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Shadow cabinet can check our democracy

By Maoka Maore | December 28th 2019 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Former Ntonyiri MP Maoka Maore displaying used bullets discovered at Nginyu village in Igembe North sub-county, Meru. [Darlington Manyara/Standard]

Demonstrations, riots and strikes are felling or trying to fell governments and authorities from South America to Asia.

There are political fires raging across the world as I write this. Demonstrations, riots and strikes are felling or trying to fell governments and authorities from South America to Asia.

The people feel unrepresented, their leaders unaccountable and there is no good governance. What fuels much of this anger is the feeling that people are not being listened to, so they take action for their grievances to be noticed.

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) was arguably unique in that a programme was launched to seek the people’s opinion, not because of pressure, but because of heightened leadership and responsibility. When President Uhuru Kenyatta reached out and shook hands with Opposition leader Raila Odinga it was paradigm-shattering. Again, there was no pressure, just good will.

The BBI task force then went on the road and spoke with thousands of wananchi in every corner of our nation to seek their views on how representation, accountability and governance can be improved. The result is a testament to people’s understanding of the issues, and political and social maturity.

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One area I would like to highlight that can become crucial is the concept of a Shadow Cabinet. Modeled on the Westminster system of government, a Shadow Cabinet is a crucial component towards greater scrutiny and oversight.

Many Kenyans follow the news, but how many really know what goes on in each and every ministry. We don’t know where and how every shilling is allocated and whether the correct policies are being utilised.

A Shadow CS has a critical role, to conduct forensic oversight on a particular CS and their ministry. They will be chosen because of their familiarity with the relevant issues, and will act as the people’s ombudsman. Even if their only role is to highlight issues for greater discussion this will serve an important role in ensuring that debate is held around certain issues. Public debate is vital in any democracy and the Shadow CS will provide alternatives and shove their magnifying glass over every contract or budget sheet and scream foul when necessary.

They will become the official spokesperson that the media will inevitably turn to when they seek an alternative comment on a particular issue they are responsible for shadowing.

This in turn will have a tremendous effect on each and every CS and even the civil servants who work in the ministries. They will know there is someone whose sole job is to run the rule over them, night and day.

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Clip his authority

We will now have two knowledgeable sides to every debate, which allows us to decide on a particular course of action. This will then have ramifications for these politicians at the ballot box in the following elections.

We will quite literally see democracy in action. Government and Opposition will do battle over the truth and the people will be the beneficiaries. This is just one such step BBI can propose.

It is brave of President Kenyatta to support such proposals because they will certainly clip his authority. The BBI has many detractors and it is hoped that each and every one of them will read the report in full and then decide whether to support or oppose it, based on whether it is good for the people and not whether it harms their political prospects.

As we see around the world, while Kenya might not be perfect, it is a far cry from the repression, authoritarianism and extremism engulfing parts of the world.

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Nevertheless, the report can be improved upon and we must grasp the opportunity to make our system more representative, accountable and governable.

The Shadow Cabinet idea raised in the BBI report is adding another set of eyes on government activity, and this with the ongoing war on corruption, will ensure that the people’s interests cannot be ignored.

We will see under every stone and behind every mirror, with the help of official oversight.

This will be a tremendously welcome improvement because it allows our vibrant democracy and political system to have its own checks and balances.

The writer is Igembe North MP

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Building Bridges Initiative President Uhuru

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