Strengthen democracy, promote integrity post elections

Published first in the Sunday Standard, August 13, 2017

I stress, at the risk of boring you, this is yet another provisional opinion. Having braved a day of floods, polling station delays and long queues and four days of tense tallying, our six level elections are now over. If the elections filled you with anxiety, the post-election period should be even more worrying. It is about now that 99% of the country goes back to sleep. Having been whipped into a frenzy of political events, most citizens and the 12,000 aspirants who didn’t get elected will quietly slip into a state of deep unconsciousness for the next five years. We can call this, Post Elections Sleep Syndrome (PESS).

Disappointment, demonstrations and legal petitions will continue to dominate the thoughts and actions of those who feel aggrieved. Political analysis and electoral campaign reviews will preoccupy the academics and campaign strategists. For the rest of us, we must now turn our attention to how we can practically strengthen our democracy, promote the integrity of our public offices and create an inclusive society and economy that works for all, not just the 1%. To not do this, is to intentionally sabotage all we have gone through.

President elect Uhuru Kenyatta and the Jubilee Party will govern nationally and in 29 counties. They will have a majority in both houses of the 12th Parliament. NASA, the smaller parties and the Independents have to devise ways of working together to create an effective opposition. Together, we must hold all the winners accountable to the policy priorities of their campaigns and how they will directly address corruption, high living costs and social and economic rights.

Barring lengthy disputes and petitions, Assumption of Offices laws and procedures for the President and the Governors determine that they shall be sworn into office within fourteen and ten days respectively from Friday 12th August. We must resist the natural impulse to celebrate or regret only in this interim period. Under the same procedures and the Access to Information Act (2016), citizens can request information on the public assets, liabilities, financial accounts and corporations being handed over to the incoming administration. Incoming leaders could consult publicly on the focus of their leaders’ inaugural speeches and actions they must take in their first 100 days. By doing this, citizens will maintain the high degree of public participation seen at and after the ballot box.

Voters in Kitui, Kirinyaga and Bomet have led the country in electing women as Governors. The three elected women Senators and 22 Members of Parliament combined with 47 women representatives provides us with record numbers of women in oversight positions. While we have reason to celebrate their success and even as we wait for a final breakdown of the gender, age and disability of the elected members, we are not going to meet the constitutional two thirds threshold. Political parties must now identify and nominate competent women, youth and persons of disabilities to meet the principle of inclusion and diversity.

This election revealed our fault-lines as a divided nation once more. Without a pro-active strategy for national cohesion, these divisions will persist long after the horrific violence in places like Kondele and Mathare. Dusting off and implementing community policing reforms, Devolution Ministry public participation guidelines and investing in community leadership training for accountability and governance offer quick wins for us all. As Samar Al-Kindy wisely notes, the cost of the most expensive peace is by far cheaper than the cheapest of wars.

The new 25 Governors face the same challenges and temptations of those returning for a second term. Several county corruption risk assessments completed by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission identify personnel recruitment, procurement, poor programme design and the lack of transparency and public participation as corruption hotspots. Without a clear public demand for new systems of accountability, we may find ourselves again saying, “same crap and toilet, different flies”.

Post Elections Sleep Syndrome (PESS) is a rather common illness that damages the production and functioning of our civic blood cells. It is caused by the trauma of seeing leaders neglect to provide quality services, repeatedly abuse their offices and public resources being wasted in broad daylight. There is only one vaccine. Citizens must remain engaged in the public interest and leaders need to keep their doors and ears open.

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