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.