On Kenya’s Political Economy of Inequality, Class Struggle and the Deep State By Sitati Wasilwa

Karl Marx, branded as The Angry Oracle, writes in The Communist Manifesto that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” This is absolutely true considering that human societies in the course of time have had distinct power relations based on socioeconomic inequality; the rich or wealthy individuals dominating the low-income individuals.

As much as Marx is vilified by the dreaded capitalists, rogue capitalists doubling up as notorious neoliberals for that matter, his contributions to understanding the economic, social and political organization of man is highly regarded. Case in point is an article about Marx’s relevance published by the mainstream The Economist magazine in 2018 while marking the bicentenary of his birth.

The eventual rise of neoliberalism in 1970s and 80s, and thereafter its spread around the world by the Bretton Woods missionaries castigated any policies hinged on Marx’s ideas. The omniscient policy missionaries of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) including the United States’ Treasury Department proclaimed a new age of prosperity by advocating policies such as austerity (cutting government spending and increasing taxes), deregulation, trade liberalization and privatization with market fundamentalism serving as the common denominator.

Kenya is just but one of the states forced to embrace the ideals of neoliberalism by the hawk-eyed and hard-nosed policy merchants shuttling globally to proclaim economic salvation on the surface but imperialistic adventures underneath.

Manufacturing people’s consent is one of the surest ways to exert an entity’s dominance. The neoliberals succeeded in promoting inequality by preaching the relevance of their policy maxim by identifying the ‘Chicago School’ as the benchmark for economics curricula around the world. The outcome was the inebriate adoption of the ‘Chicago School’ curricula in the teaching of economics that religiously emphasizes free markets, a gravely utopian notion.

And sadly that is the kind of economics taught at Kenyan and African learning institutions. Dedicated faithful gloriously teaching neoliberal economics without any mark for critical thinking intentionally avoid teaching students about the relevance of the so called heretics such as Karl Marx, Thomas Sankara, Frantz Fanon and others who would help promote the understanding of class differences and the subject matter of inequality.

Noam Chomsky in his book “Who Rules the World?” writes on inequality while making reference to the exclusion of the low-income individuals and non-political class from the political system. According to Chomsky, the tiny sector at the apex of a political system largely determines the policy choices pursued by governments. Certainly, whoever controls the political system controls the mechanisms for wealth creation, and ultimately the functioning of an economy.

If Chomsky’s account of power relations is anything to go by, then Kenya is a typical example of a country reeling on inequality. According to Oxfam International, 0.1% of Kenya’s population (approximately 8,300 people) owns more wealth than the bottom 99% (over 44 million people).

Of course Kenya’s case demonstrates that prosperity after all is not a trickle-down affair, where excesses of the tiny top in terms of wealth accumulation does not guarantee collective socioeconomic success. Doubts cast on the relevance of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of prosperity by a significant number of Kenyans underline why the country’s much touted economic prosperity is more of a fairy tale on one hand and political rhetoric on the other.

Lorenzo Fioramonti, in his book “Gross Domestic Problem”, notes that GDP is more than just a number since it also serves as a powerful political tool. All states, Kenya included, often use GDP figures to paint a rosy picture of how the ruling parties or administrations (regimes) are working so hard to improve the economic well-being of the masses.

Additionally, a 2009 report by the Beyond GDP Commission indicates that GDP should be considered as a measure of market production and not as a measure of economic well-being of which governments have embraced the latter. The report cautions that interchanging the two measures in view of GDP would lead to wrong policy decisions due to distorted information about people’s economic well-being.

Recently, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) released the 2019 Economic Survey which indicates that the country’s economy expanded by 6.3% in 2018. It is best to consider the figure as growth recorded in view of market production and not an improvement in the economic well-being of Kenyans.

Notably, a significant number of Kenyans casted doubts on the importance of the ‘6.3% expansion of the GDP’ when the cost of living is currently high, and they are right.

Prevalence of growing inequality and an intense class struggle in Kenya are hardly reflected in the ‘impressive’ GDP growth rates the country has realized in the last decade. Rampant embezzlement of the public’s resources, money laundering, the gambling and betting craze serve as indications of a country defined by class struggle and inequality.

High rates of unemployment and underemployment are pointers of an economy that only works for the few and negates the ‘beautiful’ statistical data cherished by the regime’s mandarins especially on the significance of GDP expansion.
Difficulties by the commons in accessing high quality education, better healthcare, clean water and humane sanitation, and improved food security and nutrition justify Kenya’s GDP growth as merely political rhetoric.

Various reports indicate that Kenya is a hot-bed of money laundering and illicit financial flows. A 2017 report by the African Development Bank indicates that a total of US$10.6 billion had been stashed in foreign banks as from 1970 to 2010. In 2018, one of the leading local dailies uncovered the operations of an international money laundering syndicate based in Kenya.

Another local daily also published an account of money laundering activities while primarily referring to the content of a report published by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs on International Narcotics Control Strategy.
Weeks ago, a leading Kenyan think-tank released a report implicating Kenya and Uganda as conduits for illicit financial flows fueling South Sudan’s war economy.

Incidences of tax evasion in Kenya by foreign entities and local entities associated with politicians and political wheeler-dealers, and tax increases by the national and county governments serve to widen the inequality gap by enriching few individuals at the expense of the commons.
Addressing inequality should be at the centre of social and economic policies pursued by the national and county governments. If not, the power of the people should fervently advocate for an all-progressive, all-inclusive economic system.

But can this happen? The voting patterns of Kenya’s electorate tell it all. Furthermore, the reality of state capture with invisible hands determining the outcome of elections and who ought to ‘benefit’ from the government would obviously derail any course dedicated to addressing inequality.

Hope cannot change the Republic’s fortunes in view of inequality, class struggle and the actions of the deep state but a resilient and focused public keen on cementing its authority as provided by the Constitution: “We, the people of Kenya…”

Sitati Wasilwa is a political economist, a partner at Savic Consultants, and a youth leader at Kenya YMCA. He blogs at The Insight and Savic Consultants Blog.
Email: sitatiwasilwa13@gmail.com Twitter: @SitatiWasilwa.

The Basic Need for Digital Security by Cecilia Maundu

Never has there been a need for digital security as the present time. When I embarked on a journey to become a digital security trainer, my mail goal was to help keep women and young girls safe online. I never thought that in my wildest dreams that this desire and passion would take me around the world. Digital security has become a basic need, in the current society that we live in and especially in Kenya where online violence is rife. This vice is targeted at women and especially women with voices online.

The goal of the perpetrators being to silence women online and the fact that we leave in a patriarchal society does not make it any better. Most of its victims shy away from the online platform and those who remain, resort to self-censorship. This leads to the widening of the digital gender divide gap. Despite being lauded for its vibrant and dynamic online scene, Kenya still grapples with gender disparities in the online space.

This ‘‘disease’’ can be defined as the digital gender gap, which refers to the inequality between men and women with regards to access and use of the internet. But it’s ironical that we are encouraging women to be online yet the same platform is so toxic. Hence the critical need for digital security.

Through the generous funding of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) I was able to organize for a focus group with four other digital security trainers. Before I move forward, I can hear someone asking what is APC? No worries I got you covered. APC is a worldwide network of social activists who use the internet to make the world a better place. APC is both a network and an organization. APC members are groups working in their own countries to advance the same mission as APC.

The main purpose of bringing together women digital security trainers, was more to focus on forming a community of feminist digital security trainers in Kenya. A community that we can rely on in this unique field, taking note that we are very few professionals in this field.

Building a community also organically increases the impact of the trainings we conduct since we are able to get valuable feedback from each other regarding our trainings. Additionally, the purpose of the focus group was to introduce some of the Feminist Tech Exchange (FTX) training modules, called the FTX: Safety Reboot to the digital security trainers. Feminist Tech Exchange: Safety Reboot is a training curriculum made up of several modules for trainers who work with women’s rights and sexual rights activists to use the internet safely, creatively and strategically.

It is a feminist contribution to the global response to digital security capacity building and enables trainers to work with communities to engage technology with pleasure, creativity and curiosity. Trainers should be familiar with the obstacles and challenges faced where misogyny, censorship and surveillance are restricting activists’ freedom of expression and ability to share information, create alternative economies, build communities of solidarity and express desires.

The FTX: Safety Reboot explores how we occupy online spaces, how women are represented, how we can counter discourses and norms that contribute to discrimination and violence. It is a feminist contribution to the global response to digital security capacity building, bringing the APC Women’s Rights Programme’s unique methodology and approach.

This journey will also see me produce four podcasts on each of the Following FTX modules, mobile safety, self-care, online gender-based violence, and creating safe online spaces.

Podcasting is the digital medium built on the power of conversation. The aim of producing these podcasts is to try and localise, adapt the FTX modules to the Kenyan context and to demystify the terms which are not familiar. The FTX modules will go a long way in helping digital security trainers in implementing their trainings effectively.

Online harassment comes in so many shapes and sizes, and can target its victims via many different mediums and platforms, and it can be overwhelming to think about how to prepare for and respond to online attacks. Hence the need for trainers to come up with different ways and means of training.

Cecilia Maundu is a Specialist in gender digital security training and consultant. With a focus on training women on how to stay safe online. She is also a broadcast journalist, as well as a User experience trainer, (UX). Collecting user information feedback and sharing it with developers all in the quest of making technology usable for digital security trainers and human rights activists.She is also the current elected secretary general of the International association of Women in radio and television.
Twitter: @ceciliamaundu
LinkedIn cecilia maundu

Governing by Lying: On the Death Cards of Drought, Deceit and Delinquency By Sitati Wasilwa

“Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but not to his own facts.” – Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Kenya’s current administration is without doubt an archetype of incompetence and delinquency based on the high levels of misgovernance witnessed over the last six years.

A legendary distinction of the Jubilee administration in comparison with the country’s past administrations is governing not just by lying, but by repeatedly doing so even when Kenyans are dying and suffering because of drought.

In an assemblage of what may be termed as “a grand presentation and sanctification of alternative, erroneous and disturbing facts”, the administration’s purported “machinists” denied any deaths resulting from drought that has largely affected Turkana and Baringo counties as well as counties in the Northern Frontier region.

Contrary to the “facts” presented by the “machinists”, there is undeniable evidence that Kenyans are dying because of the ravaging effects of drought.

Development Agenda

Featured twice on Jubilee’s agenda for the much touted but hardly evident development is creation of a food secure state; first through its manifesto, “Agenda for Kenya 2013-2017” harmonized with the second medium-term plan (2013-2017) of Vision 2030; and secondly, through its 2017 manifesto integrated with the third medium-term plan (2018-2022) commonly known as the “Big Four Agenda.”

A vague and totally empty campaign promise that now offers comic relief to politically conscious citizens regards the expected miraculous productivity of the Galana-Kulalu Food Security Project, the regime’s much acclaimed signature programme.

While launching Jubilee Party’s election manifesto in 2017, its deputy party leader William Ruto, in a utopic frenzy, remarked that the Galana-Kulalu Food Security Project would produce 30,000 bags of maize each month beginning July 2018. This remains a politically fat and equally irrelevant statement.

The Galana-Kulalu Food Security Project is one of the regime’s cash cows, a soon-to-be white elephant. A recent article revealed the irrigation project as Jubilee’s equivalent of the infamous Goldenberg Scandal, a fact confirmed by an unnamed wheeler-dealer of the administration.

Unsurprisingly, the irrigation project has been dogged by corruption. The Auditor General has raised fundamental questions about the usage of finances allocated to the project. Green Arava, an Israeli firm contracted to develop a model farm at the irrigation scheme, threatened to abandon its operations this year after not being paid as per the contractual agreement.

Additionally, the regime’s intention to construct dams with the aim of enhancing food production in regions perennially affected by drought and famine has turned out to be a scandalous affair. Ridiculously and unintelligently, the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Agriculture claims that thirty one dams will be constructed before the onset of the long rains. Are Kenyans – politically conscious Kenyans – that stupid to be lied to?

Deceitful PR: Of Food Relief Pilgrimages

To be a gallant politician one must be a master opportunist, a firm believer in propaganda and a “saviour” of the poor, needy and desperate masses.
Close to six decades since the British imperialists ceded political power to Kenyans, ordinary folks are still economically impoverished because of the invisible hand of the tiny elite that has strangulated the country’s economy by plundering resources.

The politico-economic tyranny occasioned by the tiny elite has dominated Kenya’s post-colonial history, a true indication of lack of economic and political independence for ordinary Kenyans. The success of this tiny elite is through the creation of a kleptocratic political monopoly that oversupplies short-term solutions and undersupplies long-term solutions.

We’ve got to remember that the yearly food relief pilgrimages are consequences of short-termism fashioned by Kenya’s tyrannical tiny elite.
Such short-termism keeps the masses in a perpetual state of dependence on the tiny elite and acts as fodder for gaining political capital. Acts of benevolence especially by politicians in helping desperate and poor citizens qualify as deceitful public relations exercises, and such is the case with the food relief distribution activities in the affected counties.

Voting & Political ‘Misleadership’

A country’s economic well-being or lack thereof depends on the nature of its political leadership. But the nature of the political leadership is an outcome of the voting patterns of the majority, and a reflection of the thought processes of a significant number of citizens.

High affinity to short-term solutions meant to address perennial challenges such as drought and famine would be avoidable only if the republic’s politics was based on relevant political ideologies. But as Bryan Caplan notes in his book, The Myth of the Rational Voter, “in real-world political settings, the price of ideological loyalty is close to zero…” No wonder ideologically deficient politics is the order of the day in Kenya.

A handful of Jubilee administration supporters who voted twice in 2017 to endorse the regime’s corruption and misgovernance have suddenly turned into its critics. This is pretence and ignorance.

In fact, Caplan further notes in his book that “voter ignorance opens the door to severe government failure”, and Kenya would have avoided such a failed government if only voters made right decisions at the ballot by not ignoring the terrible record of most of the politicians.

County governments especially in the regions affected by drought need to prioritize agriculture which is a devolved function.

The only way forward for Kenya to avoid humiliating situations like deaths resulting from drought, and food relief pilgrimages is to collectively root out the corrupt, tyrannical and imperialistic tiny elite that promotes state capture hence political ‘misleadership.’ Is this possible? Only if the misled significant majority embraces progressive thinking.

Sitati Wasilwa is a political economist, consultant on political and economic governance, public policy, geopolitics and geo-economics at Savic Consultants, and a youth leader at YMCA Kenya. He blogs at The Insight and Savic Consultants Blog, and can be contacted through sitatiwasilwa13@gmail.com.

It is time for parents to come out of their dugouts By Burns Noah

Lately, there has been so much fuss revolving around the bold proposal orchestrated by distinguished judges of the Court of Appeal to lower sexual consent age from 18 to 16 years. This move comes in amidst a crucial time when there has been relentless mechanisms put in place to empower the girl child. Furthermore, parents around the country are yet to come to terms with the Court of Appeals mouth gapping proposition.

A substantial number of Non-Governmental Organizations, churches detest the idea claiming that it will grant ill minded folks a free pass; to molest their adorable naive daughters and sons at a tender defenceless age.

Nonetheless, conclusive facts as well as figures from the Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 report stipulates that our innocent boys and girls have gotten way ahead of themselves. Yes! They engage in sexual intercourse under our noses. Here are some of the contributors facilitating their sexual endeavours.

Poverty is an undeniable predator raging terror and havoc in the society which ultimately renders people vulnerable to questionable schemes. It’s unfortunate that teenagers have fallen culprit to advances that involve partaking in sexual activities in exchange for favours. The perpetrators of such heinous acts choose their prey wisely and present themselves as friends yet they have a deadly plan to execute.

Life is full of challenges and teenagers do battle with their own Goliaths from time to time even though adults seem to dismiss this obvious fact. It is at this moment that their instinct for survival kicks in and it only takes a little psychological nudge to seduce them into something. Lack of basic resources creates awkward situations which enables wicked individuals to sexually exploit kids in exchange for favours and kickbacks.

It is time for parents to come out of their dugouts and have that decisive sex talk with their teenagers by streamlining as well as highlighting crucial details. Our young adults lack a sense of awareness and direction which leads them in an expedition to explore sexuality guided by curiosity.

Pursuing this further, along the way they get bombarded with mind-blowing ideas from friends, interested suitors which they will be tempted or lured to try out. The changes in teenagers happen so abruptly and they cannot fully comprehend what is going on. This is where you as a parent come in to provide insight as well as guidance to enable the young adult cope with the situations as they arise.

Lastly, the society has played a crucial role in ensuring that our young adults are fully exposed to content beyond their cognitive comprehension. Additionally, the things we do as adults do have long lasting impressions on our kids since they learn by picking up clues from our actions.

Consequently, the society as a whole needs a complete overhaul in terms of moral uprightness since our actions are betraying the values we believe in. We tend to shun and mock immorality yet we openly engage in fornication, adultery.

Written by Burns Noah an undergraduate at Kenyatta University pursuing BSc Petroleum Engineering
Twitter: @The_Analyst00

Aluta Continua By Burns Noah

Our beloved nation, Kenya gained sovereignty from her annihilator a lifetime ago and has since undergone transformational change as well as her own fair share of challenges. In the same line of thought, the youth have been a contagious issue when pondering and tinkering around matters relating to national development.

Furthermore, the government in addition to, reputable Non-Governmental Organizations have spearheaded the efforts of creating, modelling a better future by empowering tenacious young souls. On the other hand, despite the endless endeavors of finding amicable solutions to problems facing the youth, the situation doesn’t seem to be getting any better as expressed by majority of the young.

Corruption has been a cancer eating through our distinguished systems by consistently derailing our morals as well as ethics upon which the modern contemporary society is based on. Additionally, the vice has had negative adverse effects to the well-being of the Kenyan citizens who struggle to meet their needs on a strict budget of one dollar a day.

Our subscription to capitalism ideologies have played a significant role in ensuring that corruption finds a serene environment to thrive. Whenever cases of corruption surface, the accused individuals act as targeted victims of circumstance or disregard charges levelled and advice the complainant to wait for their turn to mercilessly loot public resources.

The youth overwhelmingly pledge allegiance to the esteemed office of the president in the war against corruption nightmare. Our only plea is to the office of criminal investigations to provide sufficient evidence to enable the Judiciary perform its mandate.

From a psychological point of view, the youth have successfully been brain programmed by conservative doctrines which foster selfish gains and undermines public interests. Pursuing this further, Kenyan youth have been fixated to believe that they are incapable of standing out for themselves as well as incompetent to give insight on matters affecting the society.

Consequently, this has made the youth to reluctantly take a back sit as they watch things unfold from a distance. The youth should step out of their slumber, comfort zone and take charge or else we are trading on a very treacherous path. There are excellent examples of youth whom have defiled the status quo and are now living their dreams like the young talented KTN news reporter Timothy Otieno, the charismatic Nerima Wako and the vocal Babu Owino.

Its ironical that a good number of the Kenyan electorate approximately above 50% as depicted in the 2017 general election are youth yet the number of representatives in elective posts is less comparatively speaking. This clearly shows how the youth don’t trust each other when it comes to choosing leaders despite having youthful qualified candidates vying for various seats.

It’s no secret that every youth has a goal and a plan for the future nonetheless, without adequate support from each other we are headed towards a frustrating end. It’s a challenge to the youth to find it within themselves to support each other in building a majestic nation.

Written by Burns Noah an undergraduate at Kenyatta University pursuing BSc Petroleum Engineering
Twitter: @The_Analyst00

My Experience with the Political – Religious Ecosystem Written by Wanjiru Nguhi

It’s a Sunday which means I’m in my second home; church. The place I get nourished and prepare for heaven because “what does it profit a woman to gain the world and lose her soul?” The monthly afternoon service is a big deal probably because of the human need to have for validation, restored hope and assurance. This was a most special service because God would speak directly through his prophet or directly speak to me: A day I would be called to the podium and declared relevant by the deity.

This Sunday literally marked two days to the 2013 general elections and the church leader was adorned in a red flowing sparkly dress, red lipstick and on her head, an equally red fascinator. She was a charismatic powerful woman with an aura of mysterious wonder. Politicians sought her out due to her influence among Christians across the country. The 2013 elections were very significant because both the Presidential candidate and his deputy were facing charges at the International Criminal Court on Crimes against humanity for the post-election violence of 2007-2008.

About 1,000 lives were lost. People were locked up in a church and burnt to death! Those that tried to escape bear deep scars. Children witnessed their parent’s bodies being cut to pieces. Women and girls were raped and men were maimed. More than 600,000 people were displaced and a nation moved on like this was all a fictional episode. Those who survived these atrocities were left deep in trauma and unimaginable loss. Diana who is one of the survivors was present at this service.

She noted how quickly the tone of the service changed from justice, judgment and finally to mercy. The Nation was expected to be on its way to healing because the two rival communities were now united. How can the people responsible for the massacre of her entire family be the ones anointed to lead the nation? No one was talking about actual justice or reparations. Diana was expected to move on. Silence was the price she had to pay for peace. Justice to her meant that everyone responsible was going to be put behind bars and that she would be compensated for everything she lost. She was told that vengeance was the Lord’s and she was told to forget it all because behold, God was doing a new thing.

One of the things I find unforgivable about religion is its ability to suspend you in time by forcing you to forget your past yet at the same time convincing you how the present does not matter. There is zero intention of fighting to end oppressive systems that cause harm to the worshippers. Only focus is heaven. The church’s glorification of suffering is probably the reason we are dangerously passive in the face of oppression and poor governance as a country. The more we are oppressed, the harder we pray just like in the case of post-election violence where prayer was assumed able to cleanse injustice.

The service should have been dedicated to the survivors of the post-election violence. We must all commit to holding space for each other to grieve without the need to hurry, silence or numb each other’s pain and grieving process. The service moved on to an altar call for sick people in need of a miracle and financial breakthrough. People made their way to the front. Those who could not make it to the front stood on aisles yet the problems that continuously drove us to the altar were not spiritual.

We were about to elect individuals who had been accused of committing crimes against humanity and it was accepted without question because obeying the “prophet” was more important than interrogating who was being elected. The political environment has a direct bearing on the socio-economic environment. In a
country where everything is regulated and controlled by the government, it goes without saying that the quality of our individual lives begins and ends with the quality of leadership at the government level. It is a combination of personal responsibility and leadership. Nothing works without the other. A majority of young people dancing on stage were jobless, struggling to pay school fees, some had dropped out of school and life was a jungle.

What if these young people embraced the table turning, foolishness whipping spirit of Jesus to fight for better services from public institutions? Would that not be a true revival? Instead, we pray for leaders and remain silent on their role in the dysfunction. When Jesus talked about being anointed to preach the good news to the poor and setting the captives free his mission was to comfort the oppressed and make the oppressors uncomfortable, but the oppressors got so uncomfortable that they crucified him. If your sermons don’t make you crucifiable, who are you really comforting?

Written by Wanjiru Nguhi
Co-Founder of Mwafrika Mwenzangu | Lawyer | Political Strategist | Writer | Feminist

At the end of the day, we only have one life to live, and one body for it By Victor Sijenyi

Courtesy of Read A Hand Uganda.
The kind of experience a young person often has when visiting a Kenyan health facility is just a nightmare. This is even more the case if you go for reproductive health issues. Some young people report that health officers become arrogant. We have had young people failing to go for their health checkups because of the incompetence of health officers and lack of confidentiality. Some young people have had health officers even come out of the office, and announce their diagnosis to the entire clinic. This is humiliating, stigmatizing and against every ethical code of conduct.

We often encounter long queues, receive improper drug prescriptions of drugs, face drugs being out of stock, and generally receive poor services. We may blame the health officers for all these situations, and for their lack of “know how” to speak to and support young people, but that is not enough. It is actually bigger than that – it is all about funding; government priorities and the real needs of the people. Most government priorities are never directed into investing or allocating funds to the services for the people, drugs and service providers we need; instead they channel most of their allocated funds towards roads and construction that may never reach completion.

The government also pays health service providers very low wages, which causes health officers to lose their passion and lack motivation. This in turn leads to the poor services being offered. We see each year the nurses association on the roads demonstrating against poor working conditions, poor payment structure and un-honored memos between them and the government. The health officers also have had issues with the decisions that the government makes in their field without inviting them to contribute.

In order to create change on these issues, as a popular youth reproductive health initiative, we have independently worked with our member organizations in different counties and regions to advocate for funds to be responsibly and accurately allocated for youth friendly services in our health facilities.

We advocated for health budgets in over five counties to increase the amount of money set aside for contraceptives and general youth friendly services as well as youth-only spaces within heath facilities to provide a safe and welcoming space. We also stressed the need for the government to provide better motivation to health workers, to employ a specialized team to handle youth issues and to provide training to health officers.

Because we understand how important health care is to each one of us. Each Kenyan citizen according to our constitution should have access to standardized health care, and we will not sit quiet and hope that someone else makes our constitution a reality.

Victor Sijenyi is the Chair at Kasarani Youth Empowerment Centre and a volunteer at OAYOUTH Kenya | Email: thelegendsartsproduction@gmail.com

Does Africa Lack Love? By Bonventure Otieno

Writing is not simple, frankly a difficult task to regularly be able to story tell. Any writer would like to have a concise, complete, up to date and reliable record. In order to get that record they have to do proper research, read and re-read before they get a first draft. They have to take time away from the first draft before looking at the final draft. This results into a finer and well written concise document that will not only challenge minds but educate. In the aspect of the identity of Africa, she has lost hers. In other words, I would like to state that Africa must fight to reclaim her lost identity.

Some are still wondering what has changed in Africa’s identity and what was the identity of the African Continent to begin with? The search for identity has always been a key issue facing us in its striving for significance and meaning. However the African understanding of self is in crisis having been assailed from a number of directions. Nobel Peace Laureate, environmental activist and writer Wangari Maathai opines that if Africa is to build for the future it must first face its past.

Berlin – Congo Conference in 1884-85 found in Part 1 of a Report on the Reconciliation Conference, Africa took a view of the consequences of colonialism. The report concluded that aside from, “a loss of identity,” and “distrust in African national and regional and tribal identities,” along with economic impoverishment there exists a, “lack of love in Africa” along with “wars, genocide, ethnic conflicts.” The report goes on to say that, “Africans tend to remain in a victim role, which is easier than taking responsibility for their own sins and hatred.”

Long before the coming of Europeans to the continent Africans possessed social and political philosophies as valid as those of their European counterparts. These systems revolved around a universal recognition of human worth which formed the spiritual foundation of African societies. The name given to the underlying philosophy is Ubuntu (a Zulu word). It is a unifying vision or worldview inspired by the Zulumaxim, “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu (a person is a person through other persons). The word and the inspiration has spread in the past years as to the need to recognize it.

According to Ubuntu, there exists a common bond between all human beings and it is through this bond and through our interaction with our fellow human beings that we discover our own human qualities. South African Nobel Laureate Archbishop Tutu describes Ubuntu in this way:
“Africans have this thing called UBUNTU . . . the essence of being human. It is part of the gift that Africans will give the world. It embraces hospitality, caring about others, willing to go the extra mile for the sake of others. We believe a person is a person through another person that my humanity is caught up, bound up and inextricable in yours. When I dehumanize you I inexorably dehumanize myself. The solitary individual is a contradiction in terms and, therefore, you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own community, in belonging.”

I boldly declare that Africa has lost its identity. The lack and loss of value systems in my country where people are selling sugar laced with hard metals like mercury and copper (we are still left wondering if the claims are factual because the report has never seen the light of day. And if it is a lie, what kind of rumors are pegged on millions to leave them in fear and uncertainty). Additionally, where over 100 billion has been lost in widespread corruption according to the various reports of the government’s chief auditor and many cannot fathom how much that actually is.

In Democratic Republic of Congo, wars have caused stagnation of the country. We no longer depend on ourselves to bring the desired change, but we have set our eyes away from the continent. The crisis in South Sudan due to resources and ethnicity, we have thousands of people displaced and others killed because of political differences. The political instability in the African continent is a result of our lost Ubuntu- the African identity of caring for one another.

If we are to regain our lost identity, it is time we invested in our values. We have to start at the family level to ensure that the lost identity is brought back. It is time to reclaim what is ours. We also need to set our priorities right but this can only be done through the change of the value system.

Written by Bonventure Otieno
Bonventure Otieno is a compassionate, dedicated and organized Lawyer Post Grad (Kenya School of Law) Bachelors of Law (CUEA, LLB 2015).
T: @bonventuretn3

Africa, where all states are orphans and their only remaining godfathers are European nations by Kaudo Philip Misori

African liberation, the realization of African nationalists’ dreams seem farfetched. Africa has never been the continent that Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Frantz Fanon wished it to be. It has turned to be a continent of regrets. A region that its population does not produce or manufacture to the level that it should, and those that do not trust its products. A continent that is at war with its citizens. In a nutshell, the motive behind the intermittent and protracted war against the colonial regime remains unfulfilled. Instead, more dawning revelations continue to diminish our efforts to make Africa great.

Africa has never been a continent of its means. It’s a continent of dependence. It is where all the states are orphans and their only remaining godfathers are the European nations who dictate to us what is valid and invalid. Fifty years after independence, we have never learnt to appreciate to use our vast available resources. A continent that through the politics of incapability and inadequate capital, they have failed to not only develop industries but also even sustain the local industries that were left behind by the colonial powers.

Africa, endowed with a knowledgeable population, has never provided a conducive working environment culminating into brain drain, industrial actions which have actually hampered service delivery, and expedited poverty. Our overdependence on the West has resulted into the continent being indebted hence lowering our political, economic and social leverage in the international system. The heavy debt and dependence on foreign aids have made us be subjective to our Western financiers. “Independence cannot be real if a nation depends on gifts” Nyerere once said

Africa has become a continent which has adopted the structures of democracy simply for political mileage. The continent has adopted democratic structures that do not seem to work. The tenents of democracy, a western based ideology, are theoretically contained in African constitutions. Elections for example though regular, rarely meet the democratic tests for credible, free, fair, accountable and transparent elections.

The election outcomes have rarely represented the majority interests. Rigging, violence, assassinations, threats and intimidation have marred and characterized African elections. Unfortunately, the independent entities such as the judiciary due to threats and corrupt deals have given a clean bill of health to democratic processes that have been globally condemned. Instead of acting as a watchdog to the state, non state actors and state actors have continued to serve as puppets of existing régimes. African countries systems actually seem to malfunction.

Mandela’s dream of having an Africa which is at peace with itself has never been realized. Hiding under the prism of national interests, African countries have engaged in intermittent interstate warfare and protracted domestic conflicts. African nations have never thought to use litigation or out of court settlement of dispute to end their woes. The opposition parties for example have led citizens to demonstrations that have culminated into destruction of political order and loss of lives instead of petitioning their cases before courts. Interestingly, states do not have confidence in their own courts such as the African Courts of Justice. They have disregarded their own courts and have preferred the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Instead of changing the constitution to meet the peoples’ needs, politicians have drafted constitutions that actually suit their own narrow self-interests with majority of African leaders arm twisting the constitutions to make them life time leaders. Our continental leaders do not actually seem to care. They have justified their illegitimate regimes through force and intimidation. It is a continent of many odds.

African electorates are to be blamed: We have opted for underperformers at the expense of performers. Our level of being inquisitive and holding leaders accountable is indeed wanting. We actually need to keep the spirit of our liberators burning. Their desire for an all-inclusive continent characterized by all the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit should indeed be put in practice.

Kaudo Philip Misori is a student of political science, a writer to several platforms on political issues and a political commentator currently for Equator FM.

For comments and enquiries: philipmisori@gmail.com


Four months since Railways bus terminus became my drop off here in the CBD. One noticeable aspect was the dents on public transport vehicles at the stage, which can only be associated to either inadequate transport policy or failure in the implementation. Almost 85% of the public vehicles using the stage have dents and it’s a miracle that they are able to move. Most of the vehicles are in deplorable condition.

Over time, on my daily commute, I have observed the presence of at least two police officers at the stage, including Sundays, but this does not change the chaos unfolding in front of your eyes, obstruction and competition to leave the stage has allowed me to understand the dents that appear on these vehicles. And every day the policemen stand there, they are to maintain the law but one wonders whether for them maintaining law and order is not part of their job description.

Compounding the problem further was an incident where a driver just knocked the other in front of a police officer and nothing happened. Neither the drivers of the two vehicles nor the police talked about it as the police officer walked away smiling. From the look on his face, it was a normal thing. As the vehicles leave the station while approaching the roundabout just before they join Haile Selassie Avenue, a person normally boards, and in many instances as the vehicle moves, they’re given money and immediately alight before the vehicle moves too far. It concerned me who the person could have been and why the conductors gave money without any difficulty hence the reason I had to inquire. I would ask the driver every time I got the opportunity to seat next to the drivers who the people were. Their response were too proverbial as they were either called the agents of city owners or the stage owners.

Finally, through persistence with the drivers, I came to understand that they were agents of either the city council or the police for protection. One of the drivers added that there was no way a vehicle could operate without being loyal to the agents but refused to indulge more on the same.
Another peculiar norm at the stage is the removable side-mirrors. If you are keen, one will notice that some of the vehicles would remove their mirrors in the struggle to leave the stage and return them when it is clear. Additionally, hiking of bus fare at will is often evident. There is a culture of people asking how much they would be charged which for me was strange until I had to learn the hard way. In three occasions, I had to pay up to Ksh 100 for Kibra that is normally Ksh 50 during peak hours.

Boarding the moving vehicles is the art at the stage, it is learned, and an accepted offence that police are never bothered about. The public are forced to board the vehicles while they are moving without consideration of the risks involved. What if one misses the step and falls? What about people living with disabilities?

Thus my reflection on several attempts by the county government to bring order in the city. For instance, the recent order by the county to block public vehicles from accessing the CBD. What was the basis and were the stakeholders involved in coming up with the decision as provided for in the constitution?

My question led me to ask a few people who have been in the city longer than me if they had ever been involved in such decisions and they were equally surprised that I didn’t understand how the county made decisions. My next stop was the County website to look for either data or statistics or expert advice on how they arrived at the decision and nothing was available. A violation of Article 35 of the constitution that requires government to provide information to the public

Seeming to be a welcomed problem but how could the county administrators correct a major problem like traffic with agents collecting money from the same matatu for protection while the same police own matatus as was recently alluded to by President Uhuru Kenyatta?

And from nowhere, a new rule of car free days starting February 1st 2019 was announced with majority of stakeholders asking how they came about the decision and still there was no consultation or if there was then it was selective public consultation. Siasa Place conducted a twitter poll just a day after the announcement, asking if people in Nairobi would support the decision and 66% said no. The decision may succeed if the county takes note of what they had ignored in the past or the decision may as well form part of a statistic of failed decisions.

The county requires good will in their approach of public engagement where the public are truly involved. They further have to invest in working with experts in the sector otherwise they will make the same mistake repeatedly, with no result for any of the decisions they proposed.

Written by Ken Ogembo
Program Manager at Siasa Place

Honestly even if the women representatives position is scrapped off, what difference will it make? By Kaudo Philip

With the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, Kenyans foresaw a new nation. We did hope that it was just a matter of time for Kenya to progress from a developing to a developed nation. A new Kenya was indeed dawning. Assumingly, the constitution seemed comprehensive and one that would solve the pertinent problems that Kenya has faced since independence; injustices and impunity. As optimistic Kenyans did put it, “we have adopted an American constitution; soon we will be like the Americans”. Devolution became one of the principal motivators for the majority vote for the constitution. It would promote local participation, empowerment of the locals, improve transparency and accountability, promote equitable development through resource allocation and bring services closer to the people. Seven and so years after and this has prompted the political class that did fight tirelessly for the New Constitution to opt for another referendum factually to again find an avenue to satisfy their self, endless and broad interests.

The new Constitution has debatably brought more bad than good to Kenyans. Is it because the political class lack the personality to drive the development agenda as contained in the comprehensive constitution? Or is it that the constitution was theoretically rigid and practically hollow? Why then does corruption still thrive, ethnicism commonplace, tribalism is still our culture and generally impunity and injustice are still part and parcel of the people of Kenya?

Despite the constitution stipulating the need for a devolved system, the satisfaction of the people’s right to development still remains questionable. In the words of Amatyr Sen, “development is multidimensional and concerns human progress that is improved education, protection of people’s right, security, health amongst others.” The Pumwani hospital saga, the frequent medical strikes and other industrial actions are just but a few of the justifications of the malfunctionality of the health sector which legally became a devolved unit. Health sectors continue to remain understaffed, medical equipment remains insufficient and poor service delivery the trend. Honestly, the issue needs to be revisited but how? The legal framework that guides the medical sector remains inefficient as evidenced in the frequent medical saga as noted in the auditor general’s report 2017/2018 financial year that did expose massive corruption within the ministry. In deed our bureaucrats do not care to care.

The constitution did create more political positions. This has hampered national development. With just a population of 50M, the Kenyan elective or political employees constitute around a fourth of the national population. Ironically, India which boasts of a population of over 1.3 billion just like Kenya constitutes a bicameral legislature. On a comparative basis, the rajha Sabha and the lok sabha constitute 245 and 545 members respectively. This translates to a ratio of 1 politician to over 50 million Indians. A similar trend is equally exhibited in USA.In Kenya, on the contrary, one politician represent tens of thousands. Real development does not actually come through over representation. Development comes through the existence of few, accountable, like minded individuals who have subordinated their self-interests for public gain. The existence of the many political seats has caused overlapping of functions and a debt burden with the nation indebted by over half of our national budget. This is actually an existential threat to our economy.

The devolved system did devolve corruption. “This is the time for us to eat and that’s the reason for devolution, if you don’t grab now, then when?” These are some of the silent sentiments the political class do say. Actually, since the implementation of the new constitution corruption has intensified and the war against it has been that of a toothless dog. The auditor general reports on several counties and state departments amongst them Homabay, Kisumu, Nakuru, Machakos, Nairobi have been able to expose the diversion of public resources for self-satisfaction. Evidently, as a result of corrupt deals, they drive posh cars, live in palaces, and eat in expensive hotels as their electorate continue to languish in abject poverty.

As a solution, Kenya has to rethink its constitution. Despite the argument of over representation the nation’s greatest threat to national development remains failure of institutions to fully implement the doctrines of chapter six, Leadership and Integrity. The chapter clearly stipulates the expected code of conduct of each state officer, restrictions on activities of state officers amongst other tenets. The executive has on several occasions acted in full contravention to this pivotal tenet. At times, the bureaucrats has appointed and nominated individuals who do not satisfy the constitution to hold public offices. Ironically, the legislature has approved these individuals. This has perpetrated corruption and abuse of office. Appointments based on political patronage, nepotism and tribalism should be made a thing of the past. Honestly even if the women representatives position is scrapped off, the counties reduced and the ward representatives equally reduced as many opine while corruption still persists, our country will continue to remain in the same state of nature it is in now. The debts we owe to developed worlds and financial institutions are not significantly caused by the wage bill but rather corrupt deals by our elected leaders.

Offices countering corruption should be strengthened. This should encompass increased financial assistance to enhance their investigative capacity. As contained in the Chinese constitution, the anti-corruption legal provisions should be amended to make them more strict including but not limited to even death sentence.

Electorates should reject in totality leaders who instead of pursuing common interests pursue self-interests. A good politician is one that respects the will of the people and considers the interests of his people paramount and others secondary. Politicians exist to facilitate the smooth distribution of the limited resources.

Even though Kenya needs a constitutional review, Kenyans have to be very careful with its provision otherwise we may be again deceived by a half-baked constitution. First and foremost, Kenyans must be inquisitive to find out whose interest is in the constitution. Is it for the people of Kenya or again for the political class? Is there need to create the post of prime minister and his deputies as well yet the constitution focuses on reducing the wage bill. The fact that a parliamentary system works smoothly in Britain does not necessarily mean that it shall be a success in Kenya owing to the differences in the ecological environment. Devolution for example is a success in USA and totally a failure in Kenya. Kenya needs a constitution that reflects the needs of her population and not a copy and paste strategy from developed nations. We have to get concerned about why we have been fed up with the constitution just less than 10 years after its implementation and why the same drafters and politicians who convinced Kenyans on how the constitution was best are now oppossers of their own ideas. What seemed to have changed?

The writer, KAUDO PHILIP, is a former student of Miyuga, Lifeshine Sondu and Oriwo Boys High School and currently a fourth year at Maseno University Pursuing Political science.
Written by Kaudo Philip
Political Science student at Maseno University
E: philipmisori@gmail.com

Politics is too serious to be left to politicians by Wanjiru Nguhi

There was a time in 2016 I was volunteering for an Organisation that was training young children in primary schools on the ways to be a social entrepreneurs and why it was important for them to be social entrepreneurs. At that time I was so disappointed by the manner in which the government was running the affairs of this country and I thought social entrepreneurship was the way to go and that it would fill the void left by the government’s inadequacy. I was so sold out to this cause that I even did a video and in that video I stated how my dream was to see an Africa where politicians were so irrelevant and redundant that citizens were running their own affairs. I was onboard with the social entrepreneurship wagon and I was not going to falloff. When I lookback at this thinking, I don’t know whether to hug my younger self or give her a book. I will probably do both.

I changed my mind about politics after having a discussion that challenged the definition of Politics for me. Someone posed a question and asked, “Why are we so obsessed with the Presidential election? It is because the person that gets to occupy that seat has the power to control resources, because Politics is simply the negotiation of resources.”

It then goes without saying that when we fail to be engaged in political conversations as women and as young people, the decisions about our resources will be made in our absence, without our consent, without our knowledge.

Whenever we pay our taxes either in form of V.A.T or Pay As You Earn, it’s not just the money we give to the government, it’s our time, our energy, our emotions, our blood, sweat. If you pay a tax rate of 16 % that is 16% of your life and you have every reason to be involved in what the government does with that fraction of your life. If you will not be involved for anything else, be involved because the government has made it mandatory to invest a fraction of your life into it.

If there is anything we have learnt especially through this election cycle beginning 2017, is that all the aspects of our lives are determined by the type of politics. Everything from the price of fuel, to the availability of the said fuel, the quality, price and availability of sugar, the form one selection, KCSE and KCPE results, price and availability of charcoal the list is endless. The point here is when you look around your home, office, classroom, road everything around you is literally affected by the political environment including yourself!

If you doubt whether your existence is controlled by political forces, ask families who had to bury their loved ones simply because their community was considered a political liability. Go ahead and ask the Somalis who were rounded up at Kasarani because they were “terrorists” ask the Luo community how many bodies were thrown into Lake Victoria because they were “idle rioters” ask the families of young Kikuyu men from Nyeri and Muranga who were killed because they were part of “Mungiki” ask the survivors of the 2007/2008 post-election violence.

Voting is just one step, a civic duty but that is just the beginning, it is not where we end. The political environment is kept healthy through our continuous active participation as citizens. I encourage everyone to be active politically. Be a pain, a stubborn head ache, an annoying pimple on their forehead, a difficult to ignore itch on their skin until the next election. After you vote, repeat the cycle.

So how do you do this? I am glad you asked. The easiest representatives to get a hold of are the members of the County Assembly. They have an ability to be canny and slippery but they are reachable. Find out where their offices are and the days they meet with the people. For most wards it is usually on a Monday, but find out.

Join youth groups within your area and organize to meet your area MCA because checking authority is not a one person job, and it is not an activists job.. it is our concern and right. Ask what has been the progress, point out the promises made during the election period, point out the persistent problems you have had to survive and ask them to explain what has not been done and why. Please don’t accept empty answers. And take part in public participation forums in your area, what are in the budget plans for your area? Find out! Democratic Leadership is a collaborative process; it is not leadership if it doesn’t work for and with the people.

Written by Wanjiru Nguhi
Co-Founder of Mwafrika Mwenzangu | Lawyer | Political Strategist | Writer | Feminist

The roots of corruption are bitter and the fruits vile by Kaudo Philip

Many simply refer to corruption as indubitably the biggest impediment to Kenya’s development. Those who practice it simply term it as the just cause for the sumptuous life they live. Organizations and institutions tasked to counter it call it a live wire while majority of Kenyans intricately link it to the sorry state of nature in the country, the way things are.Corruption is the main cause of abject poverty that has engulfed majority of the citizens of Kenya. However, the irony is that both who engage in it and those who don’t practice it understand that corruption is indeed a bad thing. It simply involves the diversion of public resources for private gain. Since independence, Kenya has been on the receiving end for being tolerant to corruption as evidenced in the mega sagas in the country such as the National Youth Service scandal, The Health Scam, and The Goldenberg Scandal amongst others. It has led to the reduction of foreign aid aimed at uplifting the social status of the people of Kenya.

Evidently, independent reports from both Kenyan Anti-Corruption Agency and the international organizations reports have not only been earth shaking but mind boggling as well. These reports have been able to expose the prevalence of grand corruption that indeed occurs in Kenya. A 2016 Price waters report ranked Kenya as number three most corrupt nation. Recent reports have similarly unearthed massive corruption in the country with Transparency International ranking Kenya as amongst the top 10 most corrupt nations in the world. Indeed, this great nation has been hitting headlines for the wrong reasons. Corruption remains a national security threat despite Kenya being amongst the few African nations that did ratify the United Nations Convention against Corruption, a legally binding document in which Kenya committed to be a zero tolerant nation to corruption.

Corruption is intricately tied to the nature of our economy. It remains an existential threat to the realization of government’s commitment to nurturing and protecting the well-being of each and every citizen and the nation as put forth in the preamble of the constitution. Just as President Putin did recently put it, Kenya seems a cemetery for Kenyans. President Trump buttressing this statement refers to African countries as shithole nations.

The worst disease in Kenya today is corruption. It is a curse which Kenya suffers from. Its scathing effects has been felt in each and every sector of the economy. As a matter of fact, it has been the cause of the deplorable conditions in our roads, the sorry state of our healthcare systems, the dwindling education system, the unemployment, political crises, and the prevalence of impunity, the increased foreign debts and poverty. It is indeed a multifaceted aspect that actually needs to be cured. Most shockingly, fighting corruption remains one of the political tools used each and every election by politicians to assume public office. Each regime before assuming office has talked tough on this enemy of development. After assuming office, they simply wine and dine with the cartels. The promising politicians that Kenyans have pegged hopes on before elections have ironically metamorphosed from nationalists to cartels. At times, through corruptive means, individuals have rigged elections further threatening the thriving of democratic space in Kenya. They have simply turned a deaf ear on the war on corruption. These politicians have ignored the passionate call of the masses that live a life full of ups and downs at the mercy and glory of God.

In exchange of material benefits, individuals and institutions tasked to fight corruption have simply appeared to fight it. They have legalized state sponsored policies that failed in their mandate to hold public servants accountable and responsible. Instead, with the benefits of the corruptive deals, bureaucrats live an opulent lifestyle as the general public cry foul for negligence and betrayal. The only rhetorical questions lingering in their mind is why they do not actually enjoy the rights to development? Does it mean they are not protected by the Kenyan constitution which everyone is theoretically proud of? Why then has the government failed to implement the TJRC report of 2008 that aimed at addressing the social, economic and political challenges that Kenya faces? Does it mean that the state is also an existential threat to her own population?

Under the slogan, “I eat, you eat, we eat, “corruption seems a phenomenon with many folds that for a country like Kenya, it seems a farfetched dream to totally eradicate.However,the impossible is always possible. Kenya simply needs to rethink her strategy to fight this nuisance. At the center of eradicating corruption is the need to emancipate the general public about this menace. It simply demands a change in the mentality and the personality of the people of Kenya. Those who fight corruption should be clean. Their level of integrity in public offices should not be questionable. “When you see corruption, when you see injustice, you speak out, don’t just keep quiet and say it is none of my business”Mahal Shariff notes. The general public therefore has a pivotal responsibility to eradicate this cancer that demands everyone’s attention.

The citizen’s ignorance is indeed the cartels power. If we elect the same politicians every time, that is a very clear message that we indeed don’t need change. Failure to speak out on this menace simply means we support it.We only cry foul about its effects yet we don’t want to challenge it.
Rethinking the nature and effectiveness of our public institutions equally is necessary. It is however important to note that the current institutions, DPP, EACC, DCI have recently waged a recommendable move in this war. Kenyans are eager to eat the fruits. Let it not be that they preach water and drink wine. Transparency and accountability are prerequisites for economic development. Let’s change our mentality, personality and collectively fight corruption.

The writer, KAUDO PHILIP, is currently a student of political science in Maseno.

A glimpse of youth engaging county government in Busia and Samburu

My work at Siasa Place involves travelling a lot across counties and facilitating community engagements. We have community forums with young people on specifically public participation. I enjoy travelling, yes but in each forum, I am presented with different challenges and learning about different cultures, issues and how youth are organized.

Recently I was in Samburu County to collect views from the Youth on issues affecting them and how they would want the County to work in supporting them and from the dialogues one thing was clear- The county government does not have adequate avenues for available to engage with youth. The irony of the matter, is that this is within our constitutional provisions as a citizen, but in reality this goes against the objectives of devolution in Article 174 (c) of the Constitution that states that devolution will give powers to self-governance to the people and enhance participation in the exercise of the powers of the state and in making decisions affecting them.

Statistically with the youth being the majority, in the country just like in Samburu County it is unrealistic to do anything without involving the youth. Moving across the three constituencies in Samburu that is Baragoi in Samburu North, Wamba in Samburu East and in Maralal town which is the County headquarters the young people said in one voice that they are not meaningfully engaged in County affairs and this results them to make little or no input in the development agenda in the county.

While some may fault young people as lazy and who wait to be spoon-fed, it is also vital to identify cultural barriers, such as older people in the society looking down upon youth and that their views are not crucial or even listened to. Another issue in the northern community is women do not have a say despite the progress made by the community of even electing a woman as a member of parliament in the National Assembly representing Samburu West Constituency Hon. Naisula Lesuuda. It is therefore prudent that the society needs to be sensitized on why all the voices matter especially in issues of running the county government.

While I fault the County, youth have also lacked passion to be community changers and all they want are hand outs for them to attend their own community forums. Where is the problem? Morals or lack of a way of living? On this, it reminds me in 2007 as a young child, I was in the village and a politician came to our home during campaigns. I was excited to finally see this bearded man who was vying to be the MP in our constituency, my brother and sisters were all excited. He talked to my dad and mum who were eligible voters about his agenda and before leaving our home he gave my dad a brand new two hundred shillings note.

I didn’t know what it was for by then but later learnt that it was an incentive for my dad to vote for him on 27th December 2007. 11 years later I remember that incident like it was yesterday. I’m telling this story because a majority of young people that I interact with say, ‘’We don’t ask for money from Politicians.’’ Or ‘’Ukipewa huwezi kataa (If you are given, you cannot say no).’’ when it comes to asking for handouts or being paid to vote. The same mentality applies when it comes even to community forums or meetings, we expect to be paid to help ourselves.

We hear a lot about public participation and how it is a powerful tool for the people but it faces a myriad of challenges. Just last week, I was in Chakol North Ward in Busia County following a story by a group of youth from our trainings who had invoked Article 35 1 (a) to ask for information about pending bills from the Ward Administrator.

In the meeting that brought together the Ward Administrator, a representative of the Member of County Assembly (MCA) and the youth, I couldn’t help but notice how the Ward Administrator was shaking, she was extremely worried and looked stressed. I think imagining that we would deny her children bread the following day. One could clearly see that she had never been exposed to such kind of interaction. The discussions began and the youth explained what they wanted and why with good backings from the Constitution.

In the middle of the talks Mrs. Caren Moitit, the Ward admin said, ‘’Its not that we don’t want to share this information or hold public participation forums the challenge is that my office has no budgetary allocations for the same. It is very hard to call people to a meeting without refreshments they can’t sit on or a bottle of water during the meeting. I hope we can get well-wishers be it Non-governmental organizations to support us have public participation forums.’’ I was shocked at how a whole County can have budgets without a line for public participation or community dialogues. Is this devolution? Or is it a case of money is allocated but does not make it to Mrs. Caren’s office?

While these challenges exist it is time the youth realized that nothing can be done for them without them and our involvement will improve how the counties engage us.

Grayson Marwa

Some of us have to gamble to make ends meet BY KAUDO PHILIP MISORI

Courtesy of Standard Digital

IN the preamble of the promulgated 2010 constitution of the Republic of Kenya, it commits to nurture and protect the well-being of the individuals, the family, communities and the nation at large. Therefore, the states through elected and nominated representatives are mandated to ensure that Kenya is a better place to be –a safe haven. However, this has not been the case.

The politicians have turned a blind eye to their own people, especially the youth. On a comparative basis to other nations particularly developed economies, I as a youth, feel that the state has done little to nurture and protect the well-being of the young people of Kenya, who form the majority of the national population. They have been neglected and their hope that the new constitution would facilitate their empowerment remains shattered. Their voice is scarcely heard, while individuals nominated to represent their views and complaints do not seem to care.

The youth continue to question their place in this country. Actually, the political class views them best as an instrument for acquisition of power. In the name of empowering young people, politicians hires them to cause fear and havoc in political rallies. They solicit the youth by promising them lump sum jobs that do not materialize and some handouts. Through this, they deceive them and occupy public offices principally to pursue their narrow selfish interests. It is indeed due to lack of proper empowerment and proper representations that we, as young people live in deplorable conditions. This is despite the fact that the most of us are intelligent, energetic and innovative.

Most Youth Empowerment Programs organized by political leaders and stakeholders have been ineffective in solving the pertinent problems ranging from financial incapability to lack of political awareness. Some of the youth forums as recently evidenced in Homabay County, have been politically instigated and never providing solutions. Actually in such organized events, the youth are only given an opportunity to dine and wine with the politicians and that is all. The stakeholders turn a deaf ear on their quest for jobs, enrolment in both technical institutions and universities, nurturing of talent and initiation of projects aimed at helping the youths. At times, they have opted for short term solutions to youth problems.

The inefficiency of the state to empower the youth has resulted into more bad than good. Actually, most young people are poverty stricken due to unemployment prompting majority of them, especially those in slums to look for alternative illegal ways to earn a living. Some have opted to join radicalized groups that pose an existential security threat to the people of Kenya. They rob, assassinate in cold blood and at times survivors are left in deplorable condition while conducting the crime. Some have opted to sell hard drugs such as cocaine which is detrimental to a healthy living. Others have to gamble to make ends meet while others hawk in towns. Our youth must not be left vulnerable.

The best long term solution to solving problems affecting youth is facilitating real economic empowerment. This involves initiation of income generating projects and funding them with initial capital. The Government of Kenya, should, through seminars and workshop programs, educate the young people on viable means to safety living. These workshops should principally aim at helping them acquire knowledge and skills which are necessary in both the formal and the informal sectors of the economy. At the end of these programs, the young people should be equipped with both soft and hard skills that make them relevant in today’s work environment, as well as be in a position to maximise the few resources available to them for income generation.

The youth also need political empowerment, and this could also be used as a strategy to eradicate radicalization. Some young people, especially those in the slums join militia group simply because they feel marginalized and the fact that they lack the requisite knowledge on existing laws. Political empowerment involves creating political awareness about youth related matters amongst them their rights, their role in the society and the mechanisms they can use to air their grievances.

Each and every society is established on societal norms and laws. And if our youth are not empowered socially, we risk adopting sinful cultures that are detrimental to our societal beliefs and our cultural orientation is likely to negatively change.

An empowered youth is a productive Kenyan. It doesn’t cost much to empower our youth, who are today’s and tomorrow’s leaders. Empowerment of youth has both short term and long term positive effects. The state, interested individuals and the NGOs should consider this noble cause as a collective responsibility. This is one of the ways that can aid our youth feel part and parcel of the society, which will result to Kenya being a safe haven for all. On the other hand, the youth should be committed to continue working hard in all they do. They should explore their talent and be rational in decision making. “It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man” – Benjamin Franklin.

The writer, KAUDO PHILIP, is a former student of Miyuga, Lifeshine Sondu and Oriwo Boys High School and currently a fourth year at Maseno University Pursuing Political science. He hails from Homabay County in wangching ward.

For comments and enquiries:
Contact – philipmisori@gmail.com

The Kenyan Constitution And Runaway Implementation by Maroko Nyachio

I find the quote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time by the blood of patriots and tyrants”, by one of America’s founding fathers, as most disturbing when used by present day advocates of liberty. The sentiments portrayed in this quote might have carried currency during the time of its voicing, and in the context of the then prevailing circumstances, but since then, there has been a tremendous shift in thought and moral standards. Owing to man’s intelligent nature, his moral standing is always under the unerring refinement of time.

The story of the liberty movement in Kenya is a sad one. It is replete with tales of human suffering and heroic sacrifices. Unlawful detentions, torture, murder, unexplained disappearances and forced exiles among others, make up the script of the blood cuddling experience of those who dared to challenge the status quo. It is unfortunate that the perpetrator in these villainous acts is the government, which in abdication of its core mandate turns about and violates that very which it was established to be a vanguard of.

A constitution is a social contract between the people and their leaders. It is supposed to give requisite freedoms, guard against their violation and be a beacon of light to the attendant responsibilities. If it originates from the people, and generated by conscience, it would reflect the aspirations and represent the will of the people. Implementation would be almost automatic and effortless. Its operationalization would ensure a harmonious and prosperous society. The inevitable consequence of the law made by the people is service to the people. There would be no need for acts of violence to preserve human dignity.

For people to attain that level of achievement, it would entail a consistent rise in collective conscience, or where a majority of people possess a higher level of conscience, and are committed to the upholding of human dignity regardless of social standing. The principal of human freedom and equality becomes the defining tenet, and those who lead in the movement become the natural leaders, and their ultimate obligation is service to the people.

In the alternate, if in a community of people, only a minority have a higher level of conscience than the prevailing majority and where the primary object of those gifted with a higher level of conscience is not protection, and upholding the sanctity of human dignity; the objective inevitably becomes exploitational. We can therefore conclude that there are two types of laws; those made by the people and those made for the people. The law made by the people serves, protects and guards the people against the tyranny of the state.

Consequently, in a scenario where the law is made for the people, most often by as small elite, who are not guided by morality and the principle of human dignity, the inevitable result is exploitation of the people. The law becomes a bulwark for the government against its people, and since the motive is self-serving, its lifeline centers on the ignorance of the people and is in the best interest of the state to deliberately, through omission or commission to disenfranchise the people for sustenance.

The debate about public participation in the implementation of the constitution confounds me no less when I consider the amount of enthusiasm that was witnessed at its making. Excitement went right through the roof during the referendum drive, and pomp and colour was in abundance during the promulgation. It was touted as perhaps the most progressive document in the world and a source of envy to our neighbours. The atmosphere was pregnant with expectation, and the talk in town was; behold, a new dawn!

But the aura of hope generated has since come a cropper. Things are going full circle and the blame talk of the government trying to roll back the gains made through blood and sacrifice is back. I would call this the critical moment where we need an honest soul searching. For starters, we could begin by asking; did we make the constitution, or were we shopped to believe that we did? And if we did, was it out of necessity or requirement? Bertolt put it that the law is made for one thing only, the exploitation of those who don’t understand it, or are prevented by naked misery from obeying it.

These are the questions to be rested before the public is questioned of its participation. If any of the answers do not allude to the concept having originated from the people, the place to start is to bring the people on board first, and start at the beginning. THE CONCEPT OF THE CONSTITUTION.

Maroko Nyachio is a handcart operator.

f-Maroko Nyachio

Tweet Chat summaries

Topic: High Schools in Disarray
Guests: Wawira Njiru, Mark Bichachi and Eric Otieno
Date: 25th July

The most significant underlying issue behind the current fracas in public high schools can be attributed to the fact that students are seen as subjects, but not partners in their education.

The disarray also indicates that our education system does not encourage independent thought. Furthermore, high schools lack appropriate disciplinary structures for the modern kid. Students should not be blackmailed every time they react to a situation that they face in schools. The government offering threats to students is also not a solution, but another source for chaos.

The way we can start to resolve the current crisis is if the lack of parental participation and overcrowding in schools are acted upon as factors that lead to the rebelling of students. More importantly, students must voice their concerns, and they should be heard.

Topic: Election Safari: One year on, stories of young people from the 2017 General Elections
Guests: Shiku Kihika, Andrew Letting, Samwella Lerno and Arnold Maliba
Date: 8th August 2018

There is a negative narrative that young people are incapable of leading. This is slowly changing and it will continue to do as more young people are standing up to check the systems that do not work for them. We need to keep encouraging the youth and stop telling them that they are the ‘future leaders’. They are the leaders of today, not tomorrow, and they should be fully engaged in all political processes. The increased participation of young people in politics was seen in the 2017 General Elections, and the numbers will even go up during the 2022 General Elections.

While we fight for young people’s spaces in politics, it is important that a lot of focus is also directed towards encouraging more (young) women to vie for elected positions. This will be done if women are enabled to take part in public life. Through intense political education, they will be able to understand their rights and the Constitution. This will also empower them to protect their positions when they get elected into office.

Finally, there should more advocacy for the 2/3rds gender rule, and more pressure should be put on the Executive to ensure its implementation. The second liberation stands incomplete without women’s participation.

Topic: The Y Follow Campaign
Date: 15th August
Guests: Silantoi Lengewa

The Y Follow campaign is a youth led initiative that seeks to empower the populace to question status quo, and ask relevant questions when it comes to governance in the country. The main objective of YFollow is to empower the common mwananchi to demand for accountability from the leadership and therefore a mindset change that will inform voting patterns from tribal to issue-based.

The Y in #YFollow stands for youth and they are the main focus in the initiative, on both National and County levels. The youth have always been associated with being ignorant to current affairs, and this seeks to show them how political decisions affect them personally and how they can get involved.

Having also realized that Information is what most of the population is missing, #YFollow will aim to provide relevant information as well as a platform to air grievances and provide solutions in the community and to the leadership.

Our main concerns as a movement are Corruption and lack of convictions by the Judiciary. We can see some efforts from the leadership in terms of tackling the issue of corruption with the arrests and court cases, but these remain ineffective until convictions are made and assets are retrieved.
One of the other many issues that YFollow will push for, is the review of the 2006 Youth National Policy that is currently outdated, and not in line with the new 2010 Constitution.

Topic: Political Violence Against Young people in East Africa
Guests: Rosebell Kagumire (Uganda), Caroline Ndosi (Tanzania), and Ruth Aine (Uganda)
Date: 22nd August 2018

This tweet chat was addressing the general mistreatment of young people in East Africa who are punished for demanding better leadership, with particular attention to Robert Kyagulangi’s (Bobi Wine) who was the illegally detained by President Museveni’s regime.

Why are young leaders considered as a threat? The current leaders believe that they alone are the custodians of power. For long young people have been expected to be spectators of political contestations, but this has to change. There is an abundance of young leaders in the continent today and we are saying, WE WANT MORE SEATS AT THE TABLE.

What can young people do to bring down oppressive regimes? Young people need to show up and question their leaders and institutions. The following can guide them:

  • Radical organizing can help citizens deter the state from meting out violence against young leaders. It is easier for the state to isolate few, which is why citizens must find different ways to engage the state in an organized and radical manner.
  • Online spaces also play critical role as governments tighten the noose on media through beatings and threats of closure. Young people must create their own channels, and tell their resistance story.

What are the impacts of political violence against young people? Political violence can alter ways of organizing, it slows change but certainly won’t stop it. Like Shirley Chisholm says “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” Young East Africans already have millions of folded chairs. We have also have to be mindful of the intention of those deploying violence. It is make many disinterested in politics, especially young women. We have to ensure that they, and other marginalized groups are also part of the struggle.

How can young people protect themselves from state violence?

  • Identify what we are good at: Not everyone will take to the streets, so young people have to create more rooms for different kinds of thoughts around protest. Young people should find what kind of protests to deploy, when, and how can they be more inclusive.
  • Protection: Make sure your digital footprint is intact –VPNs, password protection and encryption.
  • Networking: Cultivate important contacts within government institutions that can come to your defend.
  • Education: Know your rights, understand the constitution, be an active citizen and take responsibility. Vote and advocate for systems that are truly for development of the nation.
  • Uphold your truth and values: Young people can target different pillars of the establishment, using various means. For instance they can start by boycotting businesses that are run by those behind state sponsored violence.

“You are more useful to the struggle alive than dead. So by all means, stay alive.”

Topic: Pushing for open political primaries in Nigeria
Guests: @YIAGA Africa
Date: 29th August 2018

Nigeria has at least 91 political parties with different ideologies all within the ambit of the Constitution. Political parties form government and since 1999, we sadly still clamor for good governance.

Political parties decide what kind of primaries (direct or Indirect) to hold. They conduct the primaries themselves, under the monitor of Electoral Management body and independent observers like YIAGA AFRICA. Despite parties conducting primaries by themselves, they must adhere to their own guidelines, Electoral Management body guidelines, electoral laws and ultimately the Constitution.

There is another aspect of our democracy that needs intensive reform, and this is ensuring that the outcomes of political party primaries are credible enough to instill confidence on the part of citizens. The issue of imposition of candidates, inducement of delegates or manipulation of party members register has continued to cast questions over the credibility of the process.
Role of young people in political party primaries

Young people have a lot of roles to play when it comes to party primaries, but the question that remains is whether they are taking part in these processes. The answer is not enough. Young Nigerians can be more involved by first registering as members. This will allow them to be part of party primaries, in case a direct one is conducted.

Young people also vote during party primaries, but most times do not fall into the delegates’ categories when it comes indirect primaries. This, in turn makes it difficult for them to have a say in the emergence of candidates.

To solve this, the #NotTooYoungToRun movement that is now @ReadyToRunNG has embarked on a ferocious campaign to demand youth candidacy, and open party primaries from all political parties. This will ensure inclusion in our democracy.

Topic: People, Police and the Parallel relationship, (in partnership with Amnesty Kenya)
Guests: Irungu Houghton, Martin Mavenjina, and Patrick Safari
Date: 6/09/2018

Since independence, the Police force has been used as a tool of repression, and various systemic human rights violations continue to be committed by police officers. This, has resulted into mistrust between the police and the people.

Relationship between the young people and the police:

The relationship between the youth and the police is only characterized by conflict and tension, with high levels of anger, fear and mistrust on both sides. In the recent past, many Police officers have killed youth for allegedly engaging in criminal acts and have unlawfully arrested many.

Measures to reduce extrajudicial activities by the police:
We must make sure the police are only accountable to the people and not anybody else. For this to be done, there has to be:

  • A greater sense of command responsibility.
  • Deeper and intentional community policing
  • Intensified oversight by the public and state organs mandated to oversee the police.

Amnesty Kenya also highlighted that the above can only be possible in an environment that is:

  • Able to empower those at risk of extrajudicial executions.
  • Of propositional with the duty bearers and making clear asks/ demands.
  • Is able to bring partners’ and allies together.

The other measures that can be taken is if we make crime prevention a community business, and not just the police. This can be done by sharpening civic support for predictive and intelligence-based policing. This can also help to avoid blanket profiling. Investing in digital capacities including GPS, wearable body cameras, and CCTV cameras in police stations could also make a big difference, as the performance of the police can be easily tracked.

Role of the people and the civil society in improving the police and people relationship:
There needs to be community sensitization forums that involve both the Police and the public, which can help improve their relationship. The state must also respect, protect and fulfill the right to life, liberty and security of the person, as well as the absolute prohibition of torture.

The Civil Society Organizations also work greatly with grassroots organizations (The Justice Centers) to ensure a grassroots approach on police conduct. The grassroots organizations are able to monitor, document and report human rights violations by the police. This information, as well as data can be used to hold them accountable for their actions.

Improvements in police training
The training needs to be one that is intelligence based. The officer should not only be trained on how to use violence to fight violence, but also on other aspects such as Alternative Dispute Resolution and Peace building mechanisms.

Topic: Repercussions of increased taxation
Guests: Mukami Mungai, Asamoh Rein and Hilda Muteshi
Date: 12/09/2018

There are several reasons that can explain the continued increase in taxation. There is a need by the government to raise revenue to bridge the funding gap in the Financial Year of 2018/19, which includes the ability to pay back the 4 trillion foreign debt that we owe our lenders. Other reasons include money lost through corruption, gaps in the tax collection system, and major investment in infrastructure.

Increased taxation Vs. reduced expenditure: Tax policy attempts to balance many goals. These include revenue generation, economic efficiency, redistribution, equity between similarly situated taxpayers, and stabilization of economic cycles. However, increasing taxes is what is going to lead us into an economic crisis. A tax policy geared towards stabilization must reduce reliance on tax expenditures relative to government spending; tax expenditures imply that government subsidization moves in tandem with the business cycle, thereby destabilizing the economy. Increasing taxation will discourage investment and saving as income available to households will decrease.

Effects of increased taxation on the people: The increase in taxation has only added to the burden of the low-income citizens. Kenyans have been facing high levels of poverty and disparity for the last few years, and this hike will likely exacerbate the problems. Other effects include Increase in commodity prices, reduced investment and savings and inflation.

Short and long-term changes as a result of increased taxation: Tax policies can also affect the supply of labor in the short run. A cut in payroll taxes could bring some workers into the labor market or encourage those already working to put in more hours. Other short-term changes include increased government revenue, increased product prices and cost of production, as a well as hiked transportation costs. The long-run effects of tax policies depend not only on their incentive effects but also their deficit effects.

Kenya’s debt/GDP ratio: According to Cyntonn Investment, Kenya’s public debt to GDP was estimated at 56.2% in 2017, rising from 44.0% 5-years ago, and 38.4% 10-years ago. This is against the global recommendation of 50%, and the 30%-40% standard range for developing countries.

The Kenyan people and power: The people have the power to reverse increased taxation through their representatives in parliament. However, the question that stands is whether these representatives have the people’s interests at heart. Organized demonstrations can also put pressure on the government to revert high taxes.

Afro-Optimism and its future in Africa by Austin Muthuma

‘Afro-optimism’ could be the tool to decolonize African mind and lead to Africa`s renaissance, but only if actualized carefully. Ebere Onwudiwe in the book ‘Afro-optimism: Perspective on Africa`s Advances’ refers to Afro-optimism as “the state of absolute conviction that a bright future lies ahead for the African continent.” It’s an ideological notion that the once ‘dark continent’ is on the verge of a grand renaissance, overcoming historical scars; slavery, colonization, dictatorship (poor governance) and corruption. The media particularly social media has been a core driver of this infant but fast rising notion- although quite unnoticed-by giving the largely ‘undocumented continent’ a platform to showcase its values and culture on a global level.

Africa in 21st century is increasingly being defined through African literature and not the white precursor. 2018 has witnessed most publicized Afro-optimistic activities, and probably breathing sense to the fairly new notion. First it was the Black Panther an all black cast movie that broke major historical and current stereotypes of black movies not selling and mainly depicting Africa as a super developed continent devoid of foreign exploitation. Africans, Asians, whites and all other races alike lined up in cinema halls across the world dressed in African attire appreciating the culture in support of Africa.

The second event is the just concluded world cup football tournament where France whose team is mostly composed of players of African origin, won the cup. The magnitude of this conversation bursting to an exchange between France ambassador to US, Gerard Araud and American based South African comedian Trevor Noah. Noah`s affectionate sentiments, “I’m so exited! Africa won the world cup!” in his satirical Daily show seemed to have angered French ambassador to a point of writing a protest letter to the Daily show criticizing Noah’s sentiments. According to Gerard, Noah comments could be equated to those of a supremacist or racists.

This sparked a conversation online about African immigrants in the west particularly France, with Noah accusing the French government of double standards by acknowledging French black players as French but at the same time having harsh stance on African immigrants. Although the two events had a significant impact in bringing to light the ideology of Afro-optimism, the French case raises some important issues regarding the thin line between afro-optimism and afro-pessimism.

Coined by Frank Wilderson, a South African intellectual during the apartheid regime, Afro-pessimism was a phrase denoting Africa`s scars of slavery and colonialism and their negative structural impacts to the continent in post-colonial era. His intentions were to use the scars to unite Africans and overcoming post-colonial challenges. However this was short lived as western media hijacked the notion using it to portray Africa as a failure on economic growth and governance. The latter maintaining its meaning up to date.

This has been carried on in how Africans perceive or actualize Afro-optimism, making it hard to distinguish between optimism and pessimism. From the two events, despite occurring in the western world, Africans seem to be highly appreciative when a fellow African has made an achievement else where than in Africa which sometimes boarders more on pessimism rather than optimism. French black player`s success united Africa by proving that Africans contribute significantly to foreign successes. The distinction between optimism and pessimism lies in perception. If the player`s success inspires Africans to recognize their potential and extrapolate it from the west to Africa then it’s optimism. On the other hand if it creates a notion of success through developed west facilitation, then its pessimism as it encourages emigrant exodus to the west.

The same Afro-pessimism problem affects the African youth today and is considered one of the key drivers of migration. According to a report by Afrobarometer in its mid-report released June this year, it approximates 16% of youth in Africa having thought of emigrating to the west. This worrying figure confirms the level of afro-pessimism on African youth toward their continent and its future. However one cannot deny the fact that there are harsh push factors: political intolerance and unemployment, which propel emigrants to take the life threatening journey. But a keen analysis on the youth justifications reveals that, many believe the west provides the greener pasture irrespective of one being skilled or unskilled, which is not always the case.

Is there a formula for inscribing afro-optimism in our minds? Yes, Africans must start by telling The African story, by Africans, for Africans and in Africa. We need to start appreciating African heroes and heroines in Africa so as to inspire change and reduce occidental African heroes. Afro-optimism could be Africa`s soft power especially on a socio-cultural terms by decolonizing our minds from perceiving the western culture as the supreme culture over others. Failure to incept Afro-optimism from our own perspective will render the young concept as just another rhetoric like the once raved pan-Africanism. It might be time for Africa`s renaissance but in order to win over the ‘white man`s consensus’ the process needs to be carefully thought and actualized and Afro-optimism provides the starting point. If it’s all in the mind, then it must start from the mind.

By Austin Muthuma


MAROKO NYACHIO is a hand cart operator

In the wake of the report on the mistreatment of Kenyan workers, in the railway sector by foreign contractors, the government, through its spokesman dismissed the allegations as self-centered activism that it has no tolerance for. I have always been confused about the real essence of government in relation to its people. I do not know if I should attribute this to my limited education or whether it is occasioned by the confusion one draws from observing day to day government operations. From my ignorant assumption, I would opine that a government should come to fore as an initiative of the people, informed by the need to have a harmonious existence out of man’s interdependency.

With all the naivety of my assumption, I would be forgiven for the consternation with which I received the government communiqué. With a straight face and no minced words, the spokesperson relayed what he called ‘the government position’! After all was said, the sum of it all was that, the government, chided its people, for daring to complain about mistreatment by ‘contractors’ of the state working on a government flagship project which the government has been all too keen to remind all and sundry that it was above board. No questions, no complains, just bow down.

You see, I would have no problem with this kind of attitude. I know all too well that authority is not something to be questioned in this part of the world, I don’t even object if authority exhibited dictatorial tendencies (you can throw your stones) benevolent or not. I wouldn’t mind being spoken down to, or being reminded where I belong, I would prostrate to authority if required to. But that is if, and only if, the government is established by the people, for service to the people, and strictly in the interests of the people. This way, I would bubble up with patriotism, but under the current dispensation, I confess to have none. And for the proponents of ‘najivunia kuwa mkenya’, I request that you share the glories that I’m missing out on.

From my limited point of view, I would presume that the very essence of a government would be the security of its people. And its core mandate to guard against any threats, real or perceived so that its people live in harmony and happiness, what in mechanical terms would be called ‘shock absorber’. But the security of a people is the people themselves. People are stronger when they combine their strengths and pull their resources together. To do this, they have to establish a central point of coordination; which births the government. The government’s most valuable asset is the people, they are the primary capital. The progress and of any Nation depends on its ability to utilize its human resource, physical and intellectual, for the overall exploitation of its natural resources.

The physical human resource is manual labour, the intellectual resource is skills and knowledge. How a people are adept at exploiting these two resources has an overall bearing on their standing in the larger society. A Nation that ensures total utilization of the two consolidates its value; any that sources any of the two from outside its borders exports its value. A government can fall short of the physical human capital if it is hit by a population shortage, (which case we don’t suffer); the intellectual capital if its people are slow in exploring the secrets of the universe. But this does not in any way limit their capability to grasp and execute. It therefore behooves the government facing this challenge to spare no effort in acquiring and arming its people with the requisite knowledge and skills, in order to harness the full potential of its people and consolidate their value and sustain their dignity.

But when a government outsources physical human resource, intellectual resource and material capital, like in the case of the SGR, it raises questions like first, do those in government honestly understand the object, role and function of government (of which they can be forgiven if they don’t), or do they have an outside agenda which is contrary to the object of ‘government’? This, I ask because; by the government importing manual and skilled labour, regardless of the project, when it is grappling with runaway unemployment; is that not a travesty? By this very act, it devalues the people, and swaps their essential capital and exposes them to indignity. By government admission, Kenya has no shortage of qualified and skilled people; it only questions their ability to deliver on standard, and finds excuse in the argument that even the private sector is sidestepping locals for expatriates. This begs the question; whose prerogative is it, to ensure proper utilization of our potentials?

f-Maroko Nyachio
t @ MarokoNyachio

Lets Remind Ourselves Of Public Participation By Samwella Lerno

Writer is a contributor of Siasa Place’s writer’s podium

Citizen participation is a requisite for strengthened devolution, for devolution to work the people must be involved in the decision-making and oversight functions. The objects and principles of devolved government according to Article 174 are to; (c) give powers of self-governance to the people and enhance their participation in the exercise of the powers of the state and in making decisions affecting them, (d) Recognize the rights of the communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development.

Public participation is ideally based on belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process. A mantra that has fuelled disability rights movements over the years ‘Nothing about us, without us’ James Charlton, the author of a book by the same title expresses the conviction of people with disabilities that they know what is best for them any decision that is made without them is not for them.

The whole purpose of citizen involvement through public participation is to give citizens power to have a say in all matters. This ensures governments achieve key milestones in democracy; improved performance as citizens gets involved in identifying their needs, priority areas and increased sense of ownership. Citizens become partners with their governments in a manner that promotes good governance and human rights.

To trickle down a sense of ownership on the citizen’s part in development is crucial in minimization of wastage from governments. Without treating citizens as partners there is danger that policies, programmes and interventions implemented at community levels will simply be imposed upon them.

Why public participation?

Public participation leads to better decisions by improving quality of decisions made in a community. Where a process is inclusive, participants (governments and citizens) get an opportunity to clearly identify issues that are at play in any decision or project or challenge.
After identifying issues, clarity is sought so that all views are obtained.

All alternatives are weighed and the best option is picked to aid in decision-making. Decisions made in this manner benefit from community contribution, which is vital as they’re most affected. They know what they need and are more likely to be better than a decision made without their involvement.

Public participation helps in setting priorities as it informs government the level of importance the citizens attach to a particular situation which helps in channelling of resources (monetary and otherwise). Public participation reduces conflict as working together with diverse people can be difficult, different opinions or diverse interests in decisions can lead to conflict especially at the backdrop of campaign promises.

However, public participation ensures potential areas of disagreement are identified and addressed with concerned people before a decision is made. The fears and interests of such groups are addressed and they become part of the decision-making process. When an agreement is reached the potential for conflict is minimized if not eliminated altogether.

Role of leaders in public participation

What has been provided in the constitution and other secondary legislation; In Article 232 on the Values and principles of public service part (1) include (d) involvement of the people in the process of policy-making (e) accountability for administrative acts (f) Transparency and provision to the public of timely and accurate information.

Leaders should ensure they are accessible and represent citizens, ensure existence of forums and opportunities for citizens. Provide civic education on public participation in simplified formats and the key elements of it like budget making and policy development. Develop effective communication channels with citizens, this includes both online and offline channels as well as mobile and non-mobile channels in all languages understandable to the citizens.

Using those channels to get information out in advance and to a proper depth so participation, decision making is informed and effective. Provide timely and useful information to the citizens on critical and emerging issues. Provide resources to facilitate public participation, on budget making, policy issues, project options etc. Opening channels for public participation goes a long way to ensure that county governments are more responsive to citizens as collaborators and clients hence spur development.

I think as a national value, participation of the people comes with myriad of challenges. Challenges that can be addressed jointly, proper frameworks should be set out to make it more effective. It should be free from predetermined outcomes as often is the case where county officials use citizen forums to rubber stamp their already developed plans. They have to be as inclusive as possible, youth and women should particularly be prioritized. Public participation when properly done enhances shared responsibility in county’s development.

By Samwella Lerno
Writer is a contributor of Siasa Place’s writer’s podium

#SiasaWesnesday Tweet Chat Summaries – June 6th to July 18th 2018


6th June 2018

Is lack of evidence helping suspects go scot free in the justice system?

Kenya has an adversarial system of law, where the Judges take a spectator position and weigh the evidence brought before the court. The problem here does not lack of judicial powers, but it is whether the Judiciary is ready to apply the law effectively in corruption cases. The judiciary can, however, in practice set standards. Corruption laws (Anti-corruption Act) provides a mandatory sentence for twice the benefit a corruption offender gets from corruption. We have the laws, and the question that is raised is whether we are ready to prosecute.

The independence of the Judiciary has greatly improved since the Moi Regime, but we are not there yet. The Judiciary needs to prove to Kenyans that they cannot be intimidated; the recent denial of bail of the NYS suspects is a good start.

12th June 2018

Economic impacts of public theft

Poverty rates in Kenya are higher than they ought to be, and this is as a result of public theft. The causative relationship between poverty and theft of public funds is that, above all else, the resultant higher borrowing and taxes levied on the general citizenry discourages production and that leads to higher than natural incidence of poverty.

It is also possible for the taxpayer to exercise their sovereignty to protect themselves from the repercussions of public theft. The people can pass laws that can check this bad behavior through a referendum.

What other countries have done to reduce government over expenditure and theft, is to tie spending to revenues. The logic here is that the less they can spend, the less they can steal. Balanced budget amendments helps in adopting this approach.

Kenya is also a lucky country in the sense that it has a large private sector as government accounts for, perhaps, give or take, 30% of total spending. Consequently, private sector activity is typically more than 65%. This, to a degree, allows the economy to cope with government failure.
One of the main things that can be done to reduce public theft is education. We need to make economic knowledge general knowledge so that we look at things from a practical perspective. That way, we will be able to understand what is at stake better when political promises are being made.

20th June 2018

Can the Kenyan people survive a 3.07 trillion Kshs budgetary estimate?

This year’s budgetary estimate is 3.07 Trillion Kshs. Kenyans have witnessed a dramatic increase of more than one trillion Kshs, in comparison to last year’s figure of 2.6 billion kshs. This current budget highlights a major challenge, which lies in its funding. Research indicates that there is a gap in the budget of 562 billion KES, and the treasury claims that half of the budget will be financed from borrowing.

The budget is too high, and there are no justifications for some decisions such as the VAT exemptions for basic items, and keeping the VAT rate at 16.

On the possibility of capping the budget; the IEA, an economic think tank in Kenya, found that Kenya’s budget can be sufficient at just 2 Trillion KSHS, where the founder, Kwame Owino, suggested it should be capped.

On checks and balances; Article 12 of the Constitution has sufficient controls of the country’s expenditure. Through the Public Participation Act, Kenyan people can also voice their concerns over any public issues, including the budget. Through this act over expenditure can be minimized.
Within the budget there was no information on the challenges experienced with the implementation of last year’s budget. Fighting corruption was one of the key issue that was briefly talked about by the CS for the National Treasury, when asked about the issue.


4th July 2018

History of Political alignment in Kenya

The formation of coalitions in Kenya began on a positive note changing the monolithic structure that existed before 1992. However, the political structure in Kenya has become very corrupt which continues the ability of political parties/coalitions to withstand the test of time. As a result, Kenya’s political and economic system cannot guarantee free and fair competition. This is also because all systems are controlled by a small elite that determines who participates and how.

For this to change, Kenyan Youth and other oppressed population groups must realize how much political elites fear an informed, angry, mobilized and organized citizenry. They will be able to defeat bad leadership if they are equipped with knowledge, which will be followed by actions.

11th July 2018

Role of Media: Is it harnessing gains or losing ground?

The role of journalism continues to evolve, and we still haven’t taken time to evaluate this. As a result, media continues to seem like it has lost the integral part it played as the fourth estate in Kenya’s first liberation.

For the East African media to be effective, it has to be able to maintain the trust of the public. As this has not been proved to be the case yet, other alternatives such as citizen journalism will continue to change the course of how stories are developed and consumed. Citizen Journalism has opened up a space for citizens to hold their leaders accountable, and be able to influence political outcomes. Citizens are able to tell their stories without state interference. However, for citizen journalism to be efficiently explored, there has to be paid attention to fact-checking and source-balancing to avoid the spread of false information.

In regards to independence in media; the most important question is asking how this freedom can be harnessed. For instance, the Constitution of Kenya guarantees media freedom, but this is limited by Editors and the Media Council as a result of factors such as ownership and control. This challenge can be addressed through the establishment of publicly funded broadcasters. This way, citizens will easily demand for accountability and media will be more people and issue oriented, as opposed to media setting its own agenda.

Technology has also largely influenced East African media. It has liberalized the dissemination of information, and there is a wider and diverse audience that can be tapped into. There are now various ways in which content can reach consumers using means such as websites, videos, and podcasts. There has also been more employment opportunities as journalists are now working as freelancers. Every journalist can be their own cameraman, photographer, editor and producer.

In conclusion, the future position of media in the East African Region lies in the hands of its citizens.

18th July 2018

Equality in Media: Fact or Fiction?

Equal representation in media allows everyone to belong, gives everybody a voice, which can lead to freedom. Equal representation amplifies the voices of the minority, and raises awareness on their issues and work that they do.

One of the ways in which this can be achieved is if journalists learn to go beyond the headlines, do more homework, especially when it comes to minorities. Learning to listen, look for the story within the story, or change an angle to how they look into an issue, could make a big difference.
The government could also do better in ensuring that laws/policies on equality are well implemented in media. What ails these agencies is nepotism, corruption, and the fact that those within the field allow themselves to be manipulated by external forces.

Technology and citizen journalism have also given a voice to the marginalized groups. Women in the villages have been able to carry practice journalism and report from their own locality. Through citizen journalism, groups have also been able to raise pertinent issues that have brought about policy change. For example, #StreetNakuru and its founder James Wakibia pushed for the ban on plastic through the #ISupportBanPlasticsKE campaign.

In conclusion, every person has a unique story and they should be given a platform on which it can be shared.

Just declare your wealth, it’s not as if we’re going to take it away from you… by Nerima Wako

You can also read the original article posted on East African Standard – Just declare your wealth, it’s not as if we’re going to take it away from you…

In 2002, I remember my father driving me and my younger brother through downtown Nairobi.My father loved taking us for long drives around the capital, just taking in the scenic beauty of the City in the Sun. After our ride, we would always end up in the CBD, where he would buy us ice cream in this very old but classic ice cream store on Koinange Street that still stands today.

There is one particular day that I remember vividly. As we were passing Uhuru Park and coming into town from Kenyatta Avenue, we passed a motorcade surrounded by political supporters chanting, “Rainbow! Rainbow! Rainbow!”

I always sat at the back as my younger brother sat in the front seat with my father. I remember being fascinated to see a woman standing in the sun roof of a moving Prado.It was Charity Ngilu with her fist held high! Chanting those very words. Then I saw my father roll down his window and join in, “Rainbow! Rainbow!” As he drove past the motorcade, some men ran to his window to shake his hand.

A sense of brotherhood existed among strangers.I was not yet of voting age, but I remember wishing I was. That year, Kenya was officially the most optimistic country in the world. People had taken charge of their lives.Like I said, I was too young to vote, but I remember wishing that I was! It was a time when we as a people all collectively knew what was best for the country.

Ordinary citizens wanted to get rid of the vice called corruption and for the country to make progress.President Mwai Kibaki was voted in on the explicit promise that he would get rid of corruption. During Kibaki’s inauguration, he announced the Public Officer Ethics Act, which required government employees to declare their wealth, to deter them from stealing public funds.

The Act applied to all civil servants, all 660,000 of them. Tanzania and Uganda only required key positions to fill the declarations. Kenya made it compulsory for all civil servants including their spouses and children.

Family affairs

This made sense; looking at the current scandals, the first business partners in any quick money venture are close relatives. However, the fact that this information was not computerised and further had to be kept for 30 years, meant that storage space quickly became a problem.

In May 2007, the United Nations awarded Kenya its annual Public Service Award “for improving transparency, accountability and responsiveness in the public sector.” Although the Kibaki administration received awards, including from the World Bank, the Act failed to offer any guidance on what action should be taken if wrongdoing emerged. Not a single public officer was prosecuted during President Kibaki’s time.

Fast forward to 16 years later. I have witnessed three other elections and the rhetoric has remained the same; corruption not only continues to prevail but appears to be on the rise due to devolution.The annual reports by the Auditor General appear more daunting with every passing year. President Uhuru Kenyatta, surprise, surprise, recently announced that civil servants will have to declare their wealth.

The question is, what are the repercussions for those who do not declare their wealth? What about those in whose cases discrepancies are found?

What legal actions will be taken against them? What other systems have been put in place for better tracking and record keeping? As of now, we appear to be reading from the same script but with a different cast.

Kenya’s workers walk to work, MPs pocket best salaries by Nerima Wako

You can also read the original article posted on East African Standard – Kenya’s workers walk to work, MPs pocket best salaries.

After every election year, as surely as the night follows the day, Kenyan Members of Parliament use the House’s opening session to increase their salaries.Taking a closer look at the East African region, Kenya comes first when it comes to MPs’ pay, Uganda second and then Tanzania and Rwanda. There is no doubt that Kenyan legislators are among the best paid in the world.

In 2013, a study conducted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union compared the salaries of different parliaments around the world. It noted that, from 2008, there was a not unexpected decline in these salaries due to the global economic crisis.Given ever-rising populations, governments will have to find ways of saving resources in order to sustain their people.However, common sense is not so common these days. Considering that legislators in Kenya earn more than any other East African country, is this in correlation to our population?

Both Kenya and Uganda have over 400 legislators but are smaller in population size compared with Tanzania. Tanzania has a population of 59 million, Uganda 44 million and Kenya 50 million. In Uganda, the total number of legislators is 432, Kenya has 416 and Tanzania 357.Examining other countries in Africa, the same imbalance emerges. South Africa, which has a population of 57 million and Nigeria with 195 million, have 490 and 469 legislators each. The GDP in South Africa and Nigeria is also higher. Once more, we seem to be overrepresented in our legislature.

Still, the bone of contention is the salaries that we pay MPs. On May 1, 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta made a Labour Day announcement increasing minimum wages by 18 per cent. On Labour Day 2018, President Kenyatta increased the wage again, by five per cent, and complaints were heard to the effect that the previous 18 per cent had not been implemented.What does that mean to the average worker? For instance in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa, Kenya’s three main cities, a worker earning a minimum wage of Ksh12,900 ($129) will earn Ksh620 ($6.20) more. That means that if they travel by matatu for 30 shillings one way, working five days a week, the addition to their salary can pay for transport for two weeks. That is, if you are lucky enough not to work Saturdays.

If your transport is 60 shillings per trip, then you have transport for one week. Thus the increment cannot even support a worker’s transport to their place of work. Mind you, MPs’ basic pay is in the range of Ksh600-700,000 ($6,000-$7,000).
Recently, as I was heading to the office, I took a moment to observe the number of people who walk to work. There is such a large number and it seems to be increasing by the day, because getting to work is so expensive.

Although the minimum wage has been set by the president, thousands of workers still receive pay below that amount, many receive below 50 per cent of the stipulated wage. When it comes to increasing salaries for the average worker, this offer is literally peanuts. Granted, salaries for people who work in public office are not always easy to determine.Although many elected officials claim to need high salaries because of the demands of their voters, the solution is not to increase their salaries to sustain handouts, but to find ways to alleviate poverty so that people are not dependent on handouts.

Many countries have come up with proposals to place caps on the differential between the highest earner and lowest earner so as to keep resources allocated for public wages reasonable.Listening to Members of Parliament talk about the difference between a house loan and a mortgage while they receive sitting allowances, vehicles, medical insurance and other privileges that the taxpayer will have to pay for, it is clear their heads are in the clouds and they are out of touch with what the people they lead actually need.

MAY 2018 #SiasaWednesday SUMMARY:

Title of the topic: Social Media & Politics: Where are we as a country?
Tweet Chat Summary For: May 2nd 2018
In today’s world, news and information are critical components of everyday life. With change in dynamics, various avenues of connecting with friends, sharing news and information, and real time connection has led to many people especially the youth, embrace social media to serve their various needs. Digital space has given many Kenyans a voice that was otherwise a monopoly of mainstream media. It gives platform demanding for transparency and accountability when it comes to political offices. Social media has straightened voices.

Social media will continue to be used as a tool for driving future changes in society as an avenue of enabling people express themselves. Measures must be put in place to curb the spread of fake news. Citizens must come together and shrinking civic spaces must be kept alive. Technology has the capacity to amplify the voices of citizens and greatly improve oversight. Government should instead embrace social media as a feedback platform for better service delivery and accountability.

Title of the topic: Disaster management: Where are we as a country?
Tweet Chat Summary For: May 16th 2018

Disasters are majorly unpredictable occurrences that have serious negative consequences on the lives of the people. It is for this reason that as a society, we need to be fully and adequately prepared to initiate intervention mechanisms whenever faced with any kind of disaster to avert casualties, disruption of social order and to save lives and property. Disasters disrupt the functioning of society causing widespread human, material, economic and environmental loses which exceed the ability of the affected society to cope with using its own resources. Examples include drought, floods, fires and earthquakes.

All stakeholders in society must come together to form multi-agency rapid response units for interventions and rapid response. Government should involve and support stakeholders that deal with matters of humanity and disaster management to help mitigate emergencies. Both National and County governments should follow best international practice in handling disasters whenever they strike i.e. Preparedness, Reaction, Recovery and Prevention. Political goodwill and commitment is key to the implementation of the National Disaster Policy.

Title of the topic: What is the impact of public theft without consequences?
Tweet Chat Summary For: May 23rd 2018

Corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. Anyone exercising power given to them by others, if they abuse it for personal benefit they are corrupt. It results to very serious consequences that impede the overall well-being and order of any society/state. It impedes development and service delivery meant for public good. The AKU’s East African Institute youth study 2016 found that 21-58% of youth believe it doesn’t matter how one makes money so long as you don’t get caught; 30-58% admired those who made money in any way; 8-45% believed corruption was profitable. The problem today is too many points of theft with no accountability. Also cultural tolerance seems to have gone up, sadly watering down tenets of Chapter Six of our constitution.

Theft without consequences – impunity – causes an erosion of confidence in public institutions, leaders and the law. Ultimately this destabilizes the politics and causes dislocations in society that manifest in a myriad of ways. There is need to make it hard to steal and get away with it. If institutions fail to hold those who steal to account, publicly ostracizing them should be the norm. Parents should live upright and honest lives while moulding the lives of the young ones. If they are busy stealing from the government the apple will not fall far from the tree. We need to look critically at corruption as theft. We never celebrate those who steal from our houses. Why do we celebrate those who still from our pockets indirectly?

Research shows that between 2013-17 Kenya lost US$3.5billion as a result of theft by the Jubilee regime. This is economic delinquency on a grand scale. It is more than mere theft. Deterrence value of convictions and asset recovery is at the core of success against graft. Whistleblowers are essential in fighting crime. They must be protected if we are to succeed. Remember most whistleblowers are public spirited civil servants. As citizens we have what it takes to make sure our leaders are accountable. Also make institutions deliver. Let’s use the power. Sovereign power belongs to us

Title of the topic: Are social movements able to offer solutions to matters affecting the nation?

Tweet Chat Summary For: May 30th 2018

Social movements play vital roles in educating, informing and empowering communities. Through social movements, many communities especially in developing economies have realized serious changes in approaches to the challenges they face, while coming up with sustainable solutions modeled for long and short terms. Social movements have played a leading role in bringing about change in Kenya. All major social and political changes that have happened in Kenya have been birthed through social movements. From the Mau Mau movement in 1960s to the 2010 constitution. Social movements come in two fold, both negative and positive. Positive in the sense that the oppressive nature of the status quo has created interest in social movements as an alternative and a viable option to bring about fundamental change. Negatively in the sense that by keeping the majority of Kenyans from taking it upon themselves to bring about change. They have perpetuated the notion that the problems we have as a country were meant to be and no one can do anything about it.

Social movements can be a great vehicle to rally the people into taking on corruption in government rather than waiting on your favorite politician to do it. Through training and practice, we are not reinventing the wheel but building on best practices that others have used with great success. Most important is that it will spread its basic theory that change only happen when the people themselves participate in bringing about the change they desire. There is no other being coming to bring about change in Kenya, it’s the people to do it.

Building bridges without the youth, what kind of bridges are those? by Nerima Wako-Ojiwa @NerimaW

Image courtesy of Frits Ahlefeldt
If one compares the political participation of youth in East Africa, then Kenya leads in having the most youth aged representatives in public office – between 18 and 34 years old. Considering that last election dragged on and on for an extra 3 months due to exceptional circumstances, public rallies were still filled to capacity with engaged young people.

However, according to the Next Generation Kenya 2018 Survey conducted by the British Council; 78% of young Tanzanians said that youth participation in politics and decision making was high, compared with only 38% of young Kenyans. The big difference refers to the decision making rather than the participation part. Without doubt young Kenyans are very interested in political issues and most discuss politics daily. We know that decisions being made affect us greatly however, the problem is that our interest is greater than our involvement.

And that is not by choice but by design. Youth are seen as ceremonial, they are seen as foot soldiers, those to be ordered around to fill spaces only to be seen and not heard. We are treated like children not adults. When it comes to those who most feel powerless, it is women, people with disabilities and the youth from lower social economic groups who are most marginalized. In short what I mean is poor people are vulnerable and because of this vulnerability they’re invisible.

After the handshake, the hugs and the forgiving of each other how will these diverse groups of young and marginalized people be represented? When the ‘Building Bridges’ 14-member team was announced, there was uproar from our young people as to how they were not represented as part of the team. Some analysts – usually male and old – predictably took to Twitter stating clearly that young people have nothing to do with reconciliation because “youth do not understand the historical context of the rift and cannot be part of the steering committee to build the nation towards cohesion.

Youth simply do not understand the issues.” Is this really a good reason? Is this really true? Are we Building Bridges to the past or the future? Who will live to see the consequences of the decisions made for the longest – the old men or the youth? Working as I do for a youth focused NGO I have had hundreds of discussions with the young people of this country – from many parts of this country and it is clear that most young people feel ignored and marginalized from the decisions that most affect them.

The reasons they give are based on local culture, on the way the system works and on instances of actual marginalization. There is an Ibo saying, “What an elder can see while sitting down, a youth cannot see standing up” Basically meaning that the lack of experience automatically excludes youth and in our case in Kenya the assumed lack of experience.

Elders due to their experience are to be respected and involved in all decisions and so in many instances forcing young people to conform to tradition and say nothing and contribute nothing. Basically an elder is to be listened to at all times while the youth can wait their turn. I have been in conversations with youth who are waiting to turn 35 in order to speak up on community issues. So just like the African proverb, critical initiatives such as ‘Building Bridges’ are adult things.

They are not for the Youth who have no place discussing such heavy national matters that will determine the future and our national peace, unity or growth. But how can the youth be blamed for not having experience? How do they get that experience unless they are intentionally included to sit at the table and listen and learn? It might be that they do not understand everything – but who does? Part of the problem is that youth are not properly educated on correct history to begin with.

Much of it is hidden in our murky and not so glorious past. We are given a sanitized version at school and university and have to go digging to get the truth of the injustices that have gone on for generations. But we know enough. We know things could and should be better. We know our elders have not always done well and have not put the country first. We know this present anger at corruption is not the first time it has happened.

We might not know all the gory details but we know of Goldenberg, Anglo Leasing, land grabbing, the oathing, the litany of unresolved murders, the massacres and the tortures. We are not asking for the ‘Building Bridges’ team to be filled with youth but we are saying we must be there. Let us have a voice and a contribution. Listen to our hopes and dreams and expectations. Listen to our angst and fears and challenges. Listen to our suggestions and ideas and proposals. Let us reason together. Let us feel part of the future being decided for us. Let us change how we think, talk and engage about Kenya.

To include us is not only right it is sense. They already know how to be friends without the media being present to capture the hugs and smiles and tendering of apologies. There seems to be a disconnect of logic. How can the majority of the population be sidelined from an initiative that is supposed to benefit the very population being marginalized? Who exactly will drive the initiative forward once the wazee have decided?

We hear mantras endlessly recited about investing in our youth, yet, when opportunities come where youth should be involved we are tossed to the sideline. It is patronizing, unacceptable and unconstitutional. If the ‘Building Bridges’ team were actually to physically build a bridge you can bet your last shilling that the youth would be called upon to do the heavy lifting that is of course if the money for the actual bridge isn’t stolen. To exclude them from the design of the bridge – and determine the strength and length and width and the materials used – is nonsensical.

Most young people in the Next Generation study between the ages of 15-24 agreed that tribalism was encouraged by their parents. The Report also highlighted that knowledge of youth initiatives in regions furthest away from Nairobi were less well known. The building bridges initiative cannot be Nairobi based or elitist or ageist and the involvement of the youth is not only necessary but essential if it is to work. It must be designed and owned by including young people otherwise this bridge will collapse.

Nerima Wako-Ojiwa

Cyber laws should protect from hate speech, not silence us by Nerima Wako

Please read the original article posted on East African Standard by Nerima Wako posted on June 20th 2018. Cyber laws should protect from hate speech, not silence us

The restrictive cyber laws that we see being passed across the region are limiting opportunities. In most countries in East Africa, the majority of the population is below the age of 20.

This means that we are raising a new generation, often called Generation Z or Gen Z, made up of young people born in the late 1990s and early 2000s.We have to recognise that though there are similarities between Millennials (the generation before Gen Z), there are also differences.Research shows that Millennials were born in an era where the smartphone was being explored.Most of them can actively engage two devices while Generation Z can access up to five devices at a time on completely different platforms.

Millennials are good at sharing content; they often retweet, or share information that they agree with: Hence the rapid growth of Facebook when it was launched in 2004.However, Generation Z are more inclined to create content. They believe that they are the centre of their lives and marketing agencies have recognised this, which is why most advertisements have people that the audience can relate to – consumers would rather see a relatable face than a celebrity.

That is also why we witness platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat growing at exponential speed while Facebook use is on the decline, since more users now prefer to upload their own stories.For a generation that creates online, restrictive legislation will become a barrier to creativity, innovation and opportunity in the country.For instance, Uganda has put in place a tax on social media platforms. Not only are these groups convenient for sharing information, they also provide a means for youth to organise themselves.Many young people are able to host meetings in WhatsApp with not just other youth in their community but also across countries. It is affordable to the point where several prefer to use WhatsApp to call peers rather than calling through a phone line. It is cheaper!

In Kenya, the Cyber Crimes Bill 2018 introduces a punitive penalty on those those who spread fake news on social media. During the election period in 2017, there was in fact a great deal of fake news circulating on social media. Additionally, most youth receive their information from social media and not trusted news sources. Research shows that up to 60 per cent of Kenyan citizens had consumed fake news last year. The rapid rise of hate speech during electoral periods led directly to this attempt to muzzle social media users. Anyone found guilty of spreading hate speech, fake news and pornographic materials will be liable to a two-year jail term or a fine of Ksh5 million ($50,000).

However, many human-rights activists worry that there no clear-cut definitions of what constitutes freedom of speech. How can information be verified, for instance, if it comes from a journalist who is professionally bound not to expose his or her sources? How do you balance your right to freedom of speech and accusations of spreading hate speech?

Recently, Tanzania also put regulations on social media users such as bloggers to register their entities and pay a fee as high as $900 to do so. A popular online platform, Jamii Forums, was recently shut down because it was judged not to be compliant with the new regulations. Cyber laws can, of course, help to protect citizens from cyber bullying, terrorism and cyber-crime. However, young people depend on the internet now more than any previous generation.

Technology is one sector that has created employment and so, even as we continue to rely on it for communication, it is an avenue for opportunities as well. Although regulations are needed for online usage, placing high fees on these very platforms will reduce access to young people due to lack of affordability. These spaces should be fairly priced in order to create a conducive environment for young people to grasp and create opportunities. With many youth having access to technology, more opportunities will be built online. However, without allowing this space to be reachable to young people it will cause them to deter from these spaces.

KAIP Trained Youth MCAs in Busia County shining in Leadership and Governance By Patrick Wabwire & Charles Kithinji

In the past decades Kenyan politics have been dominated by men and few Youth and women could be seen actively involved in this crucial sector. This environment provided opportunities for several actors to push for the inclusion of youth and women in the politics in an attempt to increase voice for each population sector. The efforts were further strengthened by the new Kenyan constitution 2010 which provided requirements for gender balance in all positions making sure no single gender exceeds two third of the total. Similarly, there is constant effort by various bodies to advocate for youth inclusion at national and county government elective and appointment positions to amplify youth voice in decision making.

Siasa Place is among the civil societies in Kenya running interventions focused towards youth empowerment through capacity building in leadership and governance to enhance accountability at county level. Additionally, Siasa Place is implementing a one-year program in Busia County, which commenced on August 2018 under the DFID/DAI-funded KAIP program on accountable service delivery. One of the key areas the project is focusing on is to enhancing the capacity of youth legislators at county level to ensure improved responsiveness of youth MCAs to constituents and increased oversight on the CIDP and the annual budget process.

Immediately after the 2017 general election, Nancy Okademi was lucky to be nominated as the women member of Busia county assembly. “After nomination I realized have task of representing women and youth voice in Busia County”, Nancy narrated during interview. She noted that in initial stages there was no structure within the entire county for the youth and legislators to engage constructively in addressing various issues affecting young people.” When I joined assembly members had fear to engage youth because they were antagonistic and hostile” Nancy stated.

The youth legislator had an opportunity to attend the Siasa Place Youth MCA training in Naivasha from 28th to 30th March 2019 where the youth MCAs were equipped with the knowledge and skills to enhance oversight on the CIDP and the annual budget process and establish or enhance youth caucuses to represent the need and demand of their constituents.” “Through the Siasa Place training I was able to learn oversight roles of MCA and interact with some members of Busia youth steering committee which has made it easy and simple to engage youth using such already established structure” said Nancy.

As a result of the training and engagement with youth from various constituencies within Busia County she was able to develop and sponsor two motions; County youth service bill and Access to information” Establishment of big digital screen for information sharing” .She explained that the ideas to develop these important motions was fueled by youth ideas and thoughts after interacting with them through Siasa place platforms and as such the aim was to ensure every need of Busia county residents is addressed via establishing the appropriate policies”

Additionally, the youth legislators have never been left behind in fighting for youth involvement in county affairs. During the interview she revealed how she has been actively involved in analyzing and interrogating the county fiscal strategy paper for the financial year 2019/2020 to guarantee youth inclusion. She also stated that one of the issues she was able to lobby for in the estimates for the above financial year includes allocation for the youth empowerment centers worthy five million Kenya shillings.

Nancy sees the need to keep youth on their toes through constant engagement and communication with the county law makers. “If youth continues with the same trend of constantly engaging duty bears and more specifically members of county assembly, more youth friendly policies will be constituted within Busia County and I thank Siasa Place for playing a key role in linking the youth and MCAs” said Nancy.

Through establishing a good communication and engagement structure between youth and young members of county assembly there has been a deliberate effort to form new policies aimed at addressing youth concerns because both parties can now lobby and advocate for positive change. In addition, youth legislators are actively pushing for youth inclusion in county budget allocations since they have now established good working relations with youth leaders which enables them engage in a structured manner.