Bunge la mwananchi: Case of idle crowds?

Bunge la mwananchi in session near the Mama Ngina-Wabera Street intersection in the city. It takes place every afternoon and is open to all. [Photo: Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

Every Monday to Friday evening, a crowd mills around the empty square in front of Kenya National Archives. Up the street, along Moi Avenue, others gather at Jeevanjee Gardens. But the most conspicuous of all is the group at the intersection of Mama Ngina and Wabera streets.

Men from all walks of life gather in these public spaces "to share," according to Boniface Njurumba.

Those heading home stare with concern. Don't these men have better things to do? some onlookers ask themselves. The crowd is amorphous - constantly changing in shape and size.

We find a gung-ho Mr Njurumba in the middle of a monologue; he stands in the centre of the keenly listening crowd. He is a fervent opinion maker at these meetings.

"As a citizen of this country, you have a right to demand that your leaders are accountable and deliver that which they promised," he says.

Once in a while, someone will ask a question. Njurumba, wearing a suit and a tie, answers each one, challenging his audience to be more discerning.

Accountable leadership

"You cannot be tribalistic," he tells one man who asks something about tribalism.

"When you are hungry, no politician shows up to feed you. And when you are sick it is other citizens – some from the tribe you don't want to vote for – that will come to your rescue."

But why meet on the streets?

"This is bunge la wazalendo, part of bunge la wananchi," he says. "We meet here every evening to talk to each other as Kenyans and find out how we can keep our leaders accountable."

Njurumba says any Kenyan citizen is allowed to participate in the street discussions.

"We believe every Kenyan who feels they can join the discussion is at liberty to do so."

A few feet from Njurumba, Robert Kiberenge, another vocal member of this informal gathering, is explaining to another audience how finances flow in Government.

In his speech, he tackles corruption - enumerating in detail the amount of money siphoned from public coffers.

"Our hospitals would be fully equipped if the money were put to good use," he says. "Instead it is lost to corruption."

A head count shows today's attendance is well past 200 people. Many of the men present, Kiberenge says, are jobless "and don't even have fare to go home".

But some have jobs.

Robert Okemwa is a court clerk. When he leaves work at 5pm, he walks to the junction to join the discussions.

"Just because I have a job does not mean I should be content with the way our leaders are running the country. I come here to listen and share in Kenyans' frustrations," says Mr Okemwa.