AU’s peer review will boost governance

Sometimes, it takes a friend to point out one’s weaknesses. In fact, this is the most genuine criticism you will ever get; criticism meant not to ridicule but build. 

This is the underlying principle in the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), initiated in 2002 and established in 2003 by the African Union in the framework of the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

While it was originally championed by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, and other pan-African leaders, it has largely been left by the wayside in recent years.

Sadly, some of the leaders peeling off democratic gains the continent has made in the last couple of years are afraid to open themselves to scrutiny.  

But those with nothing to hide appreciate that APRM was not only meant to lay bare challenges, but more importantly, to help strengthen structures and policies for improved service delivery. Ultimately, it is the taxpayer, the mwananchi, who reaps by way of improved livelihoods.

For this reason, Kenyans’ determination to score another first in APRM is admirable. Lest we forget, Kenya was first peer reviewed in 2006 and was the first to undergo a second review in March 2017.

One of the milestones mentioned in the second review included the promulgation of the Constitution in 2010 and the establishment of the devolved system of government, which has progressively resolved issues of perceived marginalisation.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta has called for the APRM structure to be used for the second tier of governance. Not only will Kenya become the first nation in Africa to apply such an important oversight and transparency mechanism at the county or regional level, it has given the APRM system a badly needed boost.

Kenya has demonstrated that it is committed to a more open and democratic future. Moreover, the President is sending a message to other Africans that it is possible for our continent to do its own oversight and not allow so-called “donor countries” to constantly grade their democracies or societies.

The APRM is a purely African model that sent a message to the outside world that Africa can oversee its own processes and aid and assistance wasn’t necessarily required from afar.

The message is that African challenges can be dealt with at home and in-house. By championing the APRM system, Kenya is blazing the trail in the continent’s leadership on matters accountability. 

And to make this a reality, the county governments’ leadership should take the cue from the President.

This will of course ensure greater service delivery, but it will also boost a vital commodity that is the trust of the people.

Trust and hope are two words rarely heard in many parts of the African continent in recent years. However, if we are going to turn this around, we must ensure that the models for continent-wide problems are dealt with by Africans for Africans.

We must also ensure that measures like APRM’s are not written off and become a thing of the past, but resurrected as extremely useful tools towards greater development and progress.

- The writer is an ICT specialist and comments on socio-political matters.

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