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

DENTS THAT AIL PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN NAIROBI By Ken Ogembo


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