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Mzalendo Vox Pop: A doctor's perspective on the strike / linda afya

Posted by on 14th December 2011

Categories: Vox Pop

Below is a guest post by Dr. Peter Mburu.   What are your thoughts?  Let us know via the comments or email your response to blog

I just got home from a long day at a privately owned and run hospital in Nairobi where I am a doctor. I am sitting watching the news of the doctors’ strike for the umpteenth time, images of young people in white coats walking peacefully, displaying placards and chanting – they are my colleagues in the public sector. In the background, the voice of the reporter repeating how the doctors want a 300% pay rise over and over. That mesmerizing figure – 300%.

I try to imagine being an ordinary Kenyan, listening to this and wonder what I would think of the action by doctors to abandon their posts leaving desperately ill patients in hospital wards across the country just because they want to make more money. I am a little crestfallen but I remember that that is not all the striking doctors are asking for.

I think of the 13-point petition submitted to the Ministries of Medical Services and Finance, the offices of the President and Prime Minister and even Parliament. Only 2 points mention remuneration of healthcare workers (not just doctors but Pharmacists, Dentists and Clinical Officers are also included). No mention of the other 11 items on the petition submitted to the government as reason for this strike action seems to reach the ears and eyes of the watching public. I think of all the things I have been reading on social media. People, mostly young middle-class professionals, asking why doctors think they deserve all that money. The money thing again! How we are creating a culture of wage-beggars and unnecessary industrial actions. Don’t other professionals work just as hard, if not harder serving the public? And aren’t government employees generally poorly paid? What makes them so special?

What makes us special? Well, over generations, yes generations, healthcare workers have worked and continue to work in atrocious conditions without complaint and largely, without regard to our own safety. We have worked unacceptably long hours for years due to understaffing! We do not have a decent medical plan being exposed to all manner of risks. We have suffered through everything from poorly stocked drug stores, constantly broken down operating room and laboratory equipment, lack of basic amenities like gloves to poorly maintained hospitals and everything in between. It is demoralizing when you cannot offer the best available care to those who deserve it. It is worse when you cannot offer medical care to your own loved ones when they need it!

It’s outrageous when the public, majority of who cannot afford insurance or to go to private doctors or institutions like the one I work in, suffer needlessly due to cuts in healthcare funding each passing year. They don’t get the benefit of having complete work-ups and/or appropriate treatments. It’s unacceptable to send a patient’s relative outside the hospital to buy basic medications that should be available in hospital. They don’t have the benefit of basic and prompt surgical care. They do not have the benefits of care from well-trained specialists, most of who flock the major cities or go abroad seeking better opportunities. They don’t have the benefit of health education because there aren’t enough healthcare workers to go around. The tax-paying population deserves all that.

In the past, the government had a program to train post-graduates in the two public teaching hospitals but over the years there has been a steady decline in the funding for this program. In the last few years, there has even been a hushed rumour of memos circulating with talk of shutting down the program completely – for post-graduate doctors to continue to fund their own education by working in these hospitals without pay and somehow also fend for families. Never mind that the old program had numerous flaws like mandatory bonding to public service for years for poor pay, pre-requisites of X number of years served in public hospitals before enrolment and hindrances in registration as specialists once one has completed training.

Through all this, the system has still managed to churn out reasonably well-qualified, professional individuals –mostly because they have to adapt to those horrid conditions and improvise as best as they can. The varied improvisational skills have made for good ‘war stories’ whenever two or three doctors have gathered, we all beam at our triumphs despite the challenges. We reminisce good outcomes. We speak sadly of the ones who didn’t make it despite our best efforts. Many have gone beyond the call of duty and continued to uphold the Hippocratic Oath; the same oath now thrown in our faces as some sort of guilt-trip by the media, politicians and even some of the public we have long suffered for. Many have questioned the morality and ethicality of this strike. We have been scorned and told off for “taking too quickly to the streets”. No one mentions the past year when every effort to engage the government has borne nothing. No one mentions the apathy that the middle-class and the rich, who can afford insurance, hold towards their fellow Kenyans who can’t and who are the most affected by the ailing system. No one mentions that while this strike action is on-going, doctors have also been raising funds for one of us who is admitted at the National Hospital but cannot afford in-patient care.

No one thinks it was enough that we had years of quarrelling and discussions amongst ourselves about what should be different. But we have generations, yes generations, of firsthand experience and knowledge of what is wrong with the system and what needs to be done to fix it. And the time has come for that change.

Mzalendo Vox Pop: Anon from Kitutu Chache

Posted by on 7th December 2011

Categories: Vox Pop

Mzalendo Vox Pop is a feature where we open up our blog to our readers to share their views on their constituency or on matters related to Parliament.

Background: I hail from Kitutu Chache and my MP is Richard Onyonka. There are several issues ranging from misuse of CDF fund, s to education and the most urgent and dear to me is the electrification  programme that came in the name of Umeme pamoja.

Challenges in my constituency: My MP should realise that people  in Kitutu Chache do not get huge allowances, salaries etc.  just like the MPs do and not pay their taxes.  They wake up and go to work rain or shine and pay their taxes while trying to achieve their dreams such as pay KPLC to electrify their villages and to most it has been a disaster, and this is where the Mp should stand up and voice this concern because as far as i am concerned the citizens money has earned enough interest for KPLC now is time to do the right thing.

Has your MP been effective? As for how effective he is let us be honest people we should realise that our elected officials are not Jesus so they cannot be solving every issue, but they should voice it, try to encourage people to help themselves, be reachable by the people and not hide to most but a few.

Would you vote for your MP again? I can not comment on whether i will support him or not for the next elections, because i have not heard from the opponents nor seen any that really gets in there to serve the people, because they come sugar coated and quickly forget what they said and wait for 5yrs to come and milk again.But one thing i am sure is, voting is my civic right and i will fulfill it because  nothing satsfies and makes me  a proud Kenyan as that.

List of Kenyan MPs who are refusing to pay taxes

Posted by on 28th June 2011

Categories: Expose MP Participation Vox Pop

Dear Wazalendos,

We have put together a list capturing the names of MPs who are refusing to pay taxes and where possible their public statements, this is for posterity reasons…since we know how kigeugeu our politicians can be.

Please help us build the list by adding a comment below or emailing us

Mzalendo Vox Pop: Benji asks "What More Can We Do?

Posted by on 6th April 2011

Categories: Citizen Engagement Vox Pop

Guest blog by Benji

Something I witnessed a few weeks ago made me think hard about the quality of the average Kenyan’s life even as politicians squabble and waste valuable resources.

Driving along Mombasa road on a Saturday evening, I encountered gridlock traffic and I thought to myself there must be a horrible accident up ahead.  15 minutes later, I approached a corpse in the middle of the road whose arm had been severed off. The arm lay on the tarmac 10 metres from the body.  It was a gut wrenching sight. A lone traffic cop assisted by what I thought to be a medic, helped drag the corpse to the side of the road.  Our officers are ill-equipped and of the men that helped drag the body, immediately found a stainless steel lamp post whence he began to wipe his hands while bending over.
Folks, this in a country where Kshs 270 billion is squandered every year through wastage and corruption.  The new constitution we just passed, is not supposed to be just a pretty document -it is the envy of many countries in the region. It provides us fundamental rights and ideals but most Kenyans are living a life of misery and neglect and scrounging like rats.  Some examples:

  1. A few months ago a traffic police officer manning Mombasa road and deployed to manage traffic while President Kibaki was travelling, was knocked down by a speeding vehicle and died on the spot. The officer lay on the side of the road in full uniform for several hours.  Nothing much has been said about this incident but it is our hope that the administration quietly went back to condole a family whose breadwinner fell in the line of duty and offered support. That is our hope and we will be writing a letter to State House and relevant authorities seeking some answers.
  2. Did you all see the story on Mathari Hospital by David McKenzie, where a patient was held in the same room as a corpse?  Apparently, patients on receiving treatment are held while they scramble around to raise hospital fees from relatives and friends. The CNN crew investigating this story was locked up for 3 hours, illegally detained and it took phone calls to the Prime Minister’s office to secure their release.

This is the Kenya we’re living in ladies and gentlemen, where the government does not see it fit to even subsidize mental health services but is all too willing to spend tax payer money buying space in the dailies to defend ICC suspects, fuelling a jet for Kalonzo to criss cross the continent and spend the remainder of the time hurling insults and epithets at each other.

What more can we do?

Mzalendo Vox Pop: Cyprian from Mwala Constituency

Posted by on 15th March 2011

Categories: Constituency News Vox Pop

Mzalendo Vox Pop is a feature where we open up our blog to our readers to share their views on their constituency or on matters related to Parliament.

About me: I am Cyprian from Mwala constituency.  I voted in 2007, one of the largest mistakes I made then by looking at the party the candidates belonged to instead of the individual.

Your constituency : Mwala constituency is marred by all the problems that can be found in a few constituencies in Kenya.
  • Majority of the roads are in pathetic state. Most of the roads are filed with gravel. There is nearly no tarmacked road. Most of the bridges broke down some years ago, and have not been replaced.
  • There is no tap water.  In fact in my location there is no even a single bore-hole, and that applies to the majority of the locations in Mwala constituency. Most of the rivers, the source of water, are dry and people have to travel for long distances looking for unclean water!
  • Majority of the population in the constituency live below the poverty line. They can rarely afford a single meal a day. Majority rely on subsistence farming, which has been impaired by the long dry seasons. NGO’s and even the government are still distributing some food stuff in the constituency.  This has not been effective because it’s not sustainable.
  • The health facilities are also in pathetic state in addition to being few and far between. For example, from my home area, we have to walk for five kilometers to get to the nearest government dispensary! The health facilities are also poor equipped. The few personnel available are not even well qualified to provide professional health services.
  • The same applies to the education sector in the constituency. Most primary and secondary schools are understaffed, some preferring to employ untrained teachers. Additionally, most lack necessary facilities.
  • The constituency has a bursary fund which is unfairly distributed to those who have “connections”. In fact it never reaches to those who really deserve it.
  • The CDF funds were/are being misappropriated and even an audit and investigation is required from KACC. An example is some project (e.g. Kwa-Nguta in Makiliva sub-location, Mbiuni location, where piped water was supposed to be developed. The project is market completed successfully, and yet it was never started.  Where did the money allocated to that project go?

In a nutshell, there is no development projects which have had a positive impact to the constituents since Kenya got independence, or probably in the history of Kenya.

Your MP
: Just like all the previous MPs in the constituency, Hon. Muoki has been a joke to the constituency.  The problems mentioned above paints clearly his progress, which definitely has been negative.  I would definitely not vote for him again in the next general election. At the moment I don’t have anyone in mind, but I would never elect a candidate based on his party, nor any of the older generation. We want a new “kid” from the block.

Message to your MP
I wouldn’t want to meet him, but if I did, I’d tell him to honorably step down and call for a by-election. I hope my constituents have learned something regarding voting for MPs in our constituency, just like I have. Next time we should vote wisely.

Mzalendo Vox Pop: Anon from Ndia Constituency

Posted by on 8th March 2011

Categories: Vox Pop

Mzalendo Vox Pop is a feature where we open up our blog to our readers to share their views on their constituency or on matters related to Parliament.

Background: I am a resident of Ndia Constituency in the County of Kirinyaga, born and bred in this constituency, I have lived here for all my lifetime and privileged to work at home and therefore understand the dynamics in the constituency well.  The real picture of the constituency isn’t the one always painted by the media and in particular Royal Media Services (RMS) in their quest to campaign for the current member of parliament and Minister for Nairobi Metropolitan, Njeru Githae.   My friends usually tell me that I am lucky to come from Ndia constituency, they think of it as a Silicon valley of sort, however, this isn’t the reality, there are so many challenges facing this constituency.
Challenges in the constituency: One of the biggest challenge is that of illiteracy, in-terms of lack of knowledge as far as voting for the right leaders is concerned. This has led to continual voting of people who do not care and mind about the people who put them to power in the first place and therefore engaging in pure political forgetting the masses year in, year out. For example, the current MP usually remembers the electorates a few months to elections, he comes with gifts in form of firewood, maize and wheat flour to woo the uneducated and illiterate to sing and dance to his tune.
Another challenge is that of incompetent leaders who manage the CDF and constituency bursary kitties.  The current MP has filled the management committees with his cronies who are doing nothing but milk the kitties.  For example, during the financial year 2009-2010, apparently needy students in colleges and universities were awarded bursaries, however, the money never reached the schools in which the students studied in. This is due to the ineptness and potency posed by the managing committees.
What would you like to change: While our constituency is endowed with rivers and we are lucky to have Sagana river pass in our constituency, we still over-rely on rain fed agriculture.  In the last season the rains have not been that reliable, therefore this will lead to many of the constituents who rely on farming to meet their daily needs go hungry, ironic that there are rivers which when the waters are harnessed for agricultural use by the hardworking people around the constituency can bear good fruits.
Would you vote for your MP again?: With all that on my mind I wouldn’t give my MP a second chance, if anything I would start the process of recalling him from parliament if the clause worked right away.
Who are the MPs potential challengers?: There is a competent lady known as Dr. Marion Mutugi a JKUAT don who if given a chance can take the constituency to the heights it desires to be in as far as agriculture is concerned. She has tried a lot to encourage farmers to plant alternative crops to maize and beans, she has gone a step ahead to introduce organic farming in the constituency.  Another individual who poses a threat to the MP’s ambition of another term is Maina Kiranga a lawyer by profession who currently works with USAID. He has been instrumental in funding the youth groups and encouraging them to leave immoral behavior so that they can earn a living from their own hard work.
What would you tell your MP if you met them?: If the MP wants my vote, one way of redeeming his fall is by reconstituting the CDF  committees…some that are made up of people who never saw the door of a classroom.  In addition, he has neglected the constituency and left it in the hands of his mouthpiece – one Muriithi Kang’ara who dictates on what happens when. Mark you, the mouthpiece is a class 2 drop-out as word goes around the constituency.  This has rendered the MP inaccessible to the masses who elected him since for one of his constituent to see him he has to vetted by the mouthpiece and given an appointment on whether or not to see their MP. He needs to move out of the shadow of this guy.
Also, there is something else that the MP needs to come out in the open and either deny or accept whether it’s true or false, in the past week or so, the provincial administration here was involved in the exercise of collecting signatures in support for a withdrawal of Kenya from the ICC process. In addition, there is talk that the signatures collected would be used to as a basis to force the prime-minister out of office. This leaves me with questions on the conduct of the MP, being a lawyer why does he want to support impunity and let the planners and organizers of chaos walk free without any punishment? Is this what he stands for being a lawyer? Impunity? Under whose directions and instructions were the provincial administration acting on? Is it a government project that we don’t know of.
There are so many things that he should address, he should also stop acting all grandiose and beyond reproach, he should remember that his was a contested win and he has become so unpopular now!

Mzalendo Vox Pop: Robert from Ainamoi Constituency

Posted by on 3rd March 2011

Categories: Vox Pop

Mzalendo Vox Pop is a feature where we open up our blog to our readers to share their views on their constituency or on matters related to Parliament.

BackgroundI am Robert  from Ainamoi Constituency,  my MP is Benjamin Langat.

I never voted in 2007 because I have never believed in politics or lets say politicians from my constituency are not elected genuinely or do not perform and never live up to their pledges and promises.

Your constituency I come from one of the richest constituencies,  which boasts of tea production and tea estates which pulls up the economy of the county.  Our main problem is under-development, especially in social amenities; hospitals (deplorable state), schools(few, lacking facilities to upgrade the level of education),unemployment (the biggest threat since opportunities are obscured by the employers or even residents lack access to proper education which is more work-oriented).

Challenges facing my constituency: Few professionals in the constituency or even if there are, no platform to transfer skills or knowledge since the leaders within the constituency prefer one who is associated/related with/to them.

Positive developments in my constituency: The community is aware of the habits of politicians so they are conscious of themselves are more are now focused on their own development (self-employment).  Also investors are now keen to create employment with presence of three supermarkets, more banks coming up, an Ardhi house almost being completed, Saccos present.
There are now forums to create awareness of opportunities which are beneficial to the community,creating platforms for investors to boost wealth of the constituency.  Leaders have to market their plans, ideas and have a competitive process to elect, not the ones whom we are being imposed on every election year by so-called ‘Elders’.

Your MP My MP-Benjamin Langat – I might forgive him since he was elected after his late brother’s (David Too) untimely death ,  BUT so far we haven’t seen any developments which will make us defend or bring him back. On a scale of 1-10, he gets a 4 from me.  He’s hardly in the constituency, the CDF kitty is run by his cronies who ensure they serve the interest of his people.  He has a habit of controlling appointments of boards of schools which explains the poor performance of schools from the constituency.

Potential candidates for the next election are few:

  • Gideon Koros is a performer both publicly and privately, he owns businesses which have flourished and he’s focused, sober, smart, religious, and concerned with the going-ons in the community.  He was a contender in the last elections but lost since he was a new-comer and he defeat conceded defeat and vowed to fight another day.
  • Chepkwony aka Timbilwet is another potential depending on which seat he’s after. He gave the late David Too a great fight for the seat but lost due to irregularities and alleged bribery.  He is a don of Kabianga Campus,an academician and veteran in the politics of the constituency.

Message to your MP
:   First, I will ask him to give me his score-card – the pledges he made and what he has achieved since 2007. Second, what has he done with/ for the youth and women of the constituency? Third, I would ask whether he has ever made any decisions by himself or he belongs to the sheep-mentality of following what other leaders are saying from the area without consulting the constituents?

Are Affluent Youth Politically Apathetic?

Posted by on 26th November 2010

Categories: Citizen Engagement Vox Pop

By Mzalendo Contributor – MOREEN MAJIWA (@mmajiwa)

If you’re like most Kenyans, you are probably still excited about the promulgation of the new constitution, cautiously optimistic about the implementation process and invigorated by the possibility of change in the new dispensation. You follow with interest the ongoing appointments for various independent commissions as well as the fight against graft that seems to have gained a second wind.

Or maybe not, you don’t follow politics, you don’t debate the issues, you didn’t vote at the referendum on the new constitution,  and are generally uninterested in the politics  i.e. you are politically apathetic. This was the description of affluent youth given by the participants at the panel discussion on the new constitution and the youth.

For the rest of this week I made it my mission to find out whether “affluent youth/ members of the emerging middle class” were truly apathetic about politics, why they were, and what it would take to make them take a more active role in politics.   This is what some of them said:

“I vote sometimes, I keep up with politics, but I don’t think voting is the most effective of influencing the government.  Especially since it is relatively cheap for politicians to buy votes. Why should I imagine that my one vote would make a difference? In that sort of situation does my vote really count? Also how many people voted for the constitution and have done nothing since it implementation, just the act of voting doesn’t change anything there has to be more. Voting just gives you the illusion of participating, but I think a better way to influence policy would be arguing ideas, writing, directly engaging with the politicians not just at elections and referendum times but throughout constantly challenging the philosophy of the system, and not ticking name or a yes or
no box every five years.”

I’ve voted at the previous referendum and in all the elections since I turned 18. I vote because it’s my civic duty to vote, but I don’t really follow politics. I know that politics affects me just look at what happened in 2007, there are still IDP’s, look at the state of the roads. But seriously politics isn’t interesting, politicians don’t always tell the truth, the promises they make are not binding, they don’t keep them. With the state of politics I just don’t think it would be worth me spending a large portion of my time immersed
in it.

I don’t vote, my relationship with the government starts and ends with me paying my taxes, and I feel like even that is daylight robbery. The government hasn’t helped me in anyway, I pay all my taxes on time, yet I can’t see where the tax money going – its
not going on roads, it does not seem to be going to the poor, by way of hospitals or better housing, so where is it going? If I vote I feel like I agreeing to being robbed after all I’ll have voted them into power. What would it take to get me to vote, I would vote
if there were true accountability, not this half baked fight against corruption – in th UK an MP had to resign because he used his allowance to buy personal furniture we should have something similar. I would also vote if I could see that my vote counted and I could find out exactly how my tax money is spent.

I find myself still scratching my head alleged disinterest in politics at the end of these interviews. The affluent youth are obviously up-to-date on the political and governance issues that the country faces. Their replies showed that they have diverse opinions and
are not completely apathetic, but rather, rather simply disillusioned to the point of not wanting to participate, the majority felt that, politicians didn’t have an automatic right
their attention – they have had to earn it.

On a (suprisingly) inspiring visit to Parliament…and why you should try it.

Posted by on 29th October 2010

Categories: Citizen Engagement MP Participation News Vox Pop

BY MZALENDO CONTRIBUTOR – Moreen Majiwa @moreenmaj

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of visiting our National Assembly. I am ashamed to admit that the last time I did this was as part of a mandatory primary school visit.  That was so long ago I can’t recall the details. Excited about my impending parliamentary visit I told a few of my friends about it.  My excitement was met with awkward silences followed by blank stares and the inevitable, “Why don’t you just watch the proceedings on KBC, besides how are you going to get in?”

Under this steady attack I found myself, an only one-time visitor to our National Assembly becoming its staunchest defender and activist-in-chief for citizen visits to parliament. It appears my peers are trapped in a cycle of political apathy and cynicism.  Some have given up the good fight as it were and are simply getting on with it.  Others complain about everything under the sun from traffic to
poor leadership, lament about the uselessness of making demands to our government and then get on with it.

As was pointed out severally KBC does stream parliamentary proceedings in real-time, which is a huge improvement over previous years where the Hansard and newspapers were pretty much the only way for members of the public to glean what was going on in Parliament.  In addition, thanks to technology, we can keep up with the latest news through online newspapers, blogs, facebook and twitter.   So the idea of visiting Parliament in person seems pretty redundant.

The problem with accessing the goings on in the Parliment through different forms of media is that you only see, read or hear what is presented to you. The content is shot, cut, packaged and presented to us.  A live in-person visit has a different quality there is an energy that is almost palpable.  You get to see the
whole show uncensored version of the good, the bad and the ugly.

So once I decided to visit Parliament, I realized that I had no idea whether I could show up or needed something special to get in.  After a few calls I found out that I would need a pass to get in, and this pass is usually organized by a sitting MP. Going to the gate and trying my luck with the security officers, had little
appeal, and since I didn’t know any MPs personally I sent out  e-mails to my contacts who I hoped would help me connect to someone who could assist with a pass.   I got lucky and got a pass organized, but couldn’t help wondering whether the process of attending a session couldn’t be a bit more straight forward (apparently you can just show up but your ability to get in depends on the security personnel you encounter that day).

I arrived at the gates of parliament precisely at 9:00 am only to find that the session did not start till 2.30 pm (note to self-check out to find out the parliamentary timetable next time).

I had low expectations mainly due to the poor portrayal of our leaders in the media.  Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to encounter such lively debate (although the fact that it was the Wetangula report being discussed might have contributed to some of the energy). I got see that some  MPs
really did fight the corner of their constituents valiantly, and wondered whether the media couldn’t do a better job of not just focusing on the negative aspects of MPs but also showcasing those who do work and the fact that a lot of other business is dealt with in parliament.

For those whose expectations of our parliamentarians are at an all time low, it may be time to stop being so pessimistic, to take a visit to parliament; it may inspire you to increase your expectations and make a demand or two of our leaders while you’re at it.

Mzalendo Vox Pop: "Remember We Pay You!"

Posted by on 20th October 2010

Categories: CDF Members of Parliament MP Participation Vox Pop

This interview was done with a young constituent from Kasarani, he’s 22 years old and has never voted, but is clear about what he expects from his MP.

You can find out more about Kasarani constituency at this pretty decent website that’s been set up by the current MP.