Youth Participation in Governance – By Christopher Mokaya

 

It has often been said that if the youth are not on the table, then they are on the menu. This dictum has elicited mixed reactions from both the youth and older members of our society. In matters of governance and politics, the youth have always been in motion from the frying pan to the fire!

Is it not still vivid in our collective minds as citizens of Kenya how the political class has always abused the kindness of the youth who come out in their numbers to support various political causes? Most of the victims of police brutality during post-election chaos are always the youth. Rights organizations have done little to arrest this situation. This is why the youth in Mathare, Kibera, Dandora, and other informal settlements always live in apprehension especially during the electioneering period.

Is there a way in which the situation can find a remedy? Can the youth of Kenya and Africa meaningfully participate in governance and politics? Do they really have what it takes to participate in this game of thrones?

Well, as a young person who has witnessed first-hand the challenges of youth participation in governance, I must admit that it is not a walk in the park. The youth must be willing and ready to sacrifice their comfort, time, and resources to meaningfully and successfully participate in politics and governance at the county level and at the national level.

Martin Luther King Jr aptly sums up what it takes: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.”

I believe when the youth step out of their comfort zones and stake a legitimate claim on the governance of their nation, change begins to happen. It is this change that is desired by the society that looks up to young people to offer fresh ideas and spark innovation to transform the nation.

The youth also need to find inspiration from history. In Burkina Faso, a young revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara fought for participatory democracy, justice, anti-corruption, and the liberation of Africa (Harsch, 2013).  Sankara believed in the ability of Burkinabés to develop their country, modernize it and build a strong economy. He succeeded in becoming the president of his nation. Personally, I believe I can be the “Sankara” of Kenya and I have already taken the very first steps towards seeking support as the next president of our nation.

There is so much hope for youth participation in governance. This hope lies in the need for the youth of Kenya and Africa at large to start where they are, to do what they can with what they have as Theodore Roosevelt asserted. Time is ripe for youth participation in governance.

The article was written by Christopher Alvin Mokaya a selfless servant leader, currently an aspirant for President of Kenya 2022. He serves as the Deputy East Africa Regional Associate for Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development (YALDA).

Twitter: @PresidentMokaya

Positives of Youth Engagement in Governance – By Elizabeth Mueni.

The United Nations uses the term youth to refer to people between the age of 18-35 years. This definition does not however apply to all the states. According to the United Nations, 25% of the total population in Kenya is made up of the youth. The survey also shows that 7.24% of that population is made up of unemployed youth. It has been noted that the participation of youth in governance has been picking up in recent years and especially after the occurrence of devolved governance. The Kenyan youth have been active recently in government rallies, political seats, and even ministerial positions. But just how have the youth been involved?

According to Social Media Lab, 40% of social media users in Kenya are youth aged between 18 years to about 35 years. This clearly shows that the youth are the highest social media users. The government has recently brought almost all of their activities online and this has given the youth the opportunity to interact with government projects online, participate by giving their opinions, and criticizing the government. The youth can use the social media platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook to air their opinions on ongoing government projects. The media houses also engage the youth in order to get their opinion on government through social media.

Additionally, in 2020, President Uhuru Kenyatta held a workshop for the Youth through the Kenya ni Mimi initiative. The forum was meant to inspire the Youth and enable them to be drivers of their own agenda and to seek leadership positions at all levels. The President demonstrated youth leadership when he appointed Nadia Ahmed who is 28 years old to the Ministry of ICT and Youth Affairs. The World Bank has been working with Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet county governments to design a platform in which Kenyan youth will be engaged. The workshop opens a dialogue between the government and the youth to interact and share ideas on leadership. These workshops are necessary for the participation of youth in government.

According to the 2010 constitution, the state shall take measures including affirmative action programs to ensure that the youth receive education, have the ability to associate and interact and have the opportunity to be represented socially, economically, and politically. The youth should be given access to employment and should be protected against all harm. The constitution calls for youth representation and in devolved government, at least one person is appointed to represent the youth.

The last general election was characterized by a huge number of young people who participated in the election either by voting or contesting for a position. The 12th parliament has a high number of young Kenyans for example, Paul Ongili of Embakasi East and Charles Kanyi of Starehe. In the upper house, we have Johnson Sakaja of Nairobi county and Anwar Loitiptip of Lamu, just to mention a few. The higher learning institutions in Kenya also give the youth an opportunity to contest for different leadership positions and portray their leadership skills. Kenya has seen University chairperson contests in national elections and this clearly shows the large milestones youth leadership in Kenya has taken. The government has also boosted the performance of youth contestants in leadership by appointing them to head different sections and programs in government.

There are thousands of youth in different sectors in the country and even internationally. The youth have taken the leadership response positively and they are making huge strides in order to achieve more. The constitution acknowledges the youth as of good reasoning and decision making and they should be given an opportunity to showcase their skills to the public through leadership.

 

COVID Effects on the Mwanachi- By Ben Katibi

The country is battling the third and most deadly Covid-19 wave since its first case was confirmed on 13th March 2020. The Ministry of Health is reporting new strains of the virus: the South African and UK strains which appear to be highly contagious and virulent. There is a surge in the number of cases requiring hospitalization. Health facilities are on the verge of being overwhelmed and whispers from the wards tell of a situation so dire, a volcano ready to erupt. Media reports telling of a scramble for ICU beds fully occupied, with many in the waiting queue having made advanced bookings for the beds. The country is also reporting daily double-digit fatalities.

In the wake of prevailing circumstances, the government through a presidential directive of March 26, 2021, imposed a lockdown on the 5 counties of Nairobi, Nakuru, Kiambu, Machakos, and Kajiado. Zoned as one area, movement into and out the five counties was suspended and curfew hours extended from 8 pm – 4 am. Social, political, and religious gatherings were also suspended. The five counties had been singled out as hotspots for the virus hence the tougher restriction measures.

Just when the wheels of economic recovery had begun to slowly gain momentum, the directives brought them to a screeching halt. The year 2021, had been touted by the president as the year of revival, a time when the country was expected to shake off the negative effects Covid-19 had brought on the economy. The economy was projected to grow between 5% – 7% following a slowdown in 2020 occasioned by the effects of Covid-19. The new directives are a big stab on the back of an already ailing and frail economy. More so spelling doom and dark days ahead for the millions of Kenyans whose jobs were already at stake.

Close to 1.7 million jobs were lost during the first lockdown as a result of many businesses closing down and some cutting down on their workforce to remain afloat. The onset of the second lockdown hit many of those that had survived the first lockdown onslaught. Another wave of job losses striking home. The worst-hit being the hospitality, tourism, transport, and entertainment industries. With millions directly and indirectly employed in these sectors, a bleak future is staring into their eyes.

There was a public outcry on the new measures. Many questioned the timing and intent of the directives as not being Pro-mwananchi. Directives were seen by many as being discriminative to millions of Wanjiku who live from hand to mouth. A people that felt overburdened by the high taxes and the rising cost of living. Was the president misadvised to lock down the country again? Was a second lockdown necessary? Is the president unaware of the suffering and rising cost of living in the country? These are some of the hard questions in the minds of Kenyans who feel let down by a president whose government is associated with unfulfilled promises, heavy borrowing, high taxation, and untamed corruption.

In as much as the new directives in place are meant to curb the spread of the virus, the plight of Wanjiku brought about by the rising cost of living cannot be ignored. Many risks slipping into poverty if sound and timely economic recovery policies are not put in place to cushion the Mwananchi. World over, it is the business of the government to take care of its citizenry. Countries like Germany have taken steps to help businesses avoid layoffs. The US Congress on the other hand passed a mega stimulus bill that avails billions of dollars to expand the unemployment insurance as well as providing cash handouts to low and middle-income earners to help them make ends meet. The bill also allocates 350 billion dollars in loans for businesses with less than 500 employees.

The government should also follow suit. The much-hyped 3-year Post-covid socio-economic recovery strategy launched by the President funded to a tune of 132 billion shillings is yet to be felt by Wanjiku. The recovery plan was initiated to spur growth by pumping funds into critical sectors like agriculture, tourism, SMEs’, housing, infrastructure, and manufacturing. SMEs are a major target because of the role they play in creating millions of informal jobs. It is whispered in hushed tones of the good policies in the paper that are non-existent on the ground. Good policy papers that become cash cows for a few bureaucrats.

The mwananchi is suffering and it’s time the government reassesses some of the directives in place. Either provide for the mwananchi or open up the country and let Wanjiku work. There is no logic in locking down the country and not carrying out mass testing or mass vaccinations to achieve herd immunity. If the government decides to settle on the latter of opening up the country, then Wanjiku should strictly adhere to the laid down regulations by MOH of washing hands regularly with soap and water, social distancing, and proper wearing of face masks. It is our health and lives on the line. Stay safe.

The article was written by Ben Katibi a purchasing and supplies management graduate passionate about writing with a keen eye on politics and emerging issues in the country. Follow Ben on Facebook – Benedict Katibi and Twitter – @oure_katibi

 

Plans to Revive Tourism Industry Underway – By Nancy Odindo

The resurgence of COVID-19 cases following the discovery of a new variant has delivered another disappointing blow to the tourism industry following the second wave of lockdowns and border closures.

The tourism industry rose to the forefront of the global agenda in 2020, due to the devastating impact of COVID-19 across the globe with countries taking decisive actions to protect their citizens and halting international travel.

However, the recovery of that hard-hit industry that left many jobless and in poverty is believed to be driven by technology and innovation though expected to belong, uneven and slow.

According to the World Economic Forum, the pandemic resulted in a 74% decline in international visitor arrivals, equivalent to over $1 trillion in revenue losses and an estimated 62 million fewer jobs as well as claiming nearly 2.9 million lives since the outbreak in 2019.

This has presented a hard challenge of reopening borders to resume travel and commerce to countries while protecting their populations’ health.

“Every country on earth had implemented some travel restriction, signaling the magnitude of the operation to restart travel,” reported the World Tourism Organization, UNWTO, in April last year.

With the second wave of lockdowns, border closures, and the rollout of vaccination programs, the World Economic Forum report states that the World ‘will not see a significant rebound in international travel until the middle of this year at best’.

According to a study on managing overcrowding, the top 20 most popular global destinations were predicted to add more international arrivals than the rest of the world combined by 2020.

“While COVID-19 will have disrupted this trend, it is well known that consumers want to travel again, and we must address the issues associated with overcrowding, especially in nascent destinations, like Saudi Arabia,” stated the report.

“Tourism has the potential to be an engine of economic recovery provided we work collaboratively to adopt a common approach to a safe and secure reopening process and conversations on this are already underway,” added the report.

Through the G20, which Saudi Arabia hosted in 2020, discussions focused on how to leverage technology and innovation in response to the crisis, as well as how to restore traveler confidence and improve the passenger experience in the future.

At the global level, across the public and private sectors, the World Economic Forum is working with the Commons Project on the Common Pass Framework, which will allow individuals to access lab results and vaccination records, and consent to having that information used to validate their COVID status.

International Air Transport Association, IATA,  is trialing the Travel Pass with airlines and governments, which seeks to be a global and standardized solution to validate and authenticate all country regulations regarding COVID-19 travel requirements.

The provision of solutions that minimize person-to-person contact responds to consumer wants, with IATA finding that 85% of travelers would feel safer with touchless processing.

With the growing hopes towards reviving the tourism industry, the World Economic Forum believes that the solutions will be critical in opening the borders in a way that is safe, seamless, and secure while giving tourists the confidence to travel again.

As the report states, the availability of vaccines will also make the entire process easier and doable.

However, the forum will have the mandate to ensure processes and protocols are aligned globally, and that they support countries with limited access to vaccinations to eliminate the threat of another resurgence.

“It is only when businesses and travelers have confidence in the systems that the sector will flourish again,” said the report.

The report further said that the approach taken by Saudi Arabia to establish consensus and to build collaborative relationships internationally and between the public and private sectors should serve as a model to other countries in order to maximize the tourism’s sectors contribution to the global economic recovery.

“The approach was taken by Saudi Arabia and its partners to establish consensus and build collaborative relationships internationally and between the public and private sectors, should serve as a model to be replicated so that we can maximize the tourism sector’s contribution to the global economic recovery while ensuring that it becomes a driver of prosperity and social progress again,” urged the report.

 

Article Written By Nancy Odindo; Email: nancyodindo@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

The importance of the state of your well being – By Peter Mutuku.

Introduction

Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. Mental, physical, and social health are vital and inter-woven strands of life. As our understanding of this relationship grows, it becomes ever more apparent that mental health is crucial to the overall well-being of individuals, societies, and countries. Unfortunately, in most parts of the world, mental health and mental disorders are not accorded anywhere near the same degree of importance as physical health. Rather, they have been largely ignored or neglected.

According to WHO as many as 450 million people suffer from a mental or behavioral disorder. In 2019, common mental disorders around the globe include depression, which affects about 264 million, bipolar disorder, which affects about 45 million, dementia, which affects about 50 million, and schizophrenia and other psychoses, which affect about 20 million people. Neurodevelopmental disorders include intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorders which usually arise in infancy or childhood. Stigma and discrimination can add to the suffering and disability associated with mental disorders, leading to various social movements attempting to increase understanding and challenge social exclusion.

 

Causes of mental health disorders

In the current generation, we have a lot of mental health cases and it is with both adults and young people. Different things are leading to mental health issues nowadays. Some things include the high standard of living. Most people around the globe are struggling to put a meal on the table and this is affecting their mental health. When one does not have mental health, it will affect the person’s contribution to society. This includes both what that person can offer physically and socially.

 

The issue of unemployment, someone loses a job or he/she has gone through the education system and still he/she has no job. This person can be depressed. Major depressive disorder (MDD), also known simply as depression, is a mental disorder characterized by at least two weeks of pervasive low mood. Low self-esteem, loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, low energy, and pain without a clear cause are common symptoms. Those affected may also occasionally have delusions or hallucinations. Some people have periods of depression separated by years, while others nearly always have symptoms present. Major depression is more severe and lasts longer than sadness, which is a normal part of life.

 

There is the issue of relationships. Many people in relationships have a possibility of having mental health issues for example if that person has undergone a breakup or divorce. You find a person crying all day and not working deeply depressed because of a breakup or divorce case. This will affect the person’s contribution to society.

 

The effects of mental health issues include the following;

Economic effects

The productivity will reduce for persons affected by mental health issues like depression cannot work properly and offer their best hence affecting the productivity level.

According to WHO, nearly 1 million people commit suicide every year, how much can these people offer to society terms economically if mental health care is dealt with?

Social effects

According to WHO, one in four families has at least one member with a mental disorder. These families usually have a lot to deal with, with some members being discriminated against and stigmatized by others. These people will not interact with others normally and thus already have affected social lives. These people are victims of human rights and it will also affect their level of productivity and what they can offer in terms of social life.

Ways to deal with mental health

  • Nowadays we have counselors and Psychiatrists who can help victims on how to be mentally healthy.
  • Talk about your feelings. Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. Sharing what you are feeling with your friends will help a lot with dealing with mental health.
  • Keep active. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and feel better. Exercise keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy and is also a significant benefit towards improving your mental health.
  • Eat well. Your brain needs a mix of nutrients in order to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health.
  • Ask for help. It is good to always ask for help where one needs help to avoid overloading your mind with something which you cannot control.

 

Image from the journalism fund website to celebrate world press freedom day

Freedom Of The Press – by Mercy Chepkemoi.

Freedom of The Press: An Estranged Concept?

Media refers to the means of mass communication, especially the press, radio, and television, but also including film and recorded music, as well as a number of distributions by way of cable, satellite, discs, and tapes. Media freedom in Kenya has always been tied to responsibilities which journalists are expected to carry for the realization of the societal common good. The emergence of new forms of journalism as a consequence of technological development and appropriations has engendered serious debate about media freedom and the practice of journalism around the world.

Good governance, an essential component of any thriving democratic state, is premised on a system of openness, trust, and government accountability. This can only be achieved if the public is involved in the process of governance. If the general public knows the functions, policies, and decisions made, they can question the government on the basis of the information obtained, and, most importantly, the reasons for the government’s actions. It is thus necessary that the government develops a clear policy on the freedom of information in a bid to ensuring that subsequent legislation ñ freedom of information laws – are implemented effectively and based on accepted international principles and best practices.

The right to information is enshrined in Article 35 of the constitution, which provides for access to information with Article 34 providing for freedom of the media. The right to information underpins all other human rights; it is the cornerstone of all other rights. The right is encapsulated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) under Article 19. It is similarly enshrined in the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Kenya is a party.

Royal Media Services ran an expose the other day on national television in a segment ‘Guns Galore ‘where the Citizen Tv journalist did an undercover episode on Police Officers allegedly renting Police Officers’ uniforms and firearms to civilians. In a press statement, DCI Director George Kinoti, discredited the expose alleging that the segment attempted to tarnish the entire National Police Service and undermine the efforts made by police officers. He further summoned the RMS editorial management team to make a statement on the allegations.

In recent months, there have been a number of accusations that the government has been cracking down on press freedom in Kenya which saw eight independent columnists resign from the Nation Newspaper citing lack of editorial independence. Journalists have reportedly been physically assaulted in their line of duty with some losing their lives while at it. In 2018, three of Kenya’s biggest TV stations were temporarily shut down after they confirmed plans to cover the mock presidential inauguration of opposition leader Raila Odinga. A move that was widely condemned internationally by the United Nations, United States, and human rights watchdogs.

The media is an important tool in the dissemination of information in Kenya. Without free media, the government could easily spread propaganda in the name of the truth. This tends to feed the masses, and in doing so, creates a utopian world where the government, in the eyes of its people blinded by the propaganda, can do no wrong to the country. The lack of care towards protecting journalists and media houses, through the passing or even the creation of laws limiting the free press, is worrying may lead to further restrictions on freedom of the media.

Almost everyone relies on the media for information, education, and entertainment among other needs. The media, therefore, has a central role to play in the freedom of information and freedom of expression. Thus interference nubs its role on its knees.

 

Article by Chepkemoi Mercy who is a lawyer and a human rights activist.
Twitter @masiememo

Open up the country – By Ben Katibi

The country is battling the third and most deadly Covid-19 wave since its first case was confirmed on 13th March 2020. The Ministry of Health is reporting new strains of the virus: the South African and Uk strains which appear to be highly contagious and virulent. There is a surge in the number of cases requiring hospitalization. Health facilities are on the verge of being overwhelmed and whispers from the wards tell of a situation so dire, a volcano ready to erupt. Media reports telling of a scramble for ICU beds fully occupied, with many in the waiting queue having made advanced bookings for the beds. The country is also reporting daily double-digit fatalities.

In the wake of prevailing circumstances, the government through a presidential directive of March 26, 2021, imposed a lockdown on the 5 counties of Nairobi, Nakuru, Kiambu, Machakos, and Kajiado. Zoned as one area, movement into and out the five counties was suspended and curfew hours extended from 8 pm – 4 am. Social, political, and religious gatherings were also suspended. The five counties had been singled out as hotspots for the virus hence the tougher restriction measures.

Just when the wheels of economic recovery had begun to slowly gain momentum, the directives brought them to a screeching halt. The year 2021, had been touted by the president as the year of revival, a time when the country was expected to shake off the negative effects Covid-19 had brought on the economy. The economy was projected to grow between 5% – 7% following a slowdown in 2020 occasioned by the effects of Covid-19. The new directives are a big stab on the back of an already ailing and frail economy. More so spelling doom and dark days ahead for the millions of Kenyans whose jobs were already at stake.

Close to 1.7 million jobs were lost during the first lockdown as a result of many businesses closing down and some cutting down on their workforce to remain afloat. The onset of the second lockdown hit many of those that had survived the first lockdown onslaught. Another wave of job losses striking home. The worst-hit being the hospitality, tourism, transport, and entertainment industries. With millions directly and indirectly employed in these sectors, a bleak future is staring into their eyes.

There was a public outcry on the new measures. Many questioned the timing and intent of the directives as not being Pro-mwananchi. Directives are seen by many as being discriminative to millions of Wanjiku who live from hand to mouth. A people that felt overburdened by the high taxes and the rising cost of living. Was the president misadvised to lock down the country again? Was a second lockdown necessary? Is the president unaware of the suffering and rising cost of living in the country? These are some of the hard questions in the minds of Kenyans who feel let down by a president whose government is associated with unfulfilled promises, heavy borrowing, high taxation, and untamed corruption.

In as much as the new directives in place are meant to curb the spread of the virus, the plight of Wanjiku brought about by the rising cost of living cannot be ignored. Many risks slipping into poverty if sound and timely economic recovery policies are not put in place to cushion Mwananchi. World over, it is the business of the government to take care of its citizenry. Countries like Germany have taken steps to help businesses avoid layoffs. The US Congress on the other hand passed a mega stimulus bill that avails billions of dollars to expand the unemployment insurance as well as providing cash handouts to low and middle-income earners to help them make ends meet. The bill also allocates 350 billion dollars in loans for businesses with less than 500 employees.

The government should also follow suit. The much-hyped 3-year Post-covid socio-economic recovery strategy launched by the President funded to a tune of 132 billion shillings is yet to be felt by Wanjiku. The recovery plan was initiated to spur growth by pumping funds into critical sectors like agriculture, tourism, SMEs’, housing, infrastructure, and manufacturing. SMEs are a major target because of the role they play in creating millions of informal jobs. It is whispered in hushed tones of the good policies in the paper that are non-existent on the ground. Good policy papers that become cash cows for a few bureaucrats.

Mwananchi is suffering and it’s time the government reassesses some of the directives in place. Either provide for the mwananchi or open up the country and let Wanjiku work. There is no logic in locking down the country and not carrying out mass testing or mass vaccinations to achieve herd immunity. If the government decides to settle on the latter of opening up the country, then Wanjiku should strictly adhere to the laid down regulations by MOH of washing hands regularly with soap and water, social distancing, and proper wearing of face masks. It is our health and lives on the line. Stay safe.

WHY RUTO-RAILA BET BADLY NEEDS BBI – by Victor Wanaswa

 

Do you know that there are speculations that ODM leader Raila Odinga’s confidants and Deputy President William Ruto are working on a possible coalition in the next general election? Well, as the 2022 general polls draw nearer day by day political alliances are shaping up. National Super Alliance (NASA) co-principals have been piling pressure on ODM leader Raila Odinga to back one of them but Odinga has consistently remained adamant about endorsing another candidate for the coming elections. Consequently, other NASA leaders led by Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi have ganged up to form One Kenya Alliance to compete with either the Ruto or Odinga candidature separately or as one entity. On the other hand, allies of DP Ruto and the former premier have recently indicated a possible formation of a political vehicle in the run-up to the 2022 race to Statehouse.

 

The two political heavyweights have also been seen to be gravitating towards each other after separating for a decade now. Even though Ruto and Odinga worked together during the 2007 general elections and being alive to the fact that there are no permanent friends and enemies in the game of politics, a coalition between the two will only depend on the passing of the coming referendum to amend the constitution as spearheaded by the Building Bridges Initiative report (BBI). And this is why.

 

First and foremost by virtue of being the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya who has so far served for two terms, William Ruto cannot deputize Raila Odinga because the constitution will not allow that. Meaning Ruto can only hope Odinga will do the honors of supporting him as the flag bearer in the Coalition. On other hand, this time around Odinga can not play second fiddle to not just Ruto but any other candidate owing to the age factor. Odinga is gearing up for his last stub at the presidency, this being his last bullet. So the two will have to push harder for a constitutional change to encompass the position of Prime Minister so that they can negotiate who to be the president and who to take the PM position.

Secondly, as a political analyst and TV pundit, Martin Andati said, a Ruto-Raila alliance may look so appealing on paper but may not marshall the requisite numbers. It’s argued that the two would struggle to get 5 million votes and so there is a need to bring on board other tribe kingpins like Mwangi Kiunjuri, Alfred Mutua, Wycliffe Oparanya and give them positions created under BBI to get the required numbers that can give One Kenya a run for their money.

Then we have these second-term governors who are now aiming at the top job since they have no place to turn to as their time in office has lapsed. Even though these governors are non-starters when it comes to national politics, they command a section of votes especially in their counties since they managed to serve as governors for two consecutive terms. So they will add a lot of value to the Ruto-Odinga alliance. This will only be achieved if the constitution is altered to do away or extend the term limit of governors to allow them to go for another term.

 

Last but not least, BBI also proposes the introduction of a parliamentary system of government as opposed to the existing presidential one. Having a parliamentary system in place will re-energize members of parliament to fight for the coalition to form the next government knowing very well that they will be considered for ministerial positions or be appointed assistant ministers should the coalition ascend to power.

So if it’s true that there are efforts in the background as perceived in the political arena, it will force the Tangatanga wing led by Deputy President William Ruto to embrace the BBI report even though it’s clear that nobody can stop reggae. For now, though it’s a wait-and-see situation to ascertain whether Ruto will change tune regarding BBI or not.

 

Written by Victor Wanaswa a journalism graduate of Multimedia University who is creative, enthusiastic and has a great passion for writing about politics.

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. 

 

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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