Of Jamhuri’s Castles in the Air and Reality

Posted by on 16th December 2016

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Politicians are known for doublespeak and our President is as much a politician as any other. His Jamhuri Day speech was clouded with a lot of vague statements; some near hyperbole that could be interpreted or misinterpreted depending on the premise one held. Nonetheless, there’s no higher duty a government has than to defend the Constitution. How has Jubilee government faired in that?

To begin with Kenyans have suffered the last few days after doctors and nurses went on strike over the government’s inability to implement the Collective Bargain Agreement (CBA). The two level of governments pointed accusatory fingers at each other and demonizing the health workers for the deaths that occurred as a result of the strike. However you slice it, it’s the duty of the government of the day to respect their right to fair labor practices and not frustrate them for seeking this right. Indeed there was no mention of the strike or way forward by the president in his Jamhuri Day speech.

As is expected the President pointed out areas he believed his administration promised and delivered among them being education, devolution, food security and others. However, he had an uphill task showing how Jubilee had been successful in implementing these promises. Take education for instance, indeed there’s been reforms after the corrective measure on administration of exams that had greatly affected credibility of our education system. To that effect the government delivered; still, a lot needs to be done to deal with the student teacher ratio particularly in far flung regions as well as elementary school and university education quality. It’s the duty of the government to ensure that the right to equity and non-discrimination is upheld even in matters education.

While it is true Jubilee has set a good precedent in implementing devolution quickly despite the glaring challenges, there have been instances where the government has attempted to change laws in a manner that is not consistent with the spirit of the Constitution. Case in point is the refusal by the President to assent to the Petroleum Bill 2015 that sought to provide a sharing formula of petroleum revenue between the host counties, residents and the national government.

Furthermore, elections are first approaching and a lot of laws have been passed including election laws that are confusing even to the politicians themselves. As such civic education has never been more meaningful than now. Nevertheless, the President chose instead to demean the work civil rights group are doing to enhance public participation. The President sensationally claimed that there were attempts by external powers topple his government under the guise of voter education. If indeed there were such attempts, the country has institutions capable of investigating and apprehending these unpatriotic individuals, and indeed that’s what we hope the government will do.

For the President to suggest that Kenyans know how to vote and therefore need no further civic education was not only an ignorant statement but it also went against the spirit of Jamhuri Day as the day we celebrate our freedom too. Indeed the statement bordered on infringement of Kenyans constitutional rights; including access to information and right of association.

Paranoia and the need to maintain power cannot compromise the tenets of democracy. The constitution is clear that power belongs to the people of Kenya  and is not an individual or a party matter.

Chapter two of the constitution is clear on national values and principles of governance, including democracy and participation of the people. If the government prevents any form of civic education outside of IEBC isn’t this a direct violation of the people’s constitutional rights to seek, receive or impart information or ideas provided it does not amount to propaganda for war, hate speech or incitement to violence? How then are people supposed to make informed decisions and participate in political activities when efforts to promote participation are hindered under unclear circumstances?

After all is said and done it’s the duty of all citizens to consider the promises of all leaders they voted for in the last elections. Have they delivered? Where they haven’t take appropriate measures, register and make your voice clear at the ballot. Ultimately power remains with the electorate.