Access to Information at County Levels – by Faith Ogega.

It is no secret that access to the right information is paramount, and nothing can undermine the power it holds. When a government, a politician, a representative, a chief, or a leader in any capacity tries to withhold vital information from their immediate community – that’s where the society begins to drift.

For years now, access to the right information in Kenya has been the biggest drawback that has not been fully addressed. And if it has been highlighted, implementation of the right channels for the flow of information has not been executed. When a leader withholds important information from the people who are intended to receive the message, corruption, inequality, and violence begin thrusting in such a society. It all begins from the top; the government. If public information is not properly disseminated to the public, there will be no public participation.  If only a few chosen individuals, communities, or groups receive the information, inequality across counties or communities begins to thrust. How can the youths (the said future leaders) contribute to the economic development and foundation of a better economic state when they are not allowed to access the right places where the information flows from? Hiding information from your county, community, or the public members when it is meant to be distributed to them is acting shallow. 

Dishonesty, miscommunication, and spreading half-truths trigger violence against each other. Access to the correct information is essential in the promotion of peace and order. When a leader in charge of disseminating information decides to distribute half-baked information, it ends up triggering an uproar. How can a nation thrive in violence? You answered that right (it can never); it is even clear how access and restriction to the correct information can help build or destroy a nation. Information is power. Refusal to access the right information makes it challenging for any member of the public to know what exists and what doesn’t exist.  When a society is well- informed, cases of corruption will cease to increase as they will act as watchdogs against fraud within and outside the government. 

But selfishness among many leaders is killing our nation. Instead of planning on tactics on how to distribute such information, most leaders prefer to withhold it to benefit their close associates and families. Corruption is a deadly killer of any nation. It begins the moment a leader chooses who needs to access certain public information and who remains in the dark. The act is contrary to the fundamental right of access to information under Article 35 of the constitution of Kenya. How can one choose who has access to information when it’s meant to be public? It is ignorant of any representative to do so; in such a time of modern technology when access to information is broad, and differentiating between the right, and incorrect information is strenuous. Access to the right information (meant for the public) should be straightforward, available, and convenient to everyone looking for it. How can the youths grow when opportunities meant for them don’t reach them? And when they try to access the information from the right offices, they are denied access?

Recently Kenya Fight Inequality Alliance (Kenya FIA), organized Usawa Barazas in 10 counties across Kenya. Their two main demands were; transparency & accountability, and Services (Mental health, water, universal health and education). The ten counties that took part in their 2020 – Usawa Baraza under the theme of the year, Gender Justice, were Isiolo, Kakamega, Kiambu, Kilifi, Kisumu, Laikipia, Lamu, Mombasa, Nairobi and Vihiga. A report from all the counties indicated how access to the right information and places is still a major challenge to both the youths and the public at large. Isiolo, one of the participating counties in the fight against inequality at their county level, highlighted how tough it is in their county to access correct information from authorities.

Such restrictions are hindering the youths who are not aware of the opportunities available to them. Kenya FIA is a combination of over 200 groups across Kenya. Kenya FIA has been part of the global Fight Inequality Alliance since 2017, and they are all together working towards bringing change at the county and national level whilst uniting groups locally and internationally for support, solidarity, and training. But when their members have no access to the correct information, they cannot support the rest of the community members who depend on them, the elderly, the disabled, and the children and youths who are the future of the nation. Yes, the government has the right to classify certain information as classified but not all the information can be classified; therefore, government leaders and representatives need to plan on ways in which counties can access information without barriers. Not forgetting who is responsible, to disseminate certain information is vital to ensure accountability and transparency. Most of the time, those with information decide what to say and what to withhold. Setting criteria that will guide those seeking information is necessary for every county.

Poor Decisions no more – by Muthoni

What will we tell the next generation?

When we vote in leaders not on the merit of works done and not on the merit of the capacity they hold to improve our lives, then what we have are cahoots of greedy individuals who are simply in power for self-gratification. What will we tell the next generation?

Will we be man enough to face them and tell them that we let our forefathers’ struggle for independence go to waste? How will we answer when they ask how we made such poor decisions, over and over again, electing leaders not on merit but on flimsy reasons such as tribe, ‘mtu wetu’ disease and based on the handouts that big wigs gave to us in dark alleys, some do so even in broad daylight. 

How it was a surreal moment in 2002 when we unanimously spoke up in one voice, to do away with a regime that ruled as a monopoly. We all know the harm that comes with monopolies, need I go there?

An opportunity always presents itself after 5 years in Kenya, to correct an error where we made one, but do we do? At times it is as if we go to the ballot blindfolded and do guesswork when it comes down to us and the tick mark. Rather, I do not understand what happens, some witchcraft there at the ballot, no. It can’t be, that must be some strong stuff for the whole country to be swept away in that wave.

Maybe it is the term ‘vote that has been misconstrued to confuse us Kenyans. Let me shed some light in that dark corner then. Vote stems from Latin votum “a vow, wish, promise to a god, solemn pledge, dedication.’’ Voting is quite literally a solemn pledge, I would equate it to a prayer for good tidings, oh you religious friends, hear! The same way you are devoted to the faith calling onto the higher deities and offering days on end in service, then come forth and vote wisely. Do take time to understand the governance space, look at the crop of leaders in place, and identify with their strengths and weaknesses. Just as we offer wholehearted prayers, then should we not offer ourselves to making wholehearted promises to forthcoming generations, on the ballot?

That leaves those who are not religious then, dare I say that I find these ones to be quite reasonable people. Individuals who make decisions based on the feel and see of the now. Correct me if I am wrong, might be hanging with the wrong crew. It is these reasonable minds that hold the key to unlocking the ‘mtu wetu’ stalemate. It is they who are our Messiahs from the troubling decisions we have made time and time again. Why I dare say so is because these individuals have unlimited capacity to make informed decisions. These individuals could go to the ground and sniff for pro and against reasons before making decisions. This is the lot who can ask questions that make you doubt your stand in matters of which you have strong convictions. In these dire times, I believe making a decision despite the view that the candidates’ popularity does not guarantee them winning is the right wave to be swept in. By making the right decisions, I am referring to feeding fodder to individuals with their hearts and minds in the interests of the citizens, individuals with a clean bill of political health, a track record to show a positive impact on society. It is our responsibility to the forthcoming generations to make the right decisions at the ballot. Let us remember that voting is a solemn promise that we are making. Let us not promise to choke our children’s futures. Let us make wise decisions and elect individuals who are set to propagate the counties and the country in the right direction without the baggage that takes us all a thousand steps backward.

Two Cents on Political Involvement – By Philomena Irungu.

Do you know that even if you do not vote, the elected leaders do rule over you with their decisions entrenching themselves onto the very details of your precious life? Yeah, check how much VAT you pay on your next supermarket run, or the power token taxes imposed. Let us not even get to COVID, the KQ plane that came in from China after cases were confirmed and the COVID millionaires who are still living free and large with a government in place to take action.

Funny how we all long and yearn to turn 18 and thump our chests that we are adults. Sometimes I wonder why it never sunk in that I am being given a passcode to decide my future and my children’s future, in terms of whom I want to oversee our community resources. Funny how all I could see is that I just ceased to be a minor. Oh, I hope it is not too late to start over. I hope it is not too late to make my voice count, to speak out on issues that are of concern and importance to me and my people. 

I have come to agree that bad leaders are outrightly elected by the people who do not vote; those like me who have had a huge disinterest in politics. It was for understandable reasons you know, don’t judge. Tuko wengi, I am sure. For instance, saying political engagements are messy and dirty, oh what do we gain, yet they will rig the votes, ninahustle or I will be resting without using my leave days! Let us not get into the lingering question of queueing under the unforgiving Machakos sun without Githeri man for some bitings and entertainment. Clearly, I have a plethora of inexcusable excuses that simply display politics and governance as too adversarial to meddle into.

The Awakening

Have you heard John F. Kennedy’s wise words, “The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all” 

Now you know.

You see that person who is already swearing that they will not and cannot vote, they are already exercising their power over you.

The disaster is that the elite who have figured that out, hardly take time to reach out to fellow citizens to pour out their brains and ideologies. What do they do instead, they bury their heads in the sand and pore over books to gain more educational qualifications, advance in careers, take their kids overseas, and simply divorce the whole political situations. After all, does it not make sense to exert more efforts in areas that produce tangible material gain? Maybe just to calm the inner conscience, an occasional tweet or a half-hearted comment on Facebook will do. Most of the time, without even verifying the validity of the statements reposted. Maybe over drinks with friends, the issue of who will be voted in next comes up and it is all banter about people and not policy or progress made by the leaders, a little whining on how times are rough follows.

I do not mean to put somebody in the spotlight, this is the plain truth of vitu kwa ground. What we fail to see is that, once bad governance is in place, we will all face the consequences. We will all pay heftier taxes, use the bad roads and watch our leaders pocket the change, painfully lose a loved one due to a broken healthcare system, watch the education system crumble even with our big ideas in our minds, watch as insecurity increases due to desperate times that push our youth to the brink of survival, get tired of corruption scandals but most of all, continue feeling disgruntled of the status quo.

The good thing about democracy is that every vote counts. Even the uncast ones. Voting is not your right only, it is your power, it is your power to decide. It is your ticket to a better future, to your children’s future. Yes, it is time for new prospects and optimism. It is a time for a paradigm shift in how we view voting engagements and politics. We need to get out of that cocoon where we lie to ourselves that politics has nothing to do with me as an individual. Voting is a right but also a responsibility, do not be a deadbeat who does not meddle in the murky political world. It is about that time that we realize we hire government officials to work for us, sio serikali saidia.

Somewhere inside of all of us is the power to change the world.” – Roald Dahl.

Implement the two-third gender rule now, it is long overdue – By Kibet Brian.

Of the innovations of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 the gender parity provision that not more than two-thirds of positions in all state offices shall be occupied by persons of the same gender, has proved to be the most problematic to implement. A decade after the promulgation of a constitution that has been described as transformative and revolutionary, processes aimed at attaining this particular aspiration have remained reactionary with the trading of barbs and blames being a norm.

Gagged and barred from decision making for many years, the voice of women has been heard at the periphery and muffled to mean nothing even where it matters. On August 4th, 2010, in a plebiscite, Kenyan’s spoke in one voice and decided it was time their women who form a majority of the population deserved more than they were getting. It was time for women’s voices to be heard.

It is said that this is yet to be. It is disturbing to note that the gender rule is still a mirage even in instances where it can be achieved vide presidential fiat; appointive positions. It will be utter tomfoolery to suggest that there are no women who can be appointed to these positions given the strides made by women in education and the participation they have shown in civic society and in other spheres of leadership. To this end, there is a need to see that more women are appointed to the cabinet and as directors of government agencies and departments.

As to how this noble cause will be attained in elective positions, particularly in the National Assembly remains a Gordian knot. Gender parity has been attained in the county assemblies at the face of it, this is laudable. However, critics have been quick to point out that men have been hell bent to influence and actually control how these nominations are done. As such, a majority of women who are nominated to these positions are stooges who are only keen to assuage the interests of men who nominated them and do little to articulate the issues of women who they supposedly represent. 

The good news is that although women are yet to be accorded the opportunities the constitution grants them, a few strides have been made. In the recent past, women have been appointed to serve in cabinet positions that are considered “powerful”. In this regard, Monica Juma and Rachel Omamo continue to serve the nation as defense and foreign affairs cabinet secretaries. Our very own Amina Mohamed went very close, with the support of the government, to serve as the African Union Secretary-General. This demonstrates a bit of commitment from the government to actualize the gender parity dream.

Women in leadership positions continue to demonstrate that they can equal and even surpass their male counterparts in terms of service delivery and in meeting the development demands of their electorates. Kitui governor, Charity Ngilu best exemplifies this. Her administration is a benchmark for what devolution means to the people. The county has made great strides in the attainment of food security and continues to be a trailblazer in the provision of quality and affordable healthcare. Her brainchild Kicotec, a textile factory based in Kitui, is proving to be a game-changer in the fight against the ravaging coronavirus as it continues to churn out thousands of facemasks every day. 

It is therefore oxymoronic that society continues to place hurdles to the ascension of women to leadership yet they have shown they are capable of delivering and they possess the willpower to go for global positions when given the necessary support.

The zeitgeist of our times is the full liberation of women from the shackles of oppression they have been bound in for a long time. Let us accord them the opportunity to serve in state positions. They form the majority of the population and therefore deserve more than they are currently getting. The achievement of this is dependent on the full implementation of the two-third gender rule. This is long overdue and should happen now. 

 

Do hashtags that push for social justice really connect us? – By Billy Osogo

WHAT IS SARS?

SARS is an acronym for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad formed in 1992 to combat armed robbery and other serious crimes.

WHY #ENDSARS?

#ENDSARS was created in 2017 by Nigerian human rights defenders and activists. This was in response to the brutality and torture perpetrated against innocent Nigerian citizens. It gained even more traction in early October 2020 when a video surfaced online of a man being shot allegedly by members of SARS. The situation careened on October 20th. It is reported that CCTV cameras and lighting were deliberately disabled prior to the shooting of protestors. Amnesty International confirmed that the Nigerian army and police killed at least 12 peaceful protestors. 

#ENDSARS has continued receiving global attention with citizens from all walks of life asking the Nigerian government to put an end to the violence. 

COLONIAL UNDERPINNING

Reports of the use of excessive force, extrajudicial killings, and other forms of human rights violations by the police are not new. Despite enormous strides in democratization, there remains an uneasy relationship between law enforcement and citizens in many parts of the world. The unjustified use of excessive force on Wycliff Cox and the gruesome killing of Breonna Taylor are stark reminders of its pervasiveness. Not even the most advanced democracies in the world are inoculated.  

Africa faces an inevitably uphill task in arresting police brutality. The obsession with excessive force by law enforcement was inherited from the colonialists. The brutal force was the glue that held the colonial state together. Land, taxes, resources, and even loyalty, were all taken by sheer force. Native Africans were either beaten to submission or death. Post-independent elites, despite their erstwhile promises of reform, merely inherited the colonial infrastructure. State-sanctioned violence (via the military or the police), has remained a constant weapon in governments’ arsenal. 

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

The life-force of police brutality is the unholy trinity of power, corruption, and control. This nexus is designed strategically to scare citizens into fear and disillusionment. It works to shield the powers-that-be from accountability. Which ipso facto defeats the very purpose of elections. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. writing from his Birmingham jail aptly said:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

The #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, #Iamwillie and #EndSARS are testament to this. Technology has made it possible for us to connect with each other’s pain and suffering. The global coalescing behind these campaigns has revealed that we all aspire for the same things – dignity, respect and love. The outpouring of support from people continents away shows that we understand what’s important. That there’s more that unites us than divides us. That our common humanity is far greater than our differences. 

Moreover, the youth are leading these protests world-over. It corroborates what we have known all along. The youth remain the joker in the pack. They collectively hold more power to catalyze change than any other force on earth. 

WHAT NOW?

A lesson from Kofi Annan’s memoirs, Interventions.

“What is needed are, on the one hand, a set of governing institutions and rules, which have to be built up over time, that protect the results of elections and so the rights of people; and, on the other hand, responsible and accountable leadership that serves the people.”

BIO: Billy Osogo

BA Political Studies. Researcher on Governance, Elections and Human rights.

Facebook: Billy Osogo

Public participation; histrionic yada yada or real? – By Kibet Brian.

Article 10 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 recognizes public participation amongst others as one of the national values and principles of governance. The end game of public participation is to put the citizen at the core of decision making. Tacitly it gives effect to the constitutional provision in Article 1, that the people may exercise their sovereign power directly.  Therefore persons who may be affected by a government process or activity are accorded an opportunity to influence the substance of the decisions made. Consequently the elevation of a citizen from a mere bystander in governance to a person that actually influences the decisions and actions taken occurs.

By consulting persons on decisions that affect them, the quality of the decisions made is enhanced and is more likely to be acceptable since they conform to what that community considers ethical and moral. This consultation also makes people feel dignified since they are involved in their own governance structure. It also provides the opportunity for the interests and wants of the community to be heard directly from the horse’s mouth.

Whereas public participation seeks to give citizens the power to interrogate and actively engage with decision-makers, it remains a foreign concept amongst many Kenyans. It is commonplace to walk into the forums convened for this purpose only to find the halls technically empty. It seems to me then that people are yet to fully embrace their right to participate. Why then is it so?

While human lives may have equal value, inequality in literacy and au courant levels is inevitable. That the ability to speak the ‘right language’ in these forums remains a big problem to many is not rocket science. As a result, many people feel intimidated to give views. Access to information is a major obstacle to persons making insightful contributions. Hence the contribution of many is considered ‘bland’ and takes the form of general views that are not considered critical to usurp the status quo.

This partly explains why many still refrain from making their views known. Further, Kenyans are brutalized, people. Perhaps the torture that marked the second liberation is still fresh in people’s minds and so many are not keen to speak about issues even where they are remotely connected to politics for the fear of being politically incorrect. An even more important question arises in the form of the level of consideration that decision-makers give to the views submitted by the public.

To this end, methinks decision-makers need to picture themselves as a cog in the wheel. They must never, even in an instance think of the power they exercise as innate. Rather they should view their power as a ‘public trust’ as ensconced in Article 73 of the Constitution. Thus the views of the ‘small man’ must be considered in accordance with this ‘trust’.

The Kenyan person also needs to see themselves as an important part of the Kenyan hegemony. The country does not belong to a selected few but all. Everyone must therefore arise and make their voices heard when it is sought. Cowering and giving a wide berth to forums meant for raising voices on pertinent issues only makes the views of a selected few to be considered the common view. No wonder, many go challenge some laws and development projects in court later on yet they themselves participated in formulating the nitty-gritty of the impugned matter.

The refrain is that public participation is only real when views made actually influence the decisions made thus the citizen is actually able to pinpoint the impact of their views on important decisions. It is histrionic when citizens do not avail themselves and even when they do, the views are not taken to account when decisions are made. Public participation is an excellent concept that needs to be ingrained deeply in the fabric of governance and public policymaking.

The next time public participation on a matter is convened near you, do avail yourself and add your voice to the matter at hand. It matters.

KENYA’S YOUTH: G.O.A.T. OR SCAPEGOATS? – By Billy Osogo

The death of the two young people in Kenol, Muranga, should disturb us. I watched poignantly as their families spoke to news reporters. The anguish in their voices was palpable and their tears should drown the people responsible. 

Reports that scores of young people were ferried to the venue, their raison d’être being to cause violence, are damning. This is a testament to the malignant equipoise that bedevils the youth in this country. The diabolical paradox of being a youth in Kenya – under-qualified to direct the script (read as duty bearers), supremely qualified to be cast as victims of rabble-rousers (read as goons). 

These events are reminiscent of the days leading up to the 2007/2008 post-election violence and the Rwandan Genocide. Both were characterized by a smattering of small, ominous incidents that should have set alarm bells ringing. This anomaly should have captured the attention of our security agencies. People don’t suddenly develop a craving for farming tools. 

Both our Constitution and National Anthem acknowledge the supremacy of the Almighty. All our Commanders-in-Chief since independence have sworn the Oath of Office, on the Bible. The police, whom they command, lobbied teargas into a church is blatant betrayal. It is incontrovertible proof of the malaise that plagues us. Nothing is sacrosanct anymore. Parliament is dishonorable. The Executive is remiss. 

Remember the Kiambaa church tragedy? With everything and everyone in it incinerated to ashes? That fire was lit by young people in the name of supporting their preferred candidate. 

Thirteen years and a new Constitution later, we are staring down the barrel of the same gun. In the words of George Bernard Shaw;

“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience?”

 In many ways, COVID-19 has been a blessing in disguise. The cessation of movement order and a ban on gatherings tacitly cooled down political temperatures. Albeit tentatively. Over the last few weeks, the premiere of ‘Impunity’, guest-starring our politicians, has graced our homes. We have witnessed the very people who banned gatherings address mammoth crowds. Our leaders are preaching water and drinking wine. Billions meant to alleviate the suffering of Kenyans have disappeared in astonishing acts that would baffle Houdini. 

The youth are used as scapegoats. Loans are taken in our names only to disappear as soon as they hit the Exchequer. Administrations are formed on our backs only for octogenarians to be rewarded with government appointments. Constitutional dispensations are mooted for our futures only for us to be relegated to the periphery. Funds are constitutionally allocated for our empowerment only for them to be swallowed by the black hole of government bureaucracy.  

As 2022 nears, there are only going to be more of these overtures. The youth form 75% of Kenya’s population. Numbers don’t lie. We mustn’t be used as pawns. He mustn’t be used to further anyone’s agenda at the expense of our own. We mustn’t be used as the matchstick to light the powder keg of violence. We must break that cycle. 

In lieu, we must be the change we wish to see. In the words of President Obama:

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Billy Osogo.

Concerned, Aware, Active Youth.

International Tax Justice Academy 2020 – by Faith Ogega.

Illicit Financial Flows are a significant threat to Africa’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The International Tax Justice Academy (ITJA) is a capacity-building program launched in 2014 under the umbrella of the Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA). The academy was started as a pan – African initiative to bridge an existing knowledge gap on tax justice in Africa. And since then they have been on course to achieve the goal.

International Tax Justice Academy’s main objective is to encourage the participation of tax justice campaigners at national, regional, and global levels. The capacity building program is to intensify the capability of Civil Society Organizations (CSO), academia, trade unions, researchers, journalists to enlighten and engage citizens on tax justice issues.

ITJA training strengthens evidence-based advocacy, awareness, and distribution of relevant information to increase knowledge-base, influence policy reform, and monitor progress. The methodology of training ensures learners grasp the knowledge and meet TJNA’s aim of increasing participation of CSOs and journalists. 

Since the United Nations member state adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in 2015 as a global call to action for zero poverty, hunger, and protecting the planet by ensuring peace and prosperity. African countries have a long way to go, and the 17 SDGs are all integrated; one effect on an area will affect the outcome of the rest and SDGs can only be achieved by initiating a balance between social, economic and environmental sustainability.

ITJA offers skills for sustained advocacy, dialogue and discussion through courses on Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs), tax governance and Domestic Resource Mobilization (DRM) in Africa, supported by research and participation of key players. Illicit Financial Flows are a significant threat to Africa’s Sustainable Development Goals. It has slowed and destroyed the progress of African countries’ economies and contributed to the increase of insecurity and inadequacy to raise tax revenues.

On the contrary, most developing African countries are not maximizing the use of domestic resources not because they lack them, but due to the significant levels of Illicit Financial Flows that have reduced the ability to raise the required tax revenues.

Hence, the Sustainable Development Goals in African developing countries are at risk. IFFs have posed multiple threats to SDGs’ agenda by consuming the much-needed tax base for public investment and social spending.

Instead of working towards achieving SDGs in Africa; reduce the continent’s $31 billion infrastructure financing gap, youth unemployment and tackle climate change, governments are continually using domestic savings that could help replenish our infrastructure systems. All we see is African countries struggling in poverty, governments fighting against each other, and an increase in inequality and rent-seeking rather than maximizing the use of domestic resources for productivity.

Illicit Financial Flows is destroying our African nations as this practice threatens not only banks and financial intelligence units but also legal mechanisms for detecting and prosecuting perpetrators of illicit financial flows. These trends leave us desperate for external aid, putting our continent in the light for exploitation, and yet we have the resources to build Africa and even supply to the rest of the continents.

IFFs have continually made us helpless and economically dependent on other continents for aid. Such a scenario is reflected by the proportion of official development assistance in the budgets of African Governments.  In some countries, official development assistance accounts for 70 percent of total government revenue. If it were not for Illicit Financial Flows, our African countries would not be so dependent on foreign aid. And yet we could use our domestic resources, grow our economies, and still employ millions of African youths.

It is time for our African governments to establish working policies and stop the flow of illicit finances, apply their ‘political will’ in achieving SDGs and most importantly, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive organizations at all levels. While those in the private sector expect fair, clear and transparent tax and trade policies, they must do their part by ensuring their tax and trade practices comply with local laws.

If our governments work closely with the private sector, civil society organizations, trade unionists, and the media, to stop the circulation of incentives to engage in illegal behaviors, we could give the people their rights, security, and opportunities to develop our economies.

Men, we must check our privilege – By Billy Osogo

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics’ 2019 census count shows that there are 24, 014, 716 women in Kenya compared to 23, 548,056 men. Women account for 50.5% of Kenya’s population. You’d think this to be a good thing. After all, there is strength in numbers, yes? Yet nothing could be further from the truth. 

In the words of Malcolm X;

“The most disrespected person in America [rea+d as world] is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is a black woman. The most neglected person in America is a black woman.”

In Kenya, women continue to receive the short end of the stick. Bereft of their contribution, the Mau Mau struggle for independence would have come to naught. Women participated as fighters, gathered food, and disseminated information to those in the forests. Since independence, however, the Kenyan State has systematically marginalized its largest population group from decision-making platforms. 

The Constitution of Kenya in 2010 tried to remedy this systemic ill. Article 27 (4) stipulates:

“The State shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, color, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth.”

Ten years later, Parliament is yet to pass the Two Third Gender Bill. This contravenes the spirit and letter of the Constitution. Failure to implement this provision perpetuates the historical and systemic marginalization of women. Whereas strides have been made, victory is still far off. Not too long ago, we were treated to the mortifying scenes of a mother forced to give birth right outside the hospital gates. Successive administrations have promised free delivery for expectant mothers. However, the horror movie that is Pumwani Hospital seems to have no end. 

An electioneering process is a sacrosanct event that profoundly determines and vindicates the democratic maturity of a country. Yet it is during such periods when the grossest human rights violations are committed in Kenya. Guess who are the biggest victims? Women!

True freedom can never be attained when the largest section of our society is still shackled in the chains of patriarchy, sexual abuse, retrogressive cultural practices, and negligence. We, men, have inherited so much privilege.

Privilege can be understood as systematically conferred advantages individuals enjoy by virtue of their membership in dominant groups with access to resources and institutional power that are beyond the common advantages of marginalized citizens. 

Men, we must check our privilege. The benefits are twofold. One, we will identify areas where we are perpetuating oppression and therefore arrest it. Two, we will also be identifying areas where we have the power and access to change the system as a whole. 

In the words of Ijeoma Oluo:

“When we identify where our privilege intersects with somebody else’s oppression, we’ll find our opportunity to make real change.”

Written By Billy Osogo

Instagram: @a.b.osogo  |  Facebook: Billy Osogo

 

Implement the two-third gender rule now, it is long overdue – by Kibet Brian

Of the innovations of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 the gender parity provision that not more than two-thirds of positions in all state offices shall be occupied by persons of the same gender, has proved to be the most problematic to implement. A decade after the promulgation of a constitution that has been described as transformative and revolutionary, processes aimed at attaining this particular aspiration have remained reactionary with the trading of barbs and blames being a norm.

Gagged and barred from decision making for many years, the voice of women has been heard at the periphery and muffled to mean nothing even where it matters. On August 4th, 2010, in a plebiscite, Kenyan spoke in one voice and decided it was time for their women who form a majority of the population deserved more than they were getting. It was time for women’s voices to be heard.

It is said that this is yet to be. It is disturbing to note that the gender rule is still a mirage even in instances where it can be achieved vide presidential fiat; appointive positions. It will be utter tomfoolery to suggest that there are no women who can be appointed to these positions given the strides made by women in education and the participation they have shown in civic society and in other spheres of leadership. To this end, there is a need to see that more women are appointed to the cabinet and as directors of government agencies and departments.

As to how this noble cause will be attained in elective positions, particularly in the National Assembly remains a Gordian knot. Gender parity has been attained in the county assemblies at the face of it, this is laudable. However, critics have been quick to point out that men have been hell-bent to influence and actually control how these nominations are done. As such, a majority of women who are nominated to these positions are stooges who are only keen to assuage the interests of men who nominated them and do little to articulate the issues of women who they supposedly represent. 

The good news is that although women are yet to be accorded the opportunities the constitution grants them, a few strides have been made. In the recent past, women have been appointed to serve in cabinet positions that are considered “powerful”. In this regard, Monica Juma and Rachel Omamo continue to serve the nation as defense and foreign affairs cabinet secretaries. Our very own Amina Mohamed went very close, with the support of the government, to serve as the African Union Secretary-General. This demonstrates a bit of commitment from the government to actualize the gender parity dream.

Women in leadership positions continue to demonstrate that they can equal and even surpass their male counterparts in terms of service delivery and in meeting the development demands of their electorates. Kitui governor, Charity Ngilu best exemplifies this. Her administration is a benchmark for what devolution means to the people. The county has made great strides in the attainment of food security and continues to be a trailblazer in the provision of quality and affordable healthcare. Her brainchild Kicotec, a textile factory based in Kitui, is proving to be a game-changer in the fight against the ravaging coronavirus as it continues to churn out thousands of facemasks every day. 

It is therefore oxymoronic that society continues to place hurdles to the ascension of women to leadership yet they have shown they are capable of delivering and they possess the willpower to go for global positions when given the necessary support.

The zeitgeist of our times is the full liberation of women from the shackles of oppression they have been bound in for a long time. Let us accord them the opportunity to serve in state positions. They form the majority of the population and therefore deserve more than they are currently getting. The achievement of this is dependent on the full implementation of the two-third gender rule. This is long overdue and should happen now. 

Written by Kibet Brian who is a Student at the University of Nairobi – School of Law in Parklands. He comments on topical issues with a bias for Tax, Social, and Administrative Justice.

Twitter: @Kibett_Brian   |   Facebook: Ki-Bett Brian

Pro Choice, Pro Life: A complicated debate – By Mercy Chepkemoi

 Abortion is an emotive, sensitive, and divisive issue often riddled with arguments on the fetus as a right bearer and woman’s right of autonomy with each side believing to be the correct position. This controversy is exacerbated by the inconsistency in Kenya’s legal framework in regards to abortion. 

Article 26(3) sets the foundation basis for the protection of life in the unequivocal affirmation that the life of a person begins at conception to the natural death of a person. Termination of this life in pregnancy can only be done within the precincts of the law and not ‘on-demand’. Where in the opinion of a trained medical professional there is a need for emergency treatment and that the life of the mother is in danger, abortion can only be procured. 

Section 2 of the Children Act, 2001 defines a child as any human being under the age of 18.  This definition doesn’t state any limitation as to when the child starts being called a human being or referred to as an individual. It merely says under the age of 18 implying that an unborn child falls within the definition of a child who deserves to be protected under the Act. This is also an undisputed idea that the unborn child will eventually become a human being that enjoys fundamental rights under Article 19 of the Kenyan Constitution. 

The Constitutional reference to ‘birth’ under Article 27(4) implies that an unborn child forms part of every person and should not be denied constitutional protection through abortion. Read together with Article 26(2) on when life begins, the provision recognizes the unborn as a person entitled to the right to life and equality. Moreover, under Article 28 of the Constitution, all persons have inherent dignity and the right to have dignity, respect, and protection. Failure to protect the life of the unborn child amounts to a violation of the said article. 

Pro-choice lobby groups have more often than not arguing that women are autonomous and have the moral right to decide for themselves what to do with their own bodies If a woman is denied to have the right to not have the baby and have a safe legal way of doing so, she is denied the right to the possession and control of her own body. The common-Law argument is that denial of a choice is a violation of a right. 

The Penal Code Section S. 214 provides a contrary argument in relation to the definition of who a child is as defined by the Children Act. The Penal Code provides that for a child to become a person capable of being killed when it has proceeded in living state from the body of its mother whether it had breathed or not and whether it has an independent circulation or not. This provision appears to imply that a child who has not proceeded from the mother’s body is not a living human being and can lawfully be killed or aborted. 

Regardless of the discussion on pro-choice and pro-life, unsafe abortions remains a leading cause of maternal morbidity and mortality in Kenya. The treatment of complications of unsafe abortions also consumes health system resources. 

Kenya’s legal framework on abortion is inconsistent and therefore doesn’t adequately protect the life of the unborn child. For a meaningful discourse and solution to be found in addressing the gaps, it is paramount the rights of a woman be seen not as unethical to those of the unborn child. Although it is established that the two are distinct and separate persons with equal rights to life, it cannot be denied that protection of the rights of one necessarily requires the willingness to protect. Adequate laws will serve to advance this position for the common good of both persons and society in general.

By Mercy Chepkemoi

Our politicians are spending too much time focusing on the wrong thing – By Barbra Ouma

To say politics is a dirty game is an understatement. Kenyan politics is a notch higher. It is filled with propaganda, deceit, malice, threats, and fraud. All these served on one plate. Unfortunately, there are some who can take in all that any time of the day, while others are not able to stomach it at all. The air is currently filled with dirty politics and propaganda. Just like Groucho Maxx once said “politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies” such are the antics of our politicians. Recently the tunes and beats are BBI and most people are excited at the drop of reggae tunes accompanying the BBI referendum. The major theme in the political arena is the politics of succession and the drums are enjoying the political flow of events. One would think that we are in the electioneering period.

John Adams once said ‘Government is instituted for the common good: for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men’. Many countries are busy working round the clock to bring back their economies, but the Kenya government is busy paving the way for the BBI referendum. As a country and the citizens of this country, we expected a great economic comeback instead of an enormous political comeback. People lost their jobs, companies lost huge profits, and businesses were ruined as a result of the corona novel. The government should come up with strategies to ensure that those who were fired from their jobs to be reinstated and move on with their lives as before. The government should restore sanity to the people and ensure that we are back to where we were economical. There should be economical strategies between the government and companies, the private sector, and various institutions in ensuring the steady flow of businesses and government activities.

In political rallies, the crowd is unfathomable. Lest I forget, the WHO standards are also not adhered to. We have completely forgotten that there is an ongoing pandemic and one may be excused for asking if the virus was true with us. As patriots of this nation, we all want economic growth. We want our lives improved and poverty fought by all means. Every one of us has a responsibility in ensuring that the country is developing so that we all experience personal growth that we can be proud of. But our leaders are acting contrary to our expectations. There is lots of politics and propaganda going on to an extent that they have forgotten their sole duty to the citizens which is service. Some think that they are in those offices by their own right, while others feel entitled to those offices yet most of them are in there for personal selfish gains without really serving the interest of the people who elected them.

If I am to choose between politics and economic development, I would go for the latter. I would dance to the tunes of economic freedom, I would dedicate all my time towards achieving economic growth whether at a personal or national level. I believe all the citizens of this country would go for the economic path to have financial freedom because that is what we all need as a country and not the political theatrics we are experiencing in this COUNTRY today.

Written by Barbra Ouma from Kisumu county
Twitter: @barbaraouma18
Facebook: Barbara Ouma

 

Siasa Place is an NGO formed 2015 that aims to create an enabling environment for women and youth mainstreaming into our body politics.

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