Independent Media Coverage is vital ahead of general elections

Posted by on 23rd November 2021

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As Kenya prepares for elections, much will be expected from the 4th estate who play a critical role in enable citizens make informed choices on issues and candidates seeking elective positions. The electioneering period is one that attracts a lot of media coverage and reporting.

At the beginning of the month, several brickbats were directed at the mainstream media for settling that next year’s election is shaping up as a ‘two-horse race’. Despite its key role in informing the masses and shaping the agenda, the media still has a way to go in terms of the factual, unbiased and objective coverage of elections in the country. Adherence to the principles of truth and accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality is key.

Recent chaos witnessed in Kondele exposed weaknesses in independent journalism as many media outlets had different versions of the story, major newspapers had different headlines with some purporting that the fracas was fueled by scramble over money leaving the public with a task of deciding which version of the story to believe. While this instance may seem small and insignificant, the Kenyan media has a history of being at the center of tense moments in the country.

During the 2007/2008 post-election skirmishes, a number of journalists, including well known television anchors exposed their biases by seeming to lean to a certain political standing, a period during which the term ‘two-horse race’ was also popularized. Yet that is not the isolated case. Even today, some journalists have in some instances blurred the lines between the personal and the professional.

However much we would like to agree to the fact that prominence and impact are key news values, it is important for the media outlets to give fair airtime and coverage for all the parties and aspiring candidates. It is worth noting that the visibility accorded to women and other marginalized groups is yet to match that given to their male counterparts. In our previous research on the inclusion of women in political processes, we noted that women either experience minimal or skewed coverage by the media which works to their disadvantage in their political pursuits.

This type of unfair coverage also reinforces traditional beliefs and continues to suppress the voices and ambitions of women and the marginalized groups with interest in political sphere. This comes even as a report by a National Daily indicated that many youth, women and people living with disability have expressed interest to vie for different seats in the coming general elections.

Kenya’s code of conduct and practice of journalism provides guidelines on a number of issues to ensure free, fair and accurate coverage of election campaigns including: accuracy and fairness, right of reply, unnamed sources confidentiality among others. However, media analysis during the previous electioneering campaigns for the general elections reveals that there was bias in coverage of presidential candidates and political parties.

In an attempt to address this, the Media Council of Kenya recently unveiled the updated election campaigns guidelines which will serve as a self-regulating tool for the media during next year’s General Election in bid to ensure free and fair coverage of the process.

In the guidelines, State and security agencies will be expected to facilitate journalists and media practitioners to cover elections without fear of intimidation or violence. There have been some cases of such intimidation and violence against the media, therefore, the guidelines come in handy in providing a better working approach between the media and state agencies.

The guidelines will pave way for training and capacity building of journalists and media practitioners across the country on their role, rights and obligations in election coverage. There is need for collaboration among all players in this field, to address these challenges and to ensure a conducive working environment for journalists, ahead of the next year’s elections.

Finally, the media council, media owners and journalists ought to remember to be guided by the media ethics as they have a duty to be the alternative, impartial voice, which is much needed in next year’s polls.









A call to exercise tolerance in our politics

Posted by on 16th November 2021

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Election campaigns are in full swing and one would be forgiven for thinking that Kenyans would be going to the ballot in a few weeks. As is the norm during every electoral cycle, hopefuls, particularly those aiming for the highest seats have been touring the country trying to sell their agenda ahead of August 2022. With this comes the discrediting and calling out of opponents on anything and everything that could work to sway the electorate in their favour. While politics is just that, politics, riding on passion, fanaticism and to some extent sycophancy there is a level of tolerance that is lacking in the practice.

Recent news has seen irate crowds attacking politicians and their property. The reasoning behind these actions doesn’t really matter because there really is no excuse to act in a manner that could cause harm and have a ripple effect in the grand scheme of things. Our country has a history of things taking a turn for the worst during electioneering periods. The 2007/08 post-elections violence will forever be etched in our minds. Having this in mind, we should exercise restraint. The essence of a democracy is to allow for different thoughts and perspectives to co-exist and let those who can convince the masses take the day.

It is discouraging to see politicians resort to insults and even deploying goons to disrupt their opponents’ rallies. Where is the room for debate? Where’s the room for rebuttals based on fact and research? While passion is essential in this quest for leadership, wisdom should prevail. Careless remarks could easily set the stage for violence for an election that is expected to be highly contested. Politicians ought to remember that they have a moral and ethical duty to run clean campaigns. A lot, if not all, of them ought to look inwards and remember that the country and safety of its people is bigger than them.

As they do so, we the electorate should remember that we also have a role to play in all of this. Our civic rights are enshrined in the Constitution. That in itself is a powerful reminder that we have a duty to determine the course of our governance and politics through non-violent means. We have a duty to choose to rise above the hate and dig deeper. We have a duty to be instruments of change rather than be tools of war. We have to elevate our politics to a point where we question politicians from an opposing side from an informed place. The passion we have can be channelled into interrogating manifestos that are being sold to the masses or quizzing the incumbents on what they have achieved in the last five years and why they should be re-elected. This is more likely to yield better leaders in the coming elections.

If we understand the link between the politics of the day and prices of basic commodities, for instance, we would be doing ourselves a solid in determining those who would advance and protect our interests in their respective offices. All of us have to make a conscience choice to take part in politics of tolerance unless we are willing to go down a road of loss and destruction that benefits no one.

How OGP is bringing government to the people

Posted by on 3rd November 2021

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The nearness of citizens and the government triggers engagement but also structures citizens’ perception of the government. Last week, civil society organizations (CSOs) actors under the Open Government Partnership (OGP) met to report on the progress of the implementation of OGP commitments under the National Action Plan (NAP IV). Through the partnership, CSOs have committed to work with the government and push where necessary in implementing the said commitments. Simply put, OGP is a global call to action to curb distrust in government by promoting direct collaboration between citizens and governments. This proactive collaboration will in turn promote a participatory culture in local communities. Bottom line OGP demands for transparency and accountability in government through sharing of information in friendly and usable forms.

Governments and local governments that have heeded to this call have restored the dimly trust between the government and the people. People distrust the government when they are not involved. They fail to own decisions by the government despite being the primary recipient of the consequences emanating from those decisions, either positive or negative. This wedge between the people and government has negative consequences in governance, from collection of revenue to service delivery.

Where people are involved, they own the government and transformational changes in the way accountability is exercised and normalized in governance. A good example of what OGP can do is Makueni county. The county has become a poster child of transparency and accountability since the leadership therein decided to domesticate OGP requirements. The county proactively shares public information with citizens and has further infused innovative ways which citizens can participate in decision making. In Makueni, public participation mechanisms are decentralized further to the remotest of villages in the county. This level of openness has brought about benefits to the county such as implementing relevant and priority projects to the people, and more importantly, it has also saved money by curbing avenues of corruption.

Implementation of OGP commitments also demands formulation and enactment of laws that encourage and guard a constitutional right to seek, secure and use information. Laws that obligate access to institutional spaces and processes to participate and effect planning, budgeting and auditing of public services have shown significant change on lives and livelihoods. Nationally, Kenya is lagging behind since laws such as the Public Participation Bill, 2018 and the regulations to operationalize the Access to information Act 2016 have not been passed. This delay may be an indictment of political good will among the political class. Yet these laws will be crucial if OGP was to be fully domesticated and operationalized in Kenya’s national government and replicated in counties.

Sharing of information may not be effective and efficient without technology. It is a truism that technology improves efficiency in sharing and outreach of information. It is of essence that the government of Kenya becomes a hundred percent e-government. Staying manual may lock out people from accessing information and thereby participating in governance. To date, so many counties are yet to digitize their records. Considering that a huge chunk of Kenya’s population are youth, digitizing records and processes will go a long way in bringing the government close to the people. The government also has a task of providing infrastructure to create an enabling environment for digital growth. Without proper internet connection a good number of people will be locked from accessing government websites. In today’s world, ICTs are shaping democratic discourses. Need we say that policy changes, protests and even revolutions have been triggered via social media?

Finally, in this culture change in the way citizens and government relate, the government staff need not to be left behind. They must see citizens as their priority client in their daily business. Government staff are an integral  part of this change. Without their change of attitude then action will delay.

Young people, arise and make your vote count

Posted by on 18th October 2021

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The most recent numbers released by IEBC on voter registration are disheartening, though expected due to the existing anger against the political class. The numbers showed nothing less than a protest manifested in the form of apathy. Although this style of protesting should be discouraged because it weakens democracy rather than enriching it.

It is a discernible fact that the majority of the targeted voters are young people who will be voting for the first time, but they are just not showing up. An SMS poll we conducted in 26 counties across the country shows that only 49.3% of our users are registered and will be voting in next year’s polls. 47.9% of them said they would not be voting next year and 2.8% were unsure about it citing a number of reasons This has begged quite a number of questions. What could be the reason for not showing up? Is it a case of giving up with the system? Is it ignorance? Or is it that the youth are just not bothered ?

In an ideal situation you would have imagined an excited population of youth coming out to register, since this is the only opportunity for them to be handed power to vote in leaders that resonate with their needs and aspirations. In a democracy like Kenya, it is only through the vote that the youth can exercise their power to fire incompetent leaders and hire leaders that they want.

Youth in Kenya for a long time have experienced the burdens of poor governance. This segment of the population makes up the majority of unemployed Kenyans, dependants and those living in poverty. According to the 2019 Kenya population census, 75% of the 47.6 million population is under the age of 35. Those aged between 18-34 years old, account for 29% of the population, with the number having increased since 2019. This demographic is so huge, so significant and yet so marginalized . It is a status that is so paradoxical, a group of people so powerful and yet so weak in reality.

Every five years, the youth currency increases in value, with the political class renewing their abusive relationship with this segment of voters. A quite disrespectful relationship of use and dump. Young people have started to be recruited as political bloggers and propagandists to spew hate against opponents. Recruited into outfits such as youth leagues that have a shorter life span than that of a mayfly. We may pause and ask. Young people need to revaluate this relationship that diminishes their value once the elections are concluded. Are they okay with this short-term kind of a relationship? Are they satisfied with the mediocrity dramatized by most politicians? We hope not.

Youth need to discover the power of the vote, by registering within time and voting right. The vote is like a five-years voucher or even investment. It ought to be taken with the seriousness that it deserves. With the vote, young people, like all Kenyans, can redeem a good education system, an inclusive and sustainable education loans regime, a nationally structured mentorship and internship program, employment opportunities and an enabling environment for ideas and innovations. The current mass voter registration is a good place to start reinventing the youth constituency, however much fragmented it is. Our uniform problems and almost similar interests for the future need to bring us together. There are places where the youth have done it – save the future of their country. Zambia experienced the largest voter turnout in the last election. Young people came out to vote like they have never done before, and finally their voice was heard.

It would be encouraging to see a similar interest in politics among the youth replicated in Kenya. Not the kind of interest of cheering their tribesman to win a presidential election or bashing other candidates because they come from other tribes. Not an interest of just registering and voting irrationally but an interest in demanding transparency and accountability in governance and all political processes.

The current enhanced mass voter registration exercise provides an opportune time for those who have not registered to do do. There is still a window of two weeks, remaining for you to make a change for your future. Make your voice be heard, won’t you?

Why IEBC may get it wrong again.

Posted by on 13th October 2021

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Most of us will agree that it is hard to be an IEBC commissioner. This is one institution that is supposed to be active throughout the election cycle but suddenly pops up during the election year. Due to its past, every one of us may hold a grudge against the institution but truth be said, IEBC is more often than not a victim of circumstances.

As much as the institution is designed to be independent, in many ways politicians have managed to enslave it. IEBC operates by the whims of politicians who are determined to erase the “I’’ in IEBC. Knowingly or unknowingly, the many blunders that IEBC commits during an election are blunders instigated by politicians. The few elections that the electoral body has conducted, it always comes in a rush and unprepared thereby denting its image. Take for instance, in the last election the reason for the nullification of the presidential election was majorly based on transmission of election results. This would have been remedied if IEBC had conducted a mock election to test internet strength in areas where they had doubts.

Kenya has had a history of sham elections. To avert this litany of electoral malpractices such as those of the historical 2007 general elections, Justice Krigler in his report recommended application of technology in subsequent Kenya’s elections. In his thinking, technology would have lowered the possibility of tampering with election results or decrease the risk of rigging. What we did not anticipate is, technology operated by unethical personnel is still useless. The 2013 and 2017 elections are a good example, in many ways technology was made not to work and the electoral body had no choice but to revert to the manual way of doing this. These are some of the actions that were declared illegal in the 2017 presidential election petition.

Less than one year to the general election. The electoral body through its chairman is complaining that the Communication Authority hasn’t installed a 3G network in all the polling stations. This is risky! Lack of proper internet in all polling stations renders the entire election technology useless. Far much worse, the election may be termed illegal because without the internet, manual transmission may be the only way. If the government was committed to a proper free and fair election, installation of the infrastructure that will enable internet penetration in all polling stations would have been a priority in the last four years. Since that was not the case expect the same old grievances during the 2022 general elections.

The treasury has also been another frustrating agent in the preparation for elections. As much as our election is a weirdly expensive affair. By now we should have accepted this reality in budgeting. In any case, it’s our high level of mistrust that has made this happen. In other jurisdictions elections are conducted by civil servants and even volunteers. Would you imagine that in Kenya? Because of our high affinity to dishonesty, we shall have to pay a fortune. This is to meet the cost of a very expensive electoral body, thousands of election officials and finally election technologies. Truly, our elections are unnecessarily expensive because of our unique dynamics and that’s why the Treasury ought to have planned better. It is scary now to have the chairman complaining for lack of funds because this will ultimately have an impact on the credibility of the election. It is not wise to have a scenario whereby election materials are being procured hurriedly at the last minute.

Surprisingly, politicians in Parliament who are expected to have a primary interest in a free and fair election are the number one sluggish in creating an enabling environment for the electoral body. The August house has disappointed the IEBC by not passing electoral laws. Some of the laws still lying in parliament are The Referendum Bill 2020, The IEBC (Amendment) Bill 2020 and The Electoral Campaign Finance (amendment) Bill 2020 among others.  Some of these laws may also touch on the suitability of the current crop of politicians in running for an election and hence the delay.

Finally, the chaos that we experience in all election years is shameful and costly. It is expected that by now we have learnt and applied the lessons of our past in running a credible election, unfortunately this is not the case. This consistent unpreparedness ought to be called by people who care, as soon as possible. We cannot afford instability in 2022, we have been there and I am sure no one liked it.


Opinion piece by Gitungo Wamere.

Youth, enlist as voters to make your voice heard

Posted by on 4th October 2021

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The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on Monday kicked off a 30-day voter registration exercise in preparation for next year’s general elections. The electoral agency urged Kenyans to avail themselves and get registered as IEBC targets to enlist over 6 million new voters, majority of whom are expected to be youth aged between 18 to 23 years old. The importance of the participation of this segment of the population in the 2022 polls cannot be overemphasized.

While youth take up the largest portion of the population, according to the 2019 census, they remain grossly underrepresented in the decision-making process. Thus the term, marginalized majority. In the current Parliament, only 32 out of the 416 members are aged thirty-five years and below, yet the youth formed the biggest voting bloc in the last elections. This disparity cannot be solved solely through nomination by political parties. It requires active involvement of young people in the political process including the party primaries and the ballot election. Being enlisted as a voter is a crucial first step in enabling one to stand up and be counted. Whether it’s through fronting themselves as a candidate or rallying behind a fellow youth. It gives power to their voices and interests.

Voting elevates the involvement of young people in the political process by providing a democratic and non-violent way to effect change. Granted, there is the legitimate fear of pre-determined results, but the voice of the people cannot be disputed when it’s loud and clear and supported by the majority. Previous elections have seen youth being exploited to intimidate opponents through chaos just for a fleeting small amount of money. It’s about time to change that narrative. Youth are not just a means to an end; youth are a key component in arriving at an end that strongly supports and gives solutions to their interests.

It is during this season that the IEBC needs to go beyond just enlisting voters but also sensitizing them on the electoral process as is required of them by the Constitution. Voting needs to come from an informed position. Tribal politics have dominated the electioneering period bastardizing the process. Young people need to change tact and scrutinize each of the candidates before taking a vote. The ‘six-piece’ way of voting seen in 2017 gave a free-pass to questionable individuals who were lucky enough to ride on their political party’s popularity. It needs to change. With the involvement of media in analyzing party manifestos, they can separate fact from fiction especially where incumbents are involved. A deeper understanding of the role of each of the elective posts will also enable voters question candidates who make promises that are not within their mandate. An informed ballot decision gives the voter more power and moral authority to hold those in office to account.

IEBC’s role really is crucial in ensuring the youth’s voices are heard. From sensitization to voter enlisting and conducting of party primaries. With the latter, youth have unfortunately been victims of intimidation and bullying when running against seasoned politicians. Transparent party primaries will guarantee that young people, particularly young women have a fair chance in political participation. The commission will certainly need the backing of civil society including election observer groups to not just execute their mandate but to hold them to account. Where applicable, the civil society should also educate the electorate on matters integrity to assist them weed out corrupt individuals who’ll sink the country deeper in impunity.

This season demands voter integrity, a moment for each Kenyan to look in the mirror and introspect. For youth, it is time to say no to impunity by refusing to be bribed to vote a certain way. Your voice should not be one that can be bought. It is powerful and can cause change, so let it.

It is better for media to get it right than getting it first

Posted by on 21st September 2021

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While misinformation has previously been reported and recorded since the early days of miscommunication, recent times have seen it become rampant causing a worrying trend. The recent doctored video that sparked the internet purporting Murang’a Senator, Irungu Kang’ata attended a Senate sitting virtually while in an establishment that sells alcohol left several major media houses in Kenya exposed for disseminating unverified information.

The manipulated video gave the impression that the senator attending logged into the Senate proceedings while in a popular nightclub in Nairobi – Sabina Joy. On responding to the claims, Kang’ata disclosed that on on Tuesday (14th September 2021) – when the fake video was taken – he was making his remarks in Parliament, asking about the payment owed to dairy farmers in Murang’a and not at the alleged club. He also refuted the claims saying that he has never taken alcohol and that such trumped up accusations were being propagated by his competitors. While monitoring the proceedings we could in fact confirm that the ‘inappropriate’ location that Speaker Kenneth Lusaka referred to, was the Senator’s car that was within the precincts in Parliament. This goes against the House’s standing orders that require one to virtually attend proceedings only within an office.

So, getting it first or getting it right? This is a vital question that many media outlets in the country should consider especially in the age of social media where news stories such as the reports of breaking news events, are likely to be inaccurate. This has been a never-ending debate going on in breaking and emergency news coverage; whether to get it right or to get it first. With the evolution of the technology and things like deep fake videos cropping up on the internet, it becomes crucial for the fourth estate to verify and authenticate to separate fact from rumor. This incident comes barely few years down the line when the media particularly the community-based radio stations were accused and charged with inciting violence through the dissemination of hate speech in the 2007 post-election violence. The Kang’ata incident exposes gaps in the media and non-compliance of media ethics when the country is just about to usher in an electioneering period that promises to be highly competitive.

Article 34 of the Kenyan constitution grants the freedom and independence of electronic, print and all other types of media. However, the freedom does not extend to propaganda for war, incitement to violence (ethnic incitement, discrimination) and hate speech. It is best for the mainstream media to understand that it is always better to be late to report the story than to report it first and get the facts wrong as was evident in Senator Kang’ata’s story. Misreporting information due to haste to report can mean having to embarrassingly apologize later as some major media houses were forced to. Even then a lot of irreparable damage to one’s reputation may have been caused. Therefore, getting evident-based news from the relevant sources is key and can help cement the reputation of the respective organization.
The incident should act as a wakeup call to all the mainstream media in Kenya that any potential news story sourced from social media needs to be verified before being published on their platforms that command huge audiences.

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on,” Winston Churchill. May the media stand in the light of truth as they exercise their mandate.

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

Categories: Uncategorised

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.