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Strengthen our democracy and promote integrity in public office

By Irungu Houghton | Published Sun, August 13th 2017 at 11:58, Updated August 13th 2017 at 12:00 GMT +3


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 per cent of the country goes back to sleep. Having been whipped into a frenzy of political events, most citizens and the 12,000 unsuccessful aspirants 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 public office and create an inclusive society and economy that works for all, not just the one per cent. 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 13th 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 address corruption, the high cost of living 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 will be sworn into office within 14 and 10 days respectively from Friday 12 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 public participation seen at and after the ballot.

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 woman representatives provides us with record numbers of women in oversight positions. However we are not going to meet the constitutional two thirds threshold. Political parties must now 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 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”.

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.

- Mr Houghton writes in a personal capacity. @irunguhoughton

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