IEBC now fully constituted with a plate full of tasks ahead

Posted by on 8th September 2021

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The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) recently attained the quorum threshold following the appointment of four new members to the commission by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Their appointment comes after the four namely, Ms. Juliana Wihonge, Mr. Francis Mathenge Wanderi, Ms. Irene Cherop Masit and Justice Abonyo Nyangaya were vetted and approved by Parliament. The four now await to be sworn in by the Chief Justice with a plate full of tasks to be undertaken in preparation of next year’s general election.

Elections are viewed as the hallmark of democracy by way of generating public debate, shaping the public policy agenda, selecting representatives, determining the composition of Parliaments and influencing the distribution of power in government. A free, fair and successful democratic electoral process largely hingers on a clear, consistent and comprehensive legal framework and its implementation to the letter. IEBC is the single institution that comes under a lot of scrutiny and fire, in some cases, owing to the heated nature of Kenya’s elections. Almost all general elections in Kenya have been marred by ethnic conflict, violence and destruction of properties, which revolves around election management. It is no surprise that all attention now shifts to the four new commissioners and the current three who are expected to deliver free, fair and accurate polls.

The fully constituted commission now must hit the ground running in preparation of the 2022 elections. First, the commission is required to conduct mass registration and education of voters as stated in Article 88(4)(a) of the Constitution. A considerable number of youth have attained the voting age, 18 years, since the last election in 2017 and are yet to be registered as voters. This demographic is likely to make up the biggest chunk of voters in next year’s elections. It is, therefore, critical that the commission acts with speed to reach the masses countrywide with a clear sensitization programme on the election. To achieve this, the commission would have to hire officials to undertake the task. To this effect, IEBC put out an advertisement on 21st August 2021 for interested persons to submit their applications.

Party primaries are another important aspect in an electoral process since they determine which candidates will appear on the ballot papers for the respective seats. Party primaries have also been characterized with disputes owing to the role that party popularity plays in one’s chances of clinching a seat. Isaac Mwaura, who was axed from the Senate earlier this year, had sponsored the Political Party Primaries Bill, 2020 that seeks to put in place a legal framework for the conduct of the political party primary. In the absence of this Bill, IEBC is still well within its mandate to secure the integrity of party primaries and fairness for aspirants who may choose to use that route.

In handling the party lists that will be submitted to the commission, IEBC will also have the task to ensure fair gender representation. If overlooked, an imbalanced party list could ultimately lead to an imbalanced gender representation of members at county assemblies and the national Parliament.

The party lists present a potential battle ground between IEBC and aspirants for the MCA and MP seats who may not possess a degree as is required by Section 22 of the Elections Act 2011. In 2017, the implementation of this requirement was postponed to allow candidates to acquire these qualifications before 2022. IEBC moved to court last month to quash a case seeking to overturn the degree requirement saying that the move would be absurd and would be an offence to the Constitution. The push has also come through Parliament, with a petition tabled in June requesting the house to repeal Section 22 of the Act. The petitioners’ prayers might have been answered, not in the form of a committee report, but two new Bills read the first time in the Senate yesterday. The Bills by Senators Kipchumba Murkomen and Ledama Olekina state that they seek to provide for inclusivity in elections since the degree requirement threatens to lock out many potential candidates. The conclusion of the petition in court and Parliament’s decision on the Bills would, therefore, be critical to follow to see if Section 22 of the Elections Act 2011 would finally be in play in a general election and how that would impact the polls.

While the IEBC might have jumped over the quorum hurdle, the commission still faces the challenge of having sufficient funds to undertake their mandate fully. The commission currently has pending bills amounting to more than Ksh2 billion that could greatly hamper their preparations for next year’s polls. They blame the Treasury for delays in disbursement of funds to enable them clear the bills and run their operations optimally. The Treasury through its Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani committed to clearing pending bills during the budget reading. They should hold their end of the bargain to avoid any delays that may ultimately affect how elections are run next year. IEBC should in turn ensure everything is done by the book, including procurement of electoral technology, to ensure a peaceful elective season.

Parliament’s Oversight Weaknesses Threaten Service Delivery

Posted by on 26th August 2021

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The National Assembly went on short recess on Thursday, August 19th 2021. During the proceedings a total of six petitions, five statements and 35 questions were raised on the floor of the House. Out of the 35 questions asked by Members of Parliament, three of them raised concerns on the lack implementation or operationalization of certain laws or projects despite being given the green light three to four years ago.

A question directed to the Cabinet Secretary for Health by Kwale Woman Representative, Hon. Zuleikha Hassan sought answers as to why the National Coroners Service Act that was passed and assented to in 2017 was yet to be implemented. The Act provided for the role of a coroner-general that would be tasked with investigating all deaths arising in police custody, military and lawful custody. In the case of reportable deaths in police custody, the coroner-general would hand over the findings to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) for appropriate action. The application of this law would prove crucial in accelerating access to justice to many young people and their families who have died in the hands of law enforcement.

It’s not too long ago that two young brothers hailing from Embu, Benson Njiru and Emmanuel Mutura, died after sustaining serious injuries following their arrest for flouting the curfew rules. Initially the police officers in Kianjokoma claimed that the two young men got injured and died after jumping off a moving police car. An autopsy report would later prove this claim to be false. The absence of a coroner-general, four years after the passing of the law, presents a gap that is likely to be abused by law-breaking officers who may attempt to cover their tracks as was the case for the Kianjokoma brothers.

The question begs then, why has Parliament – a law-making and oversight institution – been unaware of the status of this law knowing full well the history of Kenya and extra-judicial killings? Why has the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government failed to appoint a coroner-general, as is provided for by the Act and how did Parliament miss this? Who watches the watchdog? These pertinent issues bring to the fore the need for effective oversight by Parliament, a critical role spelt out in the Constitution for the institution.

Two other questions by Githunguri MP Gabriel Kago and Awendo MP Walter Owino sought answers with regards to the delayed commencement of a road project and delayed operationalization of administrative units both flagged off in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Such projects falling through the cracks over a significant period potentially disempower the constituents who should be enjoying the benefits of proper public services and infrastructural development.

To some extent, regime changes occasioned by general elections have presented a possibility where projects started under the leadership of a different leader escape the attention of the newly elected. Perhaps this was the case for Hon. Kago who replaced Peter Njoroge Baiya after the 2017 polls. Even then, this should not be used to excuse the newly elected members as they’re expected to get acquainted with everything that has to do with their constituency.

These weaknesses in Parliament’s oversight role as an institution and at an individual member level threaten to deny taxpayers’ their money’s worth, delay access to justice to those who may seek it and delay the country’s development vision under umbrellas such as Vision 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A proper handover mechanism, either at constituency or county level, is necessary to prevent neglect of ongoing projects that mwananchi needs in the event there is a regime change. This should also be applied at committee level to ensure that the Executive is kept on its toes even when a new crop of legislators is elected and nominated to the house next year.

Campaign Financing Legislation and the 2022 General Elections

Posted by on 18th August 2021

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Implementation of Election Campaign Financing Act 2013 was suspended prior to the 2017 general elections with the promise that the Act was to come into force immediately after, that is the upcoming 2022 polls.

Part II of this Act explains the functions and the powers of the IEBC Pursuant to Article 88(4)(i) of the Constitution and section 4(i) of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act. Part III of the Act explains the regulation of expenditure ranging from election campaign financing rules; authorised persons; party expenditure committee; independent candidate expenditure committee; referendum expenditure committee and submission of expenditure reports.

Part IV of the Act on the contributions and donations lays down the sources of campaign finances; limits to contributions; anonymous contributions or contributions from an illegal source; prohibition on contributions; support by an organisation; disclosure of funds; surplus campaign funds; spending limits; authorised expenditures and media coverage. Part V of the Act outlines dispute resolution; offences by a candidate, a political party or a referendum committee and lastly general penalty. While part VI of the Act on Miscellaneous sets forth the registration and dissolution of expenditure committees; records; audit of accounts; claims and objection and provisions on delegated powers.

The Election Campaign Financing (Amendment) Bill, 2020 sponsored by Hon. Kigano, Clement Muturi, Chairperson of Justice and Legal Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, is a Bill that seeks to amend the Elections Campaign Financing Act to remove the bottlenecks that have impeded its implementation since it was enacted in 2013. When the Act was enacted in 2013, the intention was to give full effect to Article 88 (4) (i) which provides that it shall be the responsibility of the IEBC to regulate the amount of money that may be spent by or on behalf of a candidate or party in respect of any election. As earlier mentioned, in 2017 Parliament suspended its operation until immediately after the general election.

The Bill intends to: (a) focus the object of the Act to the constitutional mandate placed on the Commission namely, regulation of the amount of money spent election campaigns; (b) remove the requirements by independent candidates, political parties and referendum committees to form campaign expenditure committees to manage campaign funds on their behalf; (c) mandate the Commission to set donation and spending limits in respect of election campaigns; (d) restrict campaign expenditures except through the relevant party structures and restrict donations from impermissible and unknown sources; (e) restrict contributions and donations to election campaigns and clarifies permissible donors; (f) prohibit donations for election campaigns directly from foreign governments and (g) remove the requirement for the Auditor-General to audit campaign funds and require candidates, political parties and referendum committees to receive, account for and report to the Commission on compliance with the set limits.

Seeing that the country has already ushered in the campaign season, it is imperative that the Campaign Financing Act 2013 is operationalized to level the playing field for next year’s elections. Parliament’s pushback on the regulations gazetted by the IEBC proposing campaign spending limits per elective position, party and region threatens to exclude the marginalized from fielding themselves as potential candidates and allowing corrupt persons to have an unfair advantage by splashing funds acquired through dubious, watering down the integrity of the polls. If the Act is not operationalized this time around, who’s to say that the same won’t happen five years from 2022? Wouldn’t it be an unending cycle that encourages and allows corruption to thrive? What does this mean then for the quality of leadership? Food for thought.

International Youth Day

Posted by on 12th August 2021

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Article 10 forms the bedrock for inclusion and with youth categorized as one of the marginalized groups under Article 100, their interests should be bindingly incorporated in all governance affairs.  As of 2019, youth (those below 35 years) make up about 75% of the Kenyan population.  Despite the demographic superiority, it is interesting to note that youth participation in the political and governance process has remained incommensurably low, with majority of the young people viewing politics as a venture that requires extreme wealth and political patronage. This has therefore led to the creation of a ‘marginalized majority’: leading to discontentment, out-of-touch policies and wastage of crucial resources.

It has been said time and time again that the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow. But how true is this? Our Parliament (both National Assembly and Senate) has a total of 417 members. Out of this, Youth MPs, both elected and nominated, constitute a paltry 6.5% of the entire membership of Parliament. To further emphasize on this lamentable disproportionate youth representation, in the 11th Parliament (2013-2017), only 4 members were nominated to represent youth interests in the National Assembly. This number dropped to one only in the 12th Parliament (2017-2022). The situation is replicated in the Senate, with an initial number of six youth among the nominated which dropped to four in 2017.

Various challenges have been highlighted that face active youth participation in politics which, among others, include political parties’ preference for seasoned male politicians; the undeniable role of money, power and influence; apathy among the youth in participating in political processes. The high cost of politics has been brought out as one of the most prominent that requires immediate intervention.

For young women aspirants and leaders, the situation is even worse. They face the intersectionality predicament: being both youth and women. They are therefore left out in several nominative positions and face even greater hurdles than their male counterparts. This is due to challenges such as suppressed awareness, limited mentorship, inadequate support from political parties and cultural and patriarchal attitude.

Globally, only 16% of Parliaments have a caucus that focuses on young MPs. Kenya is proudly one of them. In partnership with the Kenya Young Parliamentarians Association (KYPA), Mzalendo Trust has been implementing a Virtual Youth Assembly initiative that draws its participants from political parties and allows for debating of youth-centric issues in a mock Parliament. Recommendations arising therefrom are then forwarded to Parliamentary Committee Chairs and Youth MPs. This promotes public participation of youth and inter-party youth dialogue in the governance process and strives to encourage proactive and performing members of Parliament to continue championing and advocating for public interest and youth issues.

So, what more can be done? Political parties should apply internal rules to promote the nomination of youth MPs, particularly women, by alternating the nomination list for women Senators between youth and non-youth women. This will cater for the inclusion of young women into political processes. Further, they should sustain full transparency in the nomination processes, including publicizing the criteria and the call for applications.

For the youth, deliberate effort should be made to shun the tokenism that has been seen in recent times. Additionally, there should be push for quality representation as opposed to focusing on quantity. Good legislative proposals that will meaningfully improve the lives of the youth will only come from those who understand their roles. There should also be proactive engagement and participation in political processes, including registration as members of political parties for effective and meaningful participation in nomination processes. The low representation should jolt the youth to the realities on the ground and push to ensure that they get representation from themselves and for themselves.

In conclusion, it is to put a twist on the quote. ‘The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow……if we procrastinate.’ Why tomorrow? Why not now? For you, the youth reading this, the time is now. It is you who can understand what your fellow youth are going through, and it is you who can advocate for change in Parliament. The time is now. Do not wait for others to take up your spaces when you are perfectly capable and beyond qualified. Happy International Youth Day.

Expensive Politics could lock out Minority Groups from Leadership Opportunities

Posted by on 4th August 2021

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In the 2017 general election, it cost a Senatorial candidate an average of Ksh 35.5 million to contest for the seat. This is according to what respondents said in a report dubbed ‘The Cost of Politics in Kenya: Implications of Political Participation’ jointly commissioned by Mzalendo Trust, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) and the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD). The report also states that it cost an average of Sh 22.8 million, Sh 18.2 million and Sh 3.1 million to run for the Women Rep seat, Constituency MP seat and MCA seat respectively. Political seats in Kenya do not come cheap or easy.

These figures combined what candidates spent from the party primaries to the general election. The report, however, found that candidates spent more on party primaries to win party tickets than they did on the general election. Reason being that by securing the ticket of a dominant party, one was almost guaranteed of a win owing to the popularity of said party or party leader during the general election campaign.

The more one spends, the more they’re likely to spend. Though this does not apply to women the same way, the report goes on to say. Findings in the study reveal that in most cases, women are spending more than men, but they are not enjoying much success as a result. The data demonstrates the prevalence and extent of a gender gap in the continuum of election spending, performance and results.

In summary, the findings of this report prove that political leadership has become elitist and a preserve of a few who can afford to splash millions to secure a seat. What does it mean for the minority groups who do not have access to such finances? What does it mean for a 30-year-old woman living with disabilities who seeks to effect change through leadership but won’t be able to gain audience from the public that she seeks to serve? How can this group of people be able to sell their agenda and compete fairly against individuals who wield more financial muscle?

During one of our training sessions with youth leaders in 2020, one common obstacle that emerged was the lack of resources compared to the more seasoned and senior competitors. Financial muscle has come to be such an important thing in the political space as witnessed with the voter bribery, intimidation of political opponents, bribery of electoral officials and securing of more media airtime to sell political agendas. In addition to this, money takes centerstage in buying of party delegate votes in a bid to win party nomination tickets. A fair playing ground, therefore, seems unimaginable and impossible for the minorities.

Politics has become less about service leadership and more about business and making returns on campaign investments. Youth like Enock Onkoba, a participant of the Youth Parliament Initiative by Mzalendo Trust and KYPA, have endured intimidation, party primaries rigging, prolonged resolution process by the IEBC and even death threats in his bid to secure an MCA seat. He says that despite his popularity among the voters, his political opponents who were senior and had more money used any means possible to ensure his name was not on the ballot. They succeeded. If young people like Onkoba, with his constituents’ interests at heart, are not granted an opportunity to serve then change and development through leadership will remain a dream.

Implementation of campaign finance laws gives all political candidates a fair chance at competing for elective positions. They also give new entrants a chance to beat incumbents who can access several privileges by virtue of the position they hold. It will be remembered that in the 2017 campaigning period, former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar accused his competitor, Governor Ali Hassan Joho for hogging billboards. A level playing field is not limited to matters of finance but equal opportunity to sell a personal political agenda.

As we head into the 2022 campaigning period, laws and regulations should be implemented to the letter to ensure that money does not take center-stage in the politics but issue-based conversations do. That way Kenyans can vote in people based on merit and in turn hold them accountable during their tenure.

World Youth Skills Day 

Posted by on 20th July 2021

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Celebrated since 2014 on 15th July, World Youth Skills Day is a day that seeks to celebrate the strategic importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship. Since then, World Youth Skills Day events have provided a unique opportunity for dialogue between young people, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions, firms, employers’ and workers’ organizations, policy makers and development partners. 

This year, World Youth Skills Day paid tribute to the resilience and creativity of youth through the crisis. Indeed, what a year it has been. With the onset of Covid-19 pandemic, most systems and processes across the world came to a halt. This situation affected the youth in different ways. In Kenya, the situation was no different. Kenya confirmed its first case on 13th March 2020 and immediately, a series of decisions, regulations and requirements came into effect. 

The education sector was among the first to experience total disruption. Following a country-wide shutdown of learning institutions, students were forced to go back home for an inordinately long period of time. While private school students had the privilege of attending their classes online, the same could not be said about those in public schools. Lack of affordable internet, access to technology hardware and access to internet connectivity was a huge challenge for learners in underprivileged areas. The resultant effect was that there was a rift in the education sector as those in public schools were left behind while the Government scrambled to find a solution. 

This situation was replicated in higher education institutions with students in public universities lagging behind in their studies while their counterparts maintained studies through virtual classes that were embraced slightly later by the public institutions. With the opening up of the country and loosening of Covid-19 restrictions, schools are currently back in session but the students are still under immense pressure to complete their syllabuses within the originally stipulated time frames. This, however, should not be an excuse to lower the quality of education that the youth in school receive, as they require these crucial skills in the future. 

Despite the devastating effects of the pandemic, the period has been a means for the youth of Kenya to show and prove their innovative nature and resilience. On 11th April 2020, just within weeks of the announcement of the 1st Covid case within Kenya, 16 youth innovators at the Kenyatta University were at advanced stages of the development of ventilators and swabs to easily detect the virus. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Trade and Industrialization had pledged support for the procurement, adoption and use of the kits. However, almost one year later, this has yet to materialize.  

Further, in a bid to evade the devastating effects of Covid-19 on the economy, many youth started businesses to earn some income to sustain their livelihoods. While there were somewhat friendly business policies and regulations in 2020, 2021 has brought with it harsher taxes that are affecting small business owners, a majority of who constitute the youth. This also applies to those who are salaried. 

To boost youth skills in the country, the Government needs to create an environment that encourages innovation and allows the thriving of businesses. This will eventually have a positive net effect on the economy. Additionally, the increase of TVET institutions across the country should be a priority. These institutions should be equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and should strive to recruit qualified trainers so that trainees can receive quality training and relevant skills. The students should be given capitation through KUCCPS and access to loans through the Higher Loans Education Board (HELB).

The Ministry of ICT and the State Department for Youth Affairs also have a vital role to play. Noting that technology is the way forward, the Ministries should leverage ICT to ensure inclusion of the youth in opportunities across the world and to capitalize on the brilliant minds that Kenya has. The Youth Enterprise Development Fund housed under the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender is another way the youth can be supported. It seeks to create employment opportunities for young people through entrepreneurship and encouraging them to be job creators and not job seekers. It does this by providing easy and affordable financial and business development support services to youth who are keen on starting or expanding businesses. It has been operational since 2007 but we call for greater transparency and accountability in the disbursements of funds to youth to ensure that no youth is left out, particularly the women and persons with disabilities. 

The youth make up almost 75% of Kenya’s population. They should be armed with the vital skills necessary to propel the growth and development of this country. This can only be done through concerted efforts. 

THE MAPUTO PROTOCOL TURNS 18: The Legislative and Policy Measures Safeguarding Women’s Political Leadership in Kenya

Posted by on 13th July 2021

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African Union Member States committed that by 2020, there will be universal ratification, implementation and domestication of Maputo Protocol. Kenya ratified Maputo protocol in 2010 which partly sought to address issues of gender equality in political leadership.

The National Legislative measures that safeguard women in politics and protects them against all forms of discrimination are; The Constitution of Kenya 2010 whose Article 27(8) provides that the State shall take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective and appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.” Article 81(b) adds that “The electoral system shall comply with,” among others, the principle that “not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender’’.

The National Gender and Equality Commission Act 2011 aims at ensuring that there is gender equality, impartiality and gender equity. The Political Parties Act 2011 was also enacted for the reasons that political parties hold the key to women’s entry and effective participation and leadership in politics in the country.  The Political Parties Primaries Bill 2020 also sets out the requirement in Chapter 4 (3) that in making the appointments to a party organ, a political party shall ensure that at least one-third of the members of each party organ are of the opposite gender. Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act Part 4 (25b) observes the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender. While the Election Act 2011 provides measures for affirmative action in line with the provision of the constitution on gender equality.

Kenya has performed well in domestication and implementation of the provisions stipulated in the Maputo Protocol with the goal to increase women’s leadership and political participation. On looking at the Administrative measures and budgetary steps that have been put in place by the Kenyan government to promote women’s political leadership, the answer is in the affirmative actions by the government. Additionally, one of the conditions for political parties to secure public funding is to have not more than 2/3rd of the elected officials being of one gender. According to the Registrar of Political Parties, there is a provision for other financial advantages to encourage gender equality in political parties. The funds are earmarked to promote gender activities within respective counties.

Although the government has taken systematic steps towards addressing gender discrimination and inequality through the enactment of pro-women’s rights legislation, there remain significant challenges and gaps that are still a barrier to full implementation of the Protocol.  Kenyan women have and still continue to struggle to enjoy their Constitutional rights and entitlements following laxity in implementation of necessary mechanisms and measures by the duty bearers. The Resource Gap for Campaigns and Support Representation Activities remains limited; the Violence Meted on Women Parliamentary Aspirants During Campaigns and in their line of Duty as Parliamentarians remains a challenge; manipulation of Political Parties’ Membership Lists remains an issue as the nomination list of women is a highly guarded affair and subject to patronage; and there is lack of Political Good Will in the implementation, or lack thereof, of the not more than 2/3 gender representation rule.

The Government and citizenry should prioritize and enact the necessary legislation to enforce the 2/3rd gender representation rule as a matter of urgency. Political Parties should take full measures to attract, recruit, support and promote women in party leadership and elected positions and to support women among their ranks. Furthermore, political parties should establish mechanisms to effectively enforce among their members the political party and electoral codes of conduct, focus on expanding and supporting the number of women and young people participating as candidate agents. State agencies like the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP) need to ensure that all parties receiving state funding comply with the legal requirement that at least 30 percent of funds support programs for women. 

All Key-Stakeholders-including political parties, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, civil society, media and the security sector need to come together and urgently work towards removing obstacles that hinder the full participation of women in all aspects of the electoral process. Finally, the state at large, inclusive of both private and public organs, should endeavour to live up to the provisions of the Constitution by not waiting for a 2/3rd gender representation laws, but acting as directed by the Constitution. 

For Parliaments to remain effective champions of democracy, transparency, inclusivity and accountability must be safeguarded. 

Posted by on 1st July 2021

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This week, we released the Annual Parliamentary Scorecard, our flagship report that highlights the performance of members in the Plenary.  The scorecard is one of the tools that Mzalendo, like many other parliamentary monitoring organizations (PMOs) across the globe, uses to measure the performance of members and parliament in general, in terms of legislative development.  As a legislative transparency measurement tool, it is not unexpected that it elicits mixed reactions from members and the public in general, given its focus on one parameter of the role of Members.  As a measurement tool however, it is a key ingredient to enhancing accountability, transparency and responsiveness. 

Coming against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fast shifting political realignments, the 2020 Scorecard was expected to reveal certain dynamics. Firstly, the 4th Session recorded the highest number in record of MPs who failed to utter a single word in the plenary. A total of 31 Members of the National Assembly did not speak at all, compared to 21 in 2019. In the Senate, the number of silent members rose marginally by two, to three, compared to one in 2019. In a way, the scorecard mirrors the challenges that have faced legislatures during the pandemic across the globe.  

The scorecard also comes in the week that the world commemorated the International Day of Parliamentarism (IDP) (World Parliament Day) on 30th June, 2021. The day, established by the United Nations (UN) in 2018, seeks to centre the place of parliaments as the cornerstone of any functioning democracy. Its significance, notes the UN, is partly attributable to the fact that ‘people are losing trust in political institutions and democracy itself is facing challenges’.  Building this trust requires parliaments to work with stakeholders to restore, maintain and sustain parliamentary independence.  The day also comes at a time when, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, unequal relations between the legislative and executive branches of government are being witnessed. 

To commemorate the day, we, in partnership with other PMOs from across Africa held an event dubbed “Watching the Watchers: Parliamentary Monitoring Organizations Why Citizen Parliamentary Oversight Matters.” The event sought to deliberate on how well PMOs can leverage their numbers and diversity of focus to enhance their place as oversight actors over parliaments, or more aptly, their mandate of “watching the watchers.” At a time when the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), identifies public scepticism, power disparity between executive and legislative branches of government and inclusion as some of the challenges facing parliaments, the role of PMOs can no longer be considered an option but a responsibility. 

The forum acknowledged the need to secure legislative accountability, openness and transparency. When safely secured, these pillars would ensure that parliaments are steered within the path of public service, addressing the democratic yearnings and aspirations of the general public. Beyond, focus remains on inclusion as an ingredient of making real the promises of democracy and attaining genuine governance ownership by all.  It is no wonder then that the Theme of the IDP day this year is “I say Yes to Youth in Parliament.”  

Globally, the number of young people in Parliament remains relatively low, even when “youth” is defined as those under 45.  In Kenya for example, young MPs constitute only 6.5% of the members of both Houses.   It is for this reason that we highlight the contributions of young and women parliamentarians, to not only showcase their work but to encourage young people to lead, run for office and vote in young leaders as well.  This cannot, however, happen without the necessary legislative interventions necessary for a critical mass of young and women leaders.  Prioritizing the passage of legislation on Article 100 would therefore be a great legacy for the 12th Parliament.

To remain effective, Parliaments must foster a culture of accountability, inclusivity and transparency.  Parliamentary Monitoring Organizations remain an important bridge and facilitators of these principles.  Rather than being adversaries, the two actors should work together to enhance citizen awareness and participation in legislative affairs, while holding each other accountable.  

World Blood Donor Day 2021

Posted by on 15th June 2021

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On Monday June 14th 2021, Kenya joined the world in observing the World Blood Donor Day that aims to raise global awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products for transfusion and of the critical contribution voluntary, unpaid blood donors make to national health systems. The day also provides an opportunity to call to action to governments and national health authorities to provide adequate resources and put into place systems and infrastructure to increase the collection of blood from voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors. 

This call is of particular importance to Kenya’s blood donating agenda that has been riddled with a number of challenges among them blood shortages and illegal sale of donated blood to neighboring countries like Somalia. Calls for blood aid, mainly through social media, have become common among Kenyans seeking to save the lives of ailing loved ones. One of the causes of this shortage has been inadequate funding of the blood outreach programme that facilitated the collection of blood. In an article done by the BBC last year, Lamu Women Representative, Ruweida Obo highlighted the country’s over reliance on donor funding for such initiatives as a catalyst to the quagmire that caught the Kenyan government flat footed. 

It is through the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service Bill, 2020 that Murang’a Women Rep seeks to guarantee the availability, quality and safety, access and affordability, and appropriate use of blood and blood products. The proposed law also wants to coordinate efforts between authorities and stakeholders to implement measures necessary to achieve the goals envisioned in the bill. With the implementation of the law, a proper framework will be put in place to ensure accountability of the blood service at national and county level. 

This coupled with proper implementation of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) could see an improvement of blood collection at county level and further enhancement of the capacity of county health facilities. The bill also seeks to provide for adequate financing of the blood transfusion system as highlighted in Clause 20(a) that mandates the National Assembly to appropriate funds towards it. If this Bill comes to fruition and the National Assembly faithfully oversights the Blood Transfusion service, its implementation will turn around blood donation for the Kenyan populace. 

The bill will also address the other challenge of safety of the blood being donated through best practices adopted by medics and the donors. This will be achieved through proper blood storage, setting up of laboratories in counties and sensitization of those who volunteer to donate their blood to the service. Transparency in the operations of the service will also instill faith in the public and encourage more volunteers, particularly first-time donors, to come forward and assist deal with the blood deficit that faces the country. It is therefore incumbent of the National Assembly to expedite the passage of the law in this current House to avoid further delays in putting this framework in place. 

Prayer without Action is Pointless!

Posted by on 25th May 2021

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Kenya will be holding the annual national prayer breakfast on Thursday, 27th May 2021 at the Parliament Precincts marking the 18th year anniversary of a tradition that began with Retired President Mwai Kibaki. The prayer breakfast is expected to bring together political leaders from different sides of the divide, representation from the three arms of government and religious leaders from diverse faiths to pray for the betterment of the nation. 

The annual event has, however, come under question over its relevance and impact to the Kenyan society. Critics have called out political leaders for putting up a charade that has little to no output that is of significance to wananchi and termed the event as a display of hypocrisy. If one may recall, during the last national prayer breakfast, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s message was anchored on national unity, reconciliation and a collective effort against bad governance and corruption that continues to bedevil Kenya’s development. 

While the intent is noble, not much has been done to end the vice and Kenyans still are treated to headlines on looting of billions of taxpayer money. It’s only in January this year that the President said that upto Sh 2 billion is lost to corruption everyday. Such admissions and the lack of convictions of corrupt individuals give the impression that change is still a long way from happening. Additionally, focus on these socio-economic challenges during the prayer day make it seem that all other avenues, policy and legislative, have been exhausted and that the only solution is divine intervention. Which isn’t the case. 

Kenya certainly is a peculiar country that has a history of turning to God for man-made problems. In 2017, the second lady Ms. Rachael Ruto led a praying team on the Salgaa blackspot that has claimed many lives in road accidents yet experts have noted that this can be solved by a redesign of the road. It’s the scripture itself that talks about faith without action being dead. A heart’s desire remains just that if deliberate and strategic action is not put in place to actualize it. 

Leaders need to stop using prayers as a cover for incompetence. The parable of the talents is evidence that the Higher Power does not condone laxity where one has been delegated responsibility. As is our case, Kenyans have delegated responsibility to their representatives who should be working in Wanjiku’s best interests. Therefore, the leadership will eventually have to rise to the occasion and serve mwananchi lest they lose these positions for failure to deliver. 

Religious leaders on the other hand have a bigger responsibility than legitimizing this event through their attendance. It is time to revive religious activism and call out leadership whenever they fail to fulfil the promises they commit to, especially during such national events. Considering the role and impact of religious formations in Kenya, religious leaders ought to take the lead in educating the masses on their rights, standing against laws or actions that threaten these rights and seeing to it that their congregants have access to justice. Failure to which, politicians will continue using religion to subdue and manipulate the citizenry as has been the case over the decades. 

As leaders gather in prayer on Thursday, let them remember to act in a manner that matches their words. For a man, without his word is nothing.