Thursday, December 5, 2013

Making Our Votes Accountable

Participants at the Elected Leaders Forum
Every time after every election year in Kenya, citizens have always had a growing desire for public participation on social, economic and political development for their areas of residence. For a long time it has been argued that for any genuine and sustainable development to be realized, people’s involvement especially at the local level is an important aspect that cannot be ignored. In Kibera's case, this fundamental theory and practice has not been the case. Therefore until today, Kibera is one of the poorest and most unstable societies. This is evidenced by the lack of enough infrastructural and economic development witnessed in the slums. Poverty, inequality and social exclusion are deeply-rooted structural and historical issues in Kibera.

However, members of Kibera, mostly youth, have come to the realisation that even though democracy dictates that the people are sovereign, through elections, people elect representatives to take forward their concerns, but in doing so they do not, in theory, relinquish any sovereignty. This therefore means that political power and decision-making are still vested with the citizens of a country. Therefore, in electing politicians, residents enable others to make decisions on their behalf, but in so doing do not relinquish any of their power. The elected individuals are therefore needed to consult and work closely with the electorate to find ways of working together for sustainable development.
ODM Party Kibra and Langata Constituencies  Chairman Ochieng Jera, President of Yes Youth Can, Dalton Wycliffe and Sarangombe Member of County Assembly Owino Kotieno at the Forum

The Action Inter-Ethnic Youth Dialogue and Peaceful Reconciliation project identifies and respects the needs of the residents of Kibera who elected their leaders in the March 2013 elections. Before the elections, the Kibera residents were offered a platform with the Action to first vet the aspiring Members of the County Assemblies in a public debate for aspiring candidates. This was then followed by a debate for the nominated candidates where each candidate did offer his blue print for the elections with inputs and questions from the residents. After the elections, the Kibera populace still demanded the possibility of engaging the leaders so as to determine the development priorities for the residents.

In the event that was scheduled on 30th November 2013 at the Hotel Harlequins, the Kibera residents had the opportunity to reach out again to the leaders and re-examine the leaders’ contract with the people.  In the event, the leaders and the residents agreed that there were numerous promises made during the campaign that cannot be achieved immediately. However, there was a general agreement that the communities living in Kibera can still work towards desirable unity and peacefully co-exist in a bid to realise meaningful development. The Kibera individual is more interested in accessing their leaders, getting their children in school and getting meaningful engagement for the youth.
Chief Mutai of Sarangombe with members of The Action

Several alternatives available for the youth were explored. The youth can access the Youth Enterprise Development Fund as well as the Uwezo Fund that is yet to be rolled down. However, for these funds to be managed well by the youth, they need entrepreneurial skills that the many civic organisations working in Kibera can be engaged to offer. The youth also need to be creative and more development oriented. Youth also agreed that it is time they use their leaders as linkages towards development initiatives. This also called for more forums where the residents and the leaders can be taken to account on the use of devolved funds and development initiatives that can be started together to help the youth and the society at large.

Story written by:
Ramogi Osewe
PMC Member

This Project is supported by The European Union

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