Kibra Has Done Its Part, Remain Faithful

Posted by on 13th November 2019

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From door to door campaigns after his nomination and now with a total of 24,636 votes, Imran Okoth won the Kibra by-elections against Macdonald Mariga who managed to garner a total of 11,230 votes according to the results announced by the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on Friday 8th November 2019. The by-election brought a close to campaigns that reached fever pitch in Kibera Constituency and also the race to succeed one of the most dynamic and highly impactful MPs in Kibra, the late Ken Okoth.

Unlike other by-elections, this one was one of its own with high stakes just by the manner it was handled. While each candidate tried to ring-fence their political space, their respective political parties stole the show to the extent that the electorate almost lost sight of the aspirants’ commitment to them. Some parties used the platform as training ground for 2022 election politics and others to drum up support for the highly anticipated BBI report. The media, in their agenda-setting role, played right into the political godfathers’ hands as opposed to properly dissecting the manifestos being floated.

It is undeniable that other factors remaining constant, much of the electoral success is owed to the political parties and not just to the candidates. The political machinery that was deployed in the campaigns resultantly puts MP-elect Imran Okoth on the spot even as political parties retreat to the backstage. The ground is now fertile for implementation of the poems and manifestos shared during the campaign period; it is now time for Imran to put his hands on the plough.

Imran now has about 2 years before the next elections to walk the talk and effectively deliver on his representation, implementation and legislative mandate. As he assumes office as a member of the National Assembly, it will be high time he realizes that he has the right tools to effect change and advance the vision that the late Ken had laid out for Kibra.

A heavy task lies ahead and Imran should prioritize unifying the constituents. Thanks to the shot in the arm from his main opponent, Mariga, less effort is needed to achieve this. Once peace is restored, the road map towards development will be clear.

It is clear that Kibra has been running on the right path to development and equality under the leadership of Ken. This by-election was an opportune moment for the electorate to pick a representative who can also champion for sustainable policies that will promote self-sufficiency of a people once considered ‘children of a lesser god’.

If well utilized, the political climate in place presents a great opportunity for Imran to ensure that he sustains the life of projects such as the Education First policy and the youth-led sewerage cleanup projects initiated by Ken Okoth, that were centred around the citizen.

But even as Kibra recollects, we need to reflect on the ongoing national politics. As a country, we should rethink our approach and conduct especially in violence-prone areas. The instances of incitement and voter bribery are now becoming publicly acceptable issues coupled with violence masked as protection of votes. We should not allow ourselves to forget that these acts by leaders, that consequently compromise voter-integrity, have cost us lives and resulted in great damage to property in the recent past.

Is Parliament Abdicating its Oversight Role?

Posted by on 10th November 2019

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“Economy: Going gets tougher for Kenyans,” read the front page of the Tuesday 29th October 2019 Daily Nation copy. A headline that has contradicted several statements by the government that were meant to assure Kenyans of “economic growth” despite massive lay-offs and steeper tax burdens by the day. With the 2019 census figures that put Kenya’s population at 47.6 million, each Kenyan owes Sh 130, 349 against the Sh 6.5 billion public debt. The raising of the debt ceiling to Sh 9 trillion could bring the indebtedness of every Kenyan to Sh 189, 218 if the National Treasury borrows an additional Sh 2.5 trillion.

These worrisome details have rendered Kenyans helpless as Parliament continuously okays Treasury’s massive borrowing despite public outcry and expert warnings. Couple that with admissions of Parliament’s failure from the likes of Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and Suba South MP John Mbadi, it is evident that the country is headed down a slippery slope.

Parliament is now on the spot for under-delivering on its oversight and representative mandate, constantly passing legislation that does not mirror public interest. Efforts by a few Senators who sought Treasury’s rationale behind the Public Finance Management regulations did not yield much as the majority of the House at the end voted in favour of raising the debt ceiling. Going by the sentiments shared by most proponents of the raised ceiling, the government intends to borrow loans with lower interest rates in order to retire the expensive ones that are worsening the ballooning public debt.

Therein lies the problem with our Parliament. The House has adopted a reactive rather than proactive approach to pertinent issues. While indeed it is true that the public debt is going higher at worrying rates, it is the same Parliament that has had a hand in the current situation the country has found itself in. Instead of imposing conditions on the Executive and its spending excitement, Parliament has many times passed legislation that has been questioned by experts. As it stands, the Executive has managed to overreach its mandate, invade the Parliament and take advantage of favourable numbers to pass legislation that hasn’t been in the interest of Wanjiku.

Even Chief Justice David Maraga’s outrage points to an Executive that is taking advantage of its powers to weaken other arms of the government. Whether the challenges facing the judiciary are on the basis of settling scores or not, Parliament should be impartial and seriously consider the issues raised by the Chief Justice. It would be a huge shame to see a Parliament that frequently debates on fighting corruption not defend the very institution that is supposed to bring criminals to book.

Through their oversight, legislative and representation, Parliament has all the power to deliver change to Kenyans. Passing of unfavorable legislation shouldn’t be normalized since the effects of doing so have long term dire consequences. MPs should comply with the Constitution, put personal and political interests aside and instead champion for their constituents’ interests. MPs have the duty to listen and consult with experts to advice the decisions they make on the floor of the House.

In the wake of all this debt ceiling conversation in between the BBI report anticipated release, MPs should self-evaluate and remember why they were elected or nominated in office. As it is right now, Wanjiku is getting a raw deal from this relationship with her representatives.

 

Let’s interrogate our past as we fashion the future

Posted by on 29th October 2019

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As the Building Bridges Initiative Report release fever rises, its contents remain subject of great public speculation. Kenyans’ cannot be faulted for this anticipation.  The 9th March 2018 Handshake, which was the precursor to the formation of the BBI Task Force came on the backdrop of high political temperatures and fears of eruption of violence to the scale only seen after the 2007/8 Post Election Violence. This was to the detriment of the country’s economic performance and press freedom, following the media shutdown of 30th January 2018.  The 9-Points Agenda identified by the Principals, coined in the joint communique issued after their March 9, 2018 were therefore seen as the panacea for recurrent election antagonism in every election cycle.

By launching a programme that will address shared values, the two parties believed that the country will steer in the right direction and away from ethnic animosity that has existed because of political tension and insecurity. Since the March 9, 2018 pact, the country has been at a trajectory point of healing and resemblance of tranquility. While this has been commendable, it is important that as a country, we do not lose sight of the factors that got us into the pre-handshake state in the first place.  Electoral malfunctions, distrust of the electoral management processes and ethnic divisions as well as perceived non equitable and equal sharing of natural resources were some of the driving forces to these challenges.

Violence in Kenya has unfolded from general elections such as the one in 2017 in different forms, these include the use of excessive force against protestors and even innocent individuals by police, ethnic-based killings and counterattacks by supporters to both the ruling and opposition parties. This in most instances has been fueled by a great sense of political manipulation of ethnic tensions, impunity with longstanding grievances over land, corruption, and lastly political, social and economic inequality.

The handshake that caught many by surprise brought a halt to the post-electoral drama with a final rapprochement between the two parties. This dramatically changed the simmering political under-currents nationwide between the opposition and the governing party. To date it is viewed by citizens as one of the most constructive idea for the common good, that was watered away by political tensions putting the country at the verge of collapse each electoral period. From our past experience on political standoffs, politics informs every aspect of governance, it is then undebatable, to cure our ill politics. The nine-point agenda therefore remains the best antidote.

The report by itself therefore provides an opportunity for the country to put an end to the prevailing case of political injustice, discrimination in service provision and also offer solutions for restorative justice to victims of historical electoral violence and not just act as another cosmetic post-election reform as witnessed in the past. The report apart from addressing the nine items in the agenda should be anchored on both public and national interests that the Task Force has collected from different parts of the country and from actors in different sectors should form the basis for inclusive recommendations that will address the challenges highlighted in the 9-point Agenda.

Needless to say,  as a country we have been struggling with finding a way to ensure that institutions tasked with service delivery and accountability especially for the violence in elections are working. The vision that was anchored on the BBI report during its drafting has the potential to finally attain the elusive inclusion for Kenya. Unlike reforms that led to the establishment of commissions such as the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission and an Independent Review Committee on the elections that weren’t implemented; the issues addressed by the 9-point agenda such as inclusive and shared prosperity are a great opportunity for leaders to strategize and establish institutions and frameworks that can make national unity and stability a reality.

The continued growth of divide, competitive ethnic-based politics and irresponsible politics that has every so often led to the viscous ‘ballot to bullet’ cycle should therefore be unheard of if the countrywide tour by the BBI task-force results in a diverse set of views from Kenyans that highlight the real day-to-day challenges they face.

The hope is that the release of the report will not be subjected to politics but that citizen anticipation for long lasting solutions to electoral tensions will be handled once and for all.

 

 

Leaders Should Learn a Thing or Two from Our Heroes.

Posted by on 22nd October 2019

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The fanfare during the Mashujaa Celebrations at the Mama Ngina Water Front in Mombasa was a good attempt at making up for the silent return of sporting heroes; Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei. Their individual record-breaking moments in Vienna and Chicago respectively gave Kenya a moment to be proud of, one that will linger for a while.

The highlight of these annual celebrations must have been the moment that President Uhuru Kenyatta presented Eliud with the Elder of the Golden Heart (EGH) medal. There was a countrywide consensus that Eliud was deserving of the award as he has continuously displayed true heroism and patriotism through his many achievements. Perhaps unbeknownst to him, he has singlehandedly reignited a sense of hope and optimism among the youth especially, to pursue their dreams without tiring.

The award was also a departure from the last two years’ which were characterized by public complaints and controversy, brought about by the credibility of those to whom the honours were conferred.  Instead, thought and process seems to have been given to this year’s awards, with deliberate efforts to only recognize those deemed deserved of the awards.  This was in line with the guidelines in the National Honours Act 2013. Section 4 of the Act defines the “persons on whom national honours to be conferred”.

A person shall merit the conferment of a national honour if the person is – (a) a person who exhibited or exhibits exemplary qualities, actions or achievements of heroism, sacrifice, bravery, patriotism or leadership for the defence, benefit or betterment of the country or a county; (b) a person who has made an exemplary contribution to the country or a county in the economic, social, scientific, academic, public administration, governance, sports, journalism, business, security or other fields;” it says.  This should perhaps be a lesson for both the national and county governments as they seek to recognize those who have made sacrifices for and contributed to the nation.

It is without a doubt that Eliud embodies these qualities making him the perfect recipient of the award, adding it to his decorated wall of achievements. A sentiment that was widely shared in the Senate during a motion on his commendation a week ago.

Among the issues that consistently arose during the debate was the manner in which leadership acknowledges and commends exemplary feats by local talents. Senators recognized that because of the unfriendly environment within which sportsmen operate in, it’s become difficult for their achievements to avoid being trivialized or tribalized when they happen. For years, government support has been conspicuously absent at the beginning of an athlete’s career only for the same government to quickly take credit when they attain the ‘elite’ status.

“One of the best ways of ensuring that young persons in this country continue walking in the right path is to appreciate success,” said Migori Senator Ochillo Ayacko. An area that the government can and should improve on through consistent investment.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel in the years to come. Eliud has set a great precedent for future heroes to be accorded the recognition they so deserve. Those who happen to share a lot in common with past heroes that charted the way forward for our nation. Those who selflessly endeavour to improve the spaces within which they operate in, either through charity or policy provided better frameworks.

These heroes continue to inspire masses through selfless acts of leadership that are guided by integrity and love for the country.

The hope is that our leaders can borrow from Eliud and other heroes. That through his journey they can learn to live by the values of self-discipline, integrity, patriotism and hard work in their respective positions. That they should know that in the spirit of #NoHumanIsLimited, no dream is too big for Kenya either.

The excellence displayed by Kipchoge should not be in vain

Posted by on 15th October 2019

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Eliud Kipchoge took Kenya and the world to the moon, chances are we may not be getting back down to earth soon. What he achieved on Saturday with the mind-boggling time of 1:59:40 was nothing short of superhuman, cementing Kenya’s dominance over long-distance athletics in the books of history. That wasn’t all, Kenya’s flag flew high on Sunday too with a double win on the Chicago Marathon course and a world record to top it all.

As most Kenyans online would say, Kenyans haven’t felt this Kenyan in recent times and indeed it was a feeling they planned to savor for a while. As praises were heaped on KINGChoge (as he’s since come to be referred to in the past two days) there was sharp criticism that followed politicians who had joined in on the frenzy. Kenyans did not take lightly the congratulatory messages from politicians who were accused of trying to steal Eliud’s moment. Deputy President William Ruto and Sports Cabinet Secretary took the most heat from Kenyans’ who were clearly vexed over the government’s unfulfilled promises on sports.

From five stadia, to financial support to nurturing talent through government programs; government has constantly fallen short of expectations. It should be remembered that the Jubilee manifesto pegged its success on youth and so far, six years down the line, it’s been a constant struggle. Athletes still have to deal with the embarrassment of sleeping at airports, getting late to tournaments over delay of tickets and delayed dues after giving breathtaking performances. This warrants the wrath that leaders are faced with. It makes no sense for leadership to do very little in investing in sports and then be quick to claim athletes’ successes despite all the challenging situations they face.

It’s within the past decade that we’ve seen proper legislation being put in place, explaining the shaky manner with which sports has been managed both at government and federation level. Legislatively, the journey for sports has been long and hard. Right after promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, then Sports Minister Paul Otuoma relaunched the Sports Policy, which was produced in 2002 and operationalized by the Sessional Paper No. 3 of 2005, in a bid to give sports a facelift. To give sports development a legal backing, he needed to move beyond the policy and sponsor a bill.

It wasn’t until 2012 that the Bill was moved, with the Sports Ministry under the new leadership of Ababu Namwamba following a cabinet reshuffle in 2012. Through the five bodies established under the Sports Bill there was hope that perhaps sports would finally be streamlined. The Bill became an act in 2013 and the biggest win from it was the National Sports Fund, commissioned under the Ministry of Sports, that would address the perennial lack of funds that Kenyan sports had battled with for ages.

Unfortunately, the Sports Ministry was stripped off the powers to manage funds accrued from betting taxes giving, which were then passed on to the Treasury through the Sports (Amendment) Bill 2018 that repealed Part 3 of the Sports Act 2013. As the Parliamentary Committee on Implementation noted in their report earlier this year, sports was bound to struggle without this fund that exclusively dealt with sports and related activities.

As it stands, sports only receives funding through the Sports, Arts and Development Fund that is established under the Public Finance Management (Sports, Arts and Development Fund) Regulations 2018. This fund may prove to be insufficient for an industry as vast as sports since it deals with not only sports but also include universal health care, arts and government strategic interventions. What is also unclear is the allocation of monies to sports in the 2019/2020 Budget that was read by the former Treasury CS Henry Rotich.

But like most ailing government services, what we need is proper oversight by Parliament to bring order to sports. The findings by the Committee on Implementation should not go to waste and should be used to put the Ministry to task. Parliament also has a responsibility to each of the constituencies they represent, to ensure that sports academies are established as stated in the Sports Act.

The Ministry and federations have to uphold values of integrity and transparency, it’s the least they can do to honor the men and women who give Kenya a reason to smile about, time and time again.

The state should harness the potential in art for inclusive governance

Posted by on 8th October 2019

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The curtains of the 2019 Too Early for Birds (TEFB) Tom Mboya edition came down after five 3-hour shows that were a rollercoaster of emotions. The cast had the audience on the edge of their seats, delivering facts in between puns and new-age music and social media references that resonated on so many levels. To imagine that the life story of the iconic Thomas Joseph Odhiambo Mboya would have hundreds hooked, who were born decades after his assassination, is unfathomable.  Even more interesting, was the fact that the cast was one that probably experienced the Moi era during its last decade, but whose delivery felt as though they lived during his time and experienced him.

Beyond the bursts of laughter were many learning moments. History was being experienced in a different and memorable way that almost felt like a new encounter with this story. It was a realization that perhaps certain facts were omitted in the history books most grew up reading or these unknown facts finally hit home by the simple act of humanizing this political firebrand.

The play did more than re-enacting the events of the short life of the celebrated Mboya. It reawakened a sense of ownership of the country. The heavy scenes of his death, burial and a distraught nation mourning the loss of their adored son and leader hammered the message home, that indeed we cannot run away from our history. It was a realization, especially for the young that our country’s distant history has everything to do with the discourse of our nation’s politics and leadership.

The bold Mboya’s achievements as captured in the play were a symbolic reminder to an audience that despite being rendered helpless over the past few years, they can and they should be in prominent positions of leadership to drive change.

The young demographic has over time been associated with a sense of resignation and pessimism in the face of politics. Rightfully so, considering how murky the political waters are, it only takes the brave to attempt a dip and very few manage to navigate them. However, by the end of the shows, the mood spoke of a reignited fire to take the reins of the country back and achieve what Mboya was able to do at his age.

But this wouldn’t have been made possible had the delivery of this story taken another format, attesting to the power of art and the need for it in the political space. During the launch of the Kenya Arts Diary, Cultural Analyst and Managing Director, Dr Joyce Nyairo urged the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Arts to start prioritizing art. Her sentiments being that beyond the need for expression by artists, there is a worrying vacuum in the social justice space that can be addressed through art. Artists over time have used their voices to address and influence political issues, reggae legend Bob Marley being a prime example.

Art presents a unique opportunity to reach out to a huge chunk of young Kenyan voters who have missed out on or refused to exercise their democratic right, for the simple fact that they don’t feel like they belong. There is a great need to bridge the gap between voter apathy and civic awareness & engagement among the youth. Through art that delivers history in a palatable way, youth will have a chance to make informed decisions whenever called upon to.

It is clear as day that young people have a burning desire to engage in politics and governance that needs to be satiated. So to have an artist who looks like them, speaks like them and hears them is the solution we just might need if we’re ever going to tap into this demographic that has the right numbers to drive change.

The recent “Play Kenyan Music” wave is a perfect case study of how much young non-conforming folks can achieve, so the task lies in the hands of the government and civil society organizations be in tune with them and achieve the vision they have for our nation.

Government agencies let down Mariam and her daughter

Posted by on 2nd October 2019

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It’s certainly become a norm for death stories to top daily broadcasts to a point where we’re becoming numb to it. News of the death of a mother and her daughter cued in the last quarter of the year, and what has most infuriated most Kenyans is the way these deaths happened and the attention or lack thereof, that they’re being given. Mariam Kigenda and her 4-year old daughter Amanda Kiveu drowned on Sunday after their car slipped from the ferry and into the ocean as captured in several videos that have been making rounds online.

This is one heartbreaking memory that will be etched in the minds of the family of the deceased who now have to deal with the agony of waiting for the bodies to be retrieved from the ocean. Unfortunately, the incompetency displayed by Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) and all other maritime state agencies has subjected the family to more pain as they have to wait a while longer before laying them to rest. Kenyans are angry and rightfully so, because this is one thing that would and should have been avoided. When one pieces together different elements in this tragedy, it wholesomely speaks to the magnitude of negligence that has become the norm in this country.

Many hoped that appropriate rescue and recovery measures would have been put in place following the Mtongwe ferry tragedy that claimed 257 lives, but it appears that even 25 years later no one in leadership has been keen enough to make the Likoni ferry channel safe. As witnessed on the Sunday incident, the rescue personnel; equipment and protocol is wanting. But it makes one wonder whether it is an issue of inadequate funding, ignorance by leaders or utter disregard for people’s safety. What most may not know is that this incident is not in any way unique, since a Kenya Ports Authority accountant died in similar circumstances in 2016. An Unga Limited canter also plunged into the ocean earlier this year. It may seem that the government has buried its head in the sand hoping that the impending danger at the Likoni ferry channel will somehow go away.

This terrible attitude risks the safety and lives of the 300,000 Kenyans who use the ferry every day. Perhaps Kenyan lives aren’t valued anymore since all these deaths and injuries that have been reported over time are yet to strike a nerve that will drive immediate and permanent solutions.

That aside, most of the Kenya Ferry vessels have been an eyesore for years with cranky parts that are beyond maintenance. Many have had to deal with ramps that endanger the lives of commuters both in cars and on foot. The ramps are either so old and immobile or missing some parts, forcing passengers to jump off and on to the incline risking to fall or getting their shoes wet in the process. Logically speaking a functional, raised ramp would have stopped the car from reversing backwards and plunging into the ocean but we have a tendency of being reactive rather than proactive to pertinent issues.

State agencies such as Kenya Ferry Services, Kenya Navy and the Kenya Coast Guard that was launched in 2018 are all funded by taxpayers’ money, so to provide decent services while safeguarding Kenyans’ lives is the bare minimum. Those heading these offices have questions to answer. Calling for the resignation of the officials responsible will not only spark accountability but it will demand responsibility from those in charge. During such moments when emotions are high and there’s enough blame to go around, Parliament needs to step in and step up its oversight role.

MPs particularly Coastal MPs need to truly represent those who voted them in and demand for conclusive investigations into the management of KFS, establish whether KFS has adequate funds allocated to it and demand an audit of the spend of said funds. Furthermore, MPs need to rise to the occasion and push for progressive and impactful change.

Those who have had a hand in these deaths, either through negligence or corruption should face the full force of law as we’ve seen with the owner of the Precious Talent School that claimed 8 lives. If this doesn’t happen, then the government will just be complacent in these deaths.

The Ground Addresses a Great Concern For Frequented Oversight

Posted by on 27th September 2019

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Kwa Ground Vitu Ni Different a common Kenyan phrase among the youth, which translates matters on the ground are different. The same is the state of most sectors in our government. It is without question that our parliament has perfected the art of lawmaking. In fact among its parliamentary responsibilities, the legislative role outweighs oversight and representation. But even as our parliaments craft these laws, what is to be questioned is how they’re implemented and overseen at the grass-root level.

Overtime our parliaments and ministries have proven to take a back seat on laws and resorted to reactive rather than a proactive approach that has been costly to the citizenry. Lack of proper oversight in implementation has proven the unfathomable power of tragedy in waking the conscience of our parliaments and ministries on crucial matters. As always last-minute stances have been sought through coercive measures such as parliamentary summons, ministerial and presidential directives to back up the many legislations in place.

Recent occurrences in and around the education sector paint a picture of negligent institutions and officers; the death of young Chepng’eno linked to period shamming by a teacher and the tragic accident of the one-storey classroom building at Precious Talents Academy in Dagoretti South that cost the lives of eight, leaving more than 60 learners injured and hundreds with trauma to deal with for the rest of their lives, are instances that could have been solved by simple oversight.

Whereas the parliament, through legislation, in a bid to promote the rights and interests of the child developed the Basic Education Act, 2013, which among many things seeks to provide for accreditation, registration, governance and management of institutions of basic education, many killer schools such as Precious Talents are still in existence a demonstration of widespread noncompliance to minimum set standards for schools.

Offices of the National Education Board, the Education Standards and Quality Assurance Commission, and the County Education Board established by the same Act are unheard of in stopping such schools to operate and to make matters worse confer licenses to the same schools. The fatal accident at Precious Talents Academy as evidently shown was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode and even the relevant ministries, the Education Standards and Quality Assurance Commission, the County Education Board and the area MP John Kiarie despite their knowledge and powers mandated by the constitution made the least effort to diffuse it only to join the rest in mourning.

Amidst blame shifts and finger-pointing and political sideshows by MPs who seemed to be cashing on disasters it is clear that the mere push even from the same members who form the government for the government to intervene, presidential or ministerial directives without proper implementation and oversight is all PR. How many policies and legislation do we need to assure the safety of our school-going children? The ground addresses a great concern for frequented oversight.

For most parents living in informal areas admitting your child in a private school is an ultimate sacrifice which should not be the case in a country that boasts of free primary education. It is also uncalled of for an area with representatives and a spatial plan to lack a public school. It is thus undeniable that our good laws and committee recommendations tabled in parliament can only hold water when they are propelled by proper oversight.

Our parliaments and ministries need to have future-proofed thinking and address the gap in need-based planning especially in education  and budgeting recognizing the fact that the present  increase in population leads to an increased need for enrollment in public primary schools. There will be less impact in the call for the resignation of the Minister of Education without a clear plan to improve implementation and oversight.

Finally, 16-year-old climate champion, Greta Thunberg, in her address at the United Nations General Assembly highlights the cost of petty negligence and empty words among our leaders and states, “The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.”   This makes perfect sense in light with the pain and loss of young generations because of the mistakes of adults.

Normalization of menstruation needs to start from the top

Posted by on 20th September 2019

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Aisha Hinds of the Shots Fired series once said, “It goes against natural order for a parent to bury their child.” Jackeline Chepng’eno’s parents were dealt with this sad reality when their 14-year-old took her life after being subjected to period shame by her teacher. This unfortunate incident speaks of failure on several levels of the young girl’s ecosystem. Failure by the teaching system, the government and society to create an accommodating environment for a girl hitting puberty.

In an all too familiar move, questions started being asked after the milk was already spilled. In June 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed to law a Bill to amend the Basic Education Act that would bring to effect the free sanitary pads to primary schools. What followed was an allocation of Sh 420 million in 2018 which supplied 3.7 million girls with sanitary towels according to the Ministry of Gender. As it turns out, the tendering process of this programme wasn’t spared from controversy. Some members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have linked Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang to Konyipad Construction and Supplies Company Ltd that was awarded the tender to supply and deliver sanitary towels to schools despite not being the lowest bidder.

The opaqueness of this and many other government tendering processes have overtime affected service delivery and is now threatening more than half of the Kenyan population. Which therefore means that Parliament has been slacking on its oversight mandate. It’s been said before that we do not face an absence of laws rather a lack of good will to implement them. It was just a month ago that Kwale Women representative Zuleikah Hassan was ejected from Parliament for bringing her 5-month old baby into the parliament chambers. Reason being that the Parliament buildings did not have a functioning crèche 6 years after MPs passed a motion directing the PSC to set aside a room for nursing mothers. Parliament needs to pull up their socks in gender responsive legislation if we ever want to end gender inequality in this country.

It is only right that this process is properly audited to ensure that it covers all bases in the next round of distribution. Furthermore, it may be in the best interests for all interested parties to move this function to the Ministry of Education to avoid any delays that stem out of the bureaucracy that is involved in acquiring the pads from the Gender Ministry.

This incident has not only put the PAC on the spot but the Education Committee from whom Bomet women representative, Joyce Korir sought answers with regards to the disciplinary action that will be taken against the teacher. Among the enraged women legislators was Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo who urged the family to sue the Ministry of Education and called for disciplinary action against the teacher. She did not leave TSC behind in the trail of blame and accused the commission for failure to train their teachers. Her sentiments underscore the need for sensitization of teachers in approaching sensitive matters but more importantly the need for trained counsellors in every educational institution to avoid such abrasive and insensitive approaches that threaten the well-being of children.

But there is a saying that goes, “the fish starts rotting from the head”. If we are at all going to achieve a society that normalizes periods it needs to start from our leadership to trickle down to the citizenry.

Rise above political entitlement and focus on making an impact

Posted by on 16th September 2019

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It is written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer. But you’re making it ‘a den of robbers’,” said Jesus as he drove out traders from a temple in Jerusalem. If one were to exclude the context and source of these words, they’d still have great relevance to the Kenyan political space in relation to the church. Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro and Nominated MP Maina Kamanda had an altercation at Gitui Catholic Church on Sunday following an aggrieved Nyoro who claimed that protocol was not observed at the church function.

Many Kenyans were left surprised as to when politicians held this much importance to the point of having the audacity to desecrate a place of worship. But the blame doesn’t fall solely on them, the church has been an enabler. Churches have provided a platform for politicians to attack opponents and for the latter to give rebuttals, with the leverage largely being the huge sums of money contributed in church harambees. The Messiah would probably throw a fit in light of this incident seeing that the church has become the very thing he forbade; a marketplace.

This incident validates the premise of the Mzalendo Civic Awareness report that sought to understand the public’s perception of public and state officers. Leaders have become so bold in displaying an inflated sense of self-importance making it apparent that their positions aren’t meant for service but to satiate their hunger for power. Power that they can wield to pursue personal and political interests. They have in turn lost sight of their goal and mandate and become what Chapter Six of the Constitution speaks against. Article 75 (1) (c) states, “A State officer shall behave, whether in public and official life, in private life, or in association with other persons, in a manner that avoids demeaning the office the officer holds.” Mr Ndindi and Kamanda’s conduct in Murang’a was disrespectful of the church, its congregants and their respective constituents. Their actions led to a ban by Gitui Catholic Church on politicians attending church functions, which frankly, was long overdue.

While Nyoro tried to get off the hook by terming his arrest as a political attack by the “Kieleweke” camp, he wasn’t spared from the fact that long before this incident, he had courted controversy before. The sycophancy disguised as loyalty has reduced him and many other young politicians as mouthpieces for the different political camp leaders. To live up to the expectations of the positions these leaders hold is actually the bare minimum, sadly many refuse to see the world of possibilities by failing to shift their focus from myopic goals.

If any of the elected leaders doubt whether this is possible then the late Kibra MP Ken Okoth is a prime example of what one can do with a great vision in mind. The teacher turned politician proved naysayers wrong when he made true his promise to construct schools in his constituency. Most MPs who have either failed to drive tangible development through their CDF fund or misappropriated it had no excuses to fall back on when Okoth made the constituency that is home to the biggest slum a subject of envy. This is a legacy that many will struggle to attain leave alone outdo. Which would then mean that the Kibra electorate in the upcoming by-election will have an uphill task in finding a worthy replacement from the candidates who’ve been floated by various parties so far. The late Ken Okoth’s shoes are too big to fill and the successful MP-elect will have to do more than sell empty rhetoric. The candidates owe it to the departed illustrious legislator to see the education goals he had outlined come to realization.

Ken Okoth’s achievements and values should be a great point of reflection for the likes of Nyoro and the entire Parliament as it resumes sittings. There needs to be a shift from constantly politicking to having conversations that drive development. In any case, when 2022 comes, won’t the citizenry judge MPs’ performance based on this period that is being lost to talks of an election that is three years away?