On 31st March, 2021, Mzalendo Trust launched its five-year Strategic Plan, intended to inform our work for the next five years until 2025. The Plan informs and is informed by a totality of the ‘geography of action’ ranging for the obtaining political, economic and social ecosystems. Firstly, it is largely guided by the ecosystem as shaped by the Constitution of Kenya, 2010. As such, it identifies with three of the key guiding values and principles of governance: Openness, inclusion and accountability.
Openness seeks to secure processes that are accessible to the public, both in Parliament and county assemblies as provided for in Articles 118 and 196 of the COK, 2010. The former provides that “Parliament shall (a) conduct its business in an open manner, and its sittings and those of its committees shall be in public; and (b) facilitate public participation and involvement in the legislative and other business of Parliament and its committees” (Art. 118 (1)) The latter, focussing on county assemblies, provides that any “County Assembly shall (a) conduct its business in an open manner and hold its sittings and those of its committees in public; (b) facilitate public participation and involvement in the legislative and other business of the Assembly and its committees.” (Art. 196 (1))”
Inclusion focusses on the realization of a governance ecosystem that incorporates all segments as reflected in the society. Particularly, it strives to have the hitherto marginalized segments rightly represented in governance: Women, youth, persons with disability, marginalized and minority communities. Accountability ties institutional responsibility to public wishes. It rightly acknowledges that sovereign power ultimately belongs to the people, and that only according to their wishes can it be exercised.
The three values and principles thus inform Mzalendo’s new mission: ‘promotes open, inclusive, and accountable Parliaments in Kenya and Africa.’
Consistent with the COK, 2010, the Plan identifies sub-national legislatures (county assemblies) as areas of interest. It thus seeks to ‘devolve’ focus to cover the county assemblies in addition to Parliament at the national level.
In addition to the COK, 2010, ongoing conversations and developments have shaped the Plan as well. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its implications have informed the design of Mzalendo’s engagement. Particularly, attention is on how to ensure that the threat to civic space is neutered. More importantly, it seeks to explore innovative ways to ensure that the unprecedented disruption occasioned by the pandemic does not ground public’s involvement in the governance processes. Public participation, a running theme throughout the Constitution, must be optimally sustained. Civic tech is therefore a key plank in the conversation around the pandemic.
The Plan intends to further entrench Mzalendo’s role in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) spaces, which Mzalendo has secured an active role in. Regarding OGP, Mzalendo is currently the civil society lead on the development and implementation of Kenya’s National Action Plan IV (NAP IV), 2020-2022.
The Plan readily acknowledges the place of partnerships in enhancing the chances of realizing stated institutional objectives. Consequently, it requires broadening of partners’ base to include diverse actors, stakeholders and duty bearers. Those identified include political parties, oversight bodies, civil society organizations, media and citizens. Further, it readily identifies the place of international partners in championing the cause.
Noticeably, Mzalendo seeks to make a strategic shift, angling toward being a bolder organization. It intends to engage in vigorously in issues of public interest but which have the potential to be defined as ‘controversial’. We intend to engage in more, beyond the traditional innocuous and less controversial spaces. One such space is the fight against corruption, one which almost always invites controversy and an elevated sense of risk to involved actors.
With the launch of the Plan, which effectively ushered in the more defining implementation phase, Mzalendo looks forward to working with all actors in the space for a more open, inclusive and accountable governance system.