The festive season has over time evolved from just being a period of celebration and fun to being a time of self-evaluation and reflection on the just concluded year. As Mzalendo wound up its calendar of activities in 2019 we engaged our audience through an SMS question.
“What do you think has been 2019’s Parliament success story as the year comes to a close?”
The feedback painted a citizenry that had lost faith in its representatives. Some Kenyans thought that Parliament was no longer an independent institution and had instead morphed into the Executive’s puppet. Others felt that MPs were self-serving people who prioritized their interests over Kenyans’ needs, while others simply thought that Parliament generally underperformed in its role of legislation, oversight and budgeting. These responses might just represent a few Kenyans but their thoughts mirror the general mood on the ground.
“There’s never been a Christmas that has felt this un-Christmas-sy,” read a post on Twitter. The replies under the tweet were from Kenyans who largely attributed the slow death of the ‘Kenyan Christmas’ to the tough economic times the country is currently struggling with.
There is indeed a general sense of hopelessness in the electorate that would form a good business of objective inward-looking by Parliamentarians. 2019 was quite an eventful year for Parliament that had more lows than highs. From the standoff between the Senate and National Assembly over the DORA Bill, to 2022 political formations, to unpleasant comments on and off social media between MPs and the touchy subject of money. Parliament sure did make headlines this past year.
With such an integral role in the attainment of the vision of Kenya, it’s only prudent that MPs undertake in a SWOT analysis for the just-concluded year. Highlighting what succeeded, the challenges that emerged in their work and what failed will make room for strategic planning even as the year begins. Not only does this present an opportunity to restore public faith through value and impact-driven work, but it also gives Kenyan governance an opportune moment for a much-needed facelift. This, however, cannot be attained without deliberate effort from MPs.
2019 was a year that really put to test leadership expectations as envisioned in Chapter 6 of the Constitution. Besides the political drama between MPs from opposing camps several state officers were embroiled in graft cases that are yet to be concluded. Countless headlines made their way to the front pages of local dailies over billions of taxpayers’ money lost in looting. Systems exposed failure in the management of state agencies and as a result, put Parliament on the spot over its oversight role.
This should be a wakeup call for Parliament to step up in 2020 as it has previously been accused of rubberstamping the Executive’s wishes. MPs should objectively vet all appointed officials, hold state agencies to account and ensure that laws passed are enacted to the letter. Without a doubt, there will be a significant improvement in governance and service delivery if Parliament unbiasedly plays its watchdog role.
In the spirit of making new year resolutions, Parliament needs to only commit to protecting the Constitution to achieve the legacy that they wish to leave behind as the 12th House.