services and make it impossible to address the hundreds of thousands of cases that were piling up. One may recall that in 2018 the judiciary had requested Sh 31 billion for their financial year only to be allotted Sh 17.3 billion that was further reduced to Sh 14.5 billion by the National Assembly.

Budget cuts have been a consistent phenomenon and not an accident or an isolated incident. Some of the incidents that we encounter are deliberate attempts to undermine the Judiciary. On many occasions, the Judiciary has not been given treatment that is commensurate to other organs of government,” read part of a statement he issued on November 4th 2019. This was after he had unsuccessfully raised his budgetary concerns with the national treasury. In his wisdom, the former CJ decided to take their budgetary proposal to Parliament, and not the Treasury, so that when they have no funds to operate, the Kenyan people will know who to ask – their representatives.

Such statements cemented Maraga as a courageous leader who remained grounded by his values, mostly drawn from his faith, and his adherence to the law. It is in observing the rule of law that he also gave an advisory to the President to dissolve Parliament for failing to implement the two-thirds gender rule. As expected, this elicited a lot of reactions both in support and opposition of the advisory. While the matter remains unsettled in court following petitions by interested parties such as Parliament, it attests to the boldness of the former President of the Supreme Court.

Despite these challenges, Maraga went to on to unveil the judiciary e-filing system in June 2020 that was hailed by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Law Society of Kenya as a milestone that would curtail corruption cases, enhance transparency and accountability in the delivery of justice. The timing of this coincided with the global Covid-19 pandemic that warranted swift adjustments by the judiciary to hold virtual hearings in adherence to the Ministry of Health preventive protocols.

It is also in 2020 that he launched the Alternative Justice System (AJS) Policy which he said aims at enhancing access to justice and supporting expeditious delivery of justice to citizens. By the time he was going into retirement, Maraga noted that only seven counties were without High Courts and the judiciary was working to ensure that the same is achieved. He’s also lauded for fostering the growth and capacity of the judiciary that has seen a significant reduction of case backlog.

As Maraga bows out let us all remember his call to us Kenyans to defend the judiciary. That demands that we ensure that our representatives do what is right by the judiciary who will then be able to dispense justice without bias based on one’s tribe, race or connections but with fairness and equality.

To find solutions in 2021, leaders need to listen more.

Posted by on 11th January 2021

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While the pomp and cheer around festive holidays have significantly fizzled out over the years, the ushering of 2021, will so far, go down as the least eventful. The nationwide curfew, for one, restricted night movement confining Kenyans in their homes. Secondly, a majority of city dwellers opted to skip the annual exodus to their rural homes owing to the steep fares by long-distance buses that were trying to break even considering the massive losses they incurred for the most part in 2020.

Indeed the unprecedented times didn’t spare the holiday cheer. The pandemic not only robbed people of their little joys such as gathering and feasting with their loved ones but widened the rift between the rich and poor. Basic needs such as education and health proved to be a luxury for a majority of Kenyans who had to make drastic adjustments to their daily lives to make ends meet.

In the new year spirit of reflection and setting of new goals for the incoming twelve months, many fear that 2021 may just be as rough as 2020. Firstly, the government revised the tax preventive measures meant to cushion the economically vulnerable. Secondly, all learners across the nation are resuming school for the first time since March last year. This again puts a lot of households in a tight spot to ensure they raise the necessary funds to purchase ordinary school items and additional things for their children’s’ protection against the virus, such as masks and sanitiser.

While all these are attempts at resuming normalcy, there seems to be a breakdown in the communication between the citizenry and their representatives. Lately, the cabinet has taken on a rather abrasive approach. Cabinet secretaries have been issuing directives that have a great mismatch with reality. The Swahili phrase “vitu kwa ground ni different” loosely translated to the “situation on the ground is different” is an apt description of the Kenyans’ reality. Constitutionally, citizens have a right to make their views known on any legislative and policy proposals as enshrined on Article 118. But the feeling generally has been that public views are not considered in the decision-making process. We now find ourselves in an awkward position where leaders seem to be stamping their authority and the result of this has been a lot of public criticism.

Leaders now have to rise to the occasion and listen to Kenyans to avoid missed opportunities. To achieve an inclusive nation, there needs to be a deliberate effort in addressing the gaps that were exposed on the onset of the pandemic. Unprecedented times call for different approaches. They call for leaders to abandon boardroom ideas and instead face issues having the common mwananchis interests in mind. On top of that, it’s not enough to copy what other countries are doing because each country is experiencing the pandemic differently depending on their levels of development.  Communication ought to be top-down and requires empathy, patience and consideration of the other party in order to achieve impact. Hopefully, in 2021, Kenyan leaders will embrace this more to achieve efficient service delivery.

Is Kenya ready to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine?

Posted by on 21st December 2020

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There has been a lot of concern about the Covid-19 vaccines that are out in the global market. In Kenya, the greatest concern has been its efficiency if the discussion about the vaccine over the past few months is anything to go by.

The Kenya CoV-19 vaccine, being trialled in Kilifi County by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), is said to protect over 70% of people who use it from catching the deadly virus. The results are in conjunction with trials that were conducted in Brazil and the United Kingdom. So far, Kenya has ordered 24 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine which would be enough to cover approximately 20% of the country’s population. Last week the Ministry of Health submitted its request to the global vaccine alliance Gavi and confirmed the doses will cost Kenya a total of Ksh 10 billion. This is the approximated cost also by Gavi, who says each dose will cost about $3 (Ksh320).

Gavi has stated that the amount is already heavily discounted through donations from a number of developed countries, organizations such as the World Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Foundation, among others. The Vaccine Alliance helps vaccinate almost half the world’s children against deadly and debilitating infectious diseases. In the face of the unprecedented pandemic, Gavi is working with countries to support their Covid-19 response and to maintain and restore routine immunization. The Alliance is co-leading efforts on equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.

On the other hand, AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical firm, and Oxford University have jointly developed a Covid-19 vaccine. The company expects to sell the vaccine at about Sh327 ($3) a dose, according to reported agreements between the firm and governments and international health organizations. The other vaccines from Pfizer will cost about Sh2,180 ($20) a dose while Moderna’s is priced between Sh 1,635 ($15) to Sh 2,725 ($25). However, all these three vaccines must be approved by regulators before they are administered.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe told the Nation last week that the government has not made a commitment to take any vaccines. On the other hand, Health Director-General Patrick Amoth, in an interview with the Nation, said Kenya could easily enter into a bilateral partnership with Astra Zeneca to get more doses. A better turnout of events for Kenya, which has been sitting on the sidelines after it emerged that the logistical nightmare of handling the first two vaccines announced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna were out of reach for the country.

Even as the country lines up with the rest to receive the vaccines next year, in countries like the United Kingdom, the NHS is currently offering the Covid-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus. The vaccine is being offered in some hospitals and, soon after, hundreds of local vaccination centres run by hospital general practitioners.

There are concerns that the vaccine may not be readily available to all Kenyans when it arrives in the country. Currently, there is a huge divide in terms of access to healthcare between the affluent and the poor in society. The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) is not providing insurance for persons infected with Covid-19, despite the monthly contributions given by those under the scheme. Further, there has also been the national issue that frontline healthcare workers do not have access to the requisite medical care and necessary medical protective equipment leading to the tragic loss of lives and healthcare workers.

Bearing this in mind, even as Kenya gears towards receiving the vaccine, the Ministry of Health should consider a necessary and in-depth look into current health systems in the country. Firstly, those implicated in the KEMSA scandal should be arrested and arraigned in court immediately for their negligent and corrupt actions. Secondly, equal distribution of PPEs and other critical medical equipment to all counties should take place as soon as possible to prevent unnecessary loss of lives. This should also go hand in hand with fair remuneration of our healthcare workers. Finally, there should be a provision for NHIF to cover Covid-19 related cases especially with regards to testing and thereafter, treatment.

 

The Cost of Corruption too Steep to Give up the Fight

Posted by on 9th December 2020

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Annually the world observes the International Day of Anti-Corruption on 9th December. This year’s theme as indicated on the United Nations website focuses on uniting against corruption while acknowledging that corruption is one of the biggest obstacles to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and vision 2030.

Indeed, corruption has been an impediment to achieving growth as it has been witnessed in Kenya. According to the 2019 Corruption Perception Index reported by Transparency International, Kenya ranks is the 137th least corrupt nation out of 180 countries. The statistics accurately mirror the situation on the ground that has seen the disease, if you may call it, suck the life and potential out of almost all industries. Several development projects, both at the county and national level, have been marred with controversy at the expense of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

Recently the Senate Ad-hoc Committee that was constituted to investigate the Managed Medical Equipment System (MES) tabled a report that revealed that the Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC) Programme was just another money-making scheme for some highly connected people. However, the report findings did not give conclusive recommendations nor mention the names of those who took part in the scheme, proving even further that the corrupt are insulated persons who have managed to build an ecosystem that protects them and allows them to thrive in their thievery.

For many, leaders and citizenry, the MES scandal didn’t hit home because as a society we have become numb to such reports. The mention of billions being looted has overtime become normalized largely because there are no consequences that follow. That has been the case until recently when the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) announced the death of 28-year old Dr Stephen Mogusu who was deployed to Machakos under the UHC programme. On announcing his death on their social media platforms, KMPDU noted that the young medic had not received compensation for five months and he had not been on any medical cover.

The cost of corruption is undoubtedly steep. That a young man in his early years of a promising career contracted the deadly virus, Covid-19 and died is not only saddening and maddening but a statement to the failure by the state to protect him. The past six months have seen reports upon reports on irregularities and misappropriation of funds meant to cater to the needs of healthcare workers at both county and national level. Yet medics have numerous times made known their needs to the Ministry owing to the fact that they are at the forefront of fighting the disease.

Unfortunately, medics’ pleas have been treated with contempt by the political class who have clearly shown that their only priority is securing their political future and not delivering the services they’re mandated to do. As a member state of the United Nations Kenya has an obligation to put in efforts in localizing the SDGs vision to provide a better quality of life. We, however, seem to be running in the opposite direction while the rest forge forward.

The first four goals; no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being and quality education have been the hardest hit by the pandemic. This has been felt the world over. The mass job losses have seen families plunge into poverty and depend on support to get by. The pandemic has also brought about a lot of confusion in the school syllabus and has threatened to leave behind those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The government’s reaction to all of this hasn’t helped. In the midst of the confusion, corrupt folks have found multiple entry points to loot without having to worry about facing the law.

Like a Kenyan on Twitter said, this should be a George Floyd moment. The death of Dr Mogusu should be a turning point where we as Kenyans look inwards and make a deliberate choice to rid of our country the disease that is corruption. In our individual duty to hold the government accountable, it should not be lost on us that any harm that is placed on our doctors is in itself harm to us, the populace. We should remember that working hospitals translate to better health for us. In the same vein, a strengthened judiciary means justice may at some point be dispensed equally to all of us regardless of social status.

Eventually, we have to realize that we have the moral and civic obligation to demand better working conditions, transparency and accountability in all sectors for all of us to attain a better living standard. This fight against corruption is for all of us to take up if we want to safeguard our country.

Party Manifestos: A Tool for Accountable and Transparent Governance

Posted by on 2nd December 2020

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Party manifesto is the primary tool via which every political party makes its position known in a raft of issues touching on the governance of a country. They play a crucial role in capturing, presenting and communicating a party’s organized thinking. It is a tool that ideally allows for accountability in political party systems. In organized systems, where political parties are anchored on sound structures and crafted along strong ideological foundation, manifestos form part of the tools and platforms via which the parties are able to engage with the electorate through definite and clear elucidation of standpoints on various political, economic and social issues that are of paramount importance to the country. Their visibility and utility materialize during elections, whereby they enable the electorate to delineate their choices from a cocktail of alternatives.

In Kenya, the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 (COK, 2010) seeks to streamline political parties within the country’s governance ecosystem. Articles 91 and 92 provide for, among other things, a basic regime guiding responsible governance of political parties, including composition, leadership and principles. The Political Parties Act, 2011 further seeks to entrench effective management of political parties. Specifically, with regard to party documentations, Section 17 (1) (c) provides that: ‘A political party shall maintain at its head office and at each of its county office in the prescribed form, an accurate and authentic record of… a copy of the policies and plans of the political party.’ Besides, the Constitution establishes central values that bind every person and entity within the country’s bounds. Article 10 of the COK, 2010 provides, among other things, that ‘(T)he national values and principles of governance include good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability.’

Despite the robust and revolutionary legal provisions, the effectiveness of party manifestos, as tools of accountability and good governance in the political space remains a challenge in Kenya. The situation was borne out by the findings of a recent study that was commissioned by Mzalendo Trust. The study revealed that political parties/coalitions do not make explicit references to the manifestos in their legislative agenda, and largely disregard them immediately after elections. For instance, the ruling Jubilee Party’s (JP) legislative agenda has thus far been influenced by the government’s priority areas, rather than an exploration of the ideas in the 2017 manifesto. Moreover, the report established that the political parties/coalitions’ negation of their manifestos is enabled by their lack of strong ideological positioning. Kenya’s political outcomes are influenced by ethnicity, personalities, and other considerations, rather than policy positions. If party manifestos are to optimally play their role, then stakeholders, duty bearers and other actors have a role to play. Parliament, media, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), political parties and the Office of Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP), among others have an inevitable duty to play toward extracting success out of party manifestos.

Covid-19 Reminds Us of the Much-needed Health Reforms

Posted by on 23rd November 2020

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In early 2017, Kenya’s striking doctors used the hashtag – #MyBadDoctorExperience” to tell their horror stories on social media. For about 50 days, the Kenyan public health system was at a standstill. This was a health crisis, as told by the doctors in the trenches. Three years later in the midst of a pandemic with little to no basic improvement in the health care system, medics are now raising concerns over life-threatening working conditions.

Recent weeks have seen a worrying number of healthcare and frontline workers succumb to Coronavirus. This is despite medical workers, through their respective unions, making several attempts to seek the audience with the government over the unavailability of Protective Personal Equipment (PPEs), provision of a Covid-19 medical cover for when they fall sick and their compensation. An indication that soon the already overstretched health facilities and medics will reach their elastic limit with the rising numbers of the Covid-19 infections.

The second wave of the pandemic seems to have caught the national and county governments flat-footed yet huge sums of money, in the form of annual county allocations and conditional grants, were disbursed to counties during the early stages of the pandemic in the country. As of September 12th 2020, only seven counties were reported to have attained the 300-isolation-bed capacity for Covid-19 preparedness. To mean that the other 40 counties have to quickly come up with ways to meet this demand. While these concerns have been voiced over and over again, the political class seems to have slept on the job and were recently jolted to the reality of a broken healthcare system when Matungu MP Justus Murunga collapsed and died shortly.

It is reported that the late MP collapsed at his home and was rushed to Matungu sub-county hospital where they could not admit him due to the hospital’s lack of oxygen. The family then quickly started their journey to St Mary’s Mission Hospital about 10 kilometres away during which the MP’s condition deteriorated. He was admitted to the casualty department where efforts to resuscitate him didn’t bear fruit. This news saddened and maddened his colleagues who pointed fingers at governors for failure to strengthen the healthcare services.

While expected, the legislators’ reactions have since drawn a lot of criticism from Kenyans. Kenyans have for a long time endured long trips to access medical care and specialized treatment, dealt with crazy hospital bills and fallen into debt while seeking treatment and died over negligence. The political class, on the other hand, has seemed detached from most Kenyans’ reality having the privilege to access world-class health care either in private facilities, that are mostly based in Nairobi or outside the country. All the while ignoring the need and importance of localizing emergency treatment and equipping all county hospitals and clinics for such eventualities.

The nonchalant approach by representatives, unfortunately, failed to factor in such possibilities where their health and life can be in the hands of the very local health facilities that they have ignored for a while. When the country announced its first positive Covid-19 case in March, Makueni Senator, Mutula Kilonzo expressed how leaders would now realize that the disease did not discriminate on social status. Though the sentiments shared were from an economic lens, the words still ring relevant to our current situation.

It is sad that the late Murunga’s life could not be saved but it calls for leaders to look inwards and self-evaluate. Development should not be driven by self-serving interests. Provision of services should not be viewed as a favour to the citizenry but as a basic right that is provided for by the Constitution, that needs to be fulfilled. Public service is essentially conducted for posterity and with the goal to meet the needs of all without discriminating. This is a call to the leaders both at the county and national level to ensure services are provided efficiently, expeditiously and with openness.

Parliamentarians have an even bigger task to oversight the executive’s spend of public resources to ensure that the taxpayer gets value for money.

While the recent numbers indicate that we’re in for a couple of tough months, now is not the time for the leadership to drop the ball. Every Kenyan’s life matters and it is the responsibility of the government to guarantee the health and well-being of all.