We must prepare to stand up for our rights, demand accountability

Citizens need to demand government accountability and, their rights. [iStockphoto]

On May 3, we marked the 30th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day.

This day is set aside as an opportunity to focus on the state of independent journalism, principles of press freedom, and the role of journalists in informing and educating citizens, exposing injustices, wrongdoing and encouraging public participation and engagement to ensure accountability of public officers, all of which are essential for democracy to thrive and to protect people's fundamental rights.

Journalists from various media houses took to a few counties to educate and inform the public about the day and their role in society. In the evening most television stations featured discussions about press freedom and the relevance and importance of media in the age of the dark internet, fake news, and misinformation.

It is true that media and civil society spaces are shrinking. Ironically, this is when we have one of the most progressive constitutions of our time. In the 1980s and 1990s up to 2010, when our Constitution was promulgated, the media, civil society, and faith-based organisations led the struggle for the restoration of multi-partyism, a new Constitution, protection of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

The political playing field was very restricted and unlevel, in fact, Kenya was a de jure one-party State from 1982 to 1992 having been a de facto one-party State since 1969. The Independence Constitution and the laws from it did not sufficiently safeguard human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and good governance. The Judiciary and Legislature were fully under the control of the Executive. The President appointed almost all State Officers, ambassadors, judges, commissioners, senior security officers, and other senior public officers and before 1992, appointed all nominated Members of Parliament.

The media, faith-based organisations, and civil society organisations, were organised under operational umbrellas that facilitated the coordination of activities and pursuit of common objectives that eventually resulted in our progressive Constitution in 2010 and the institutions it created, which now have the requisite capacities to provide checks and balances on the three arms of the government - Executive, Judiciary, and Parliament. Yet, we do not seem to have the corresponding goodwill from the government, the opposition, and even the citizens for compliance, implementation, and enforcement. We prefer to politic, chest thump, and complain.

We have developed a dependence culture and feel unabashedly entitled without putting in the work. We have also developed a culture of impunity because bad and criminal behaviours go unpunished. We seem to gleefully celebrate the misfortune of others and blame others instead of taking responsibility for our actions.

There is so much negative ethnicity, parochialism, sectarianism, and hate. People who should know better are unapologetically divisive and exclusive. We have become a country where patriotism, morals, national values, and principles matter only when it is about someone else and not ourselves. Lack of unity and inclusion of all Kenyans in the economy, social and political life, and management of public affairs, undermine our efforts at national cohesion and integration and sabotage the Constitution. Corruption, nepotism, greed, injustice, insensitivity, and grandiosity stand in the way of sustainable development and economic recovery. So long as we refuse to do the right things, we cannot progress.

Citizens need to demand government accountability and, their rights. The media and civil society need to reclaim their spaces and voices, urgently. It appears like our Constitution, legal framework and institutional frameworks are not sufficient; we must hold the duty bearers to account and insist on implementation and enforcement. We must be unbowed and unafraid and must concern ourselves with Kenya and her interests. We cannot leave the government and the opposition to fight for our rights.

They are only interested in their political interests and survival. If history repeats itself and the opposition begins to "cooperate" with the government, they will forget our interests and focus on theirs. There are no guarantees that they are genuinely interested in citizens, who may be the means through which they achieve their political objectives and goals. We must put Kenya first and be prepared to stand up for our rights and demand accountability.

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