Where are genuine leaders ready to voice real issues affecting Kenyans?

A protestor shouts during Azimio la Umoja demonstrations at Mukuru kwa Njenga in Nairobi on March 30, 2023. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

In the last few weeks, we have listened to discussions and arguments for and against the Finance Bill, 2023, which have been instructive about how our politicians behave, relate to each other and to voters.

In a democracy, the citizen's voice must be listened to by their elected representatives. The Constitution in its first Article declares the sovereignty of the people stating that all sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and shall be exercised in accordance with the Constitution.

It further states that people may exercise their sovereign power directly or through their democratically elected representatives. This power is delegated to Parliament, County Assemblies, National and County Executives, the Judiciary, and independent tribunals only and must be exercised in accordance with the Constitution.

The Constitution also requires that in the exercise of the sovereign power of the people, these state organs must ensure voices of the people are not muffled. The Constitution also provides avenues for people to work with their representatives directly through public participation.

This must be genuine, meaningful and accountable. Parliament and county assembly representatives keep on saying Kenya is a democracy that respects rule of law and that they respect the views and opinions of their people. Yet, their actions appear to communicate the opposite. Kenyanas have pronounced themselves through various groups and representatives on the Finance Bill, 2023, and expect their representatives in Parliament to honour their views and safeguard their interests. There are those that support or oppose the Bill in totality, and those who support some clauses and propose amendments to or deletion of some clauses.

Yet, for the ruling and the opposition coalitions there appears to be no middle ground, it is either all or nothing. While there are many contentious issues in the proposed Bill, the 3 per cent housing levy to be imposed on the employer and the employee, seems the most contentious making consensus difficult.

The conduct of some leaders from government and opposition has been most inflexible with either side appearing to dig in their heels on their positions. Many Kenyans have called on both sides to listen and find a middle ground. However, if it becomes apparent that majority of citizens oppose this housing levy, then it really should not be forced on Kenyans in the name of altruism.

The conduct of our politicians is characterised by classic reasons why leaders fail their followers and supporters. Failing leaders manifest hubris, selfishness and inflexibility, leaders incapable of adapting to changing times, and who appear not to be directing people forward but instead, are too reactive and defensive, threatening anyone who doesn't agree with them.

When we analyse their behaviour, we see leaders too controlling and micromanaging everything leaving their troops lost as to what they want and inviting unnecessary competition and infighting. The level of chest thumping and lack of humility are proving huge hurdles to consensus building and national unity because of the blinding political lens through which they see national affairs.

Politics is not only our leaders' priority but has taken centre stage as they refuse to accept divergent views and criticisms with grace, to secure better outcomes. The voters keep on appealing to politicians especially those with the most responsibility to protect to soften their hearts and listen.

Kenyans are desperately in need of genuinely accountable leadership that cares about what happens to them. As members of the Finance Parliamentary Committee prepare their report in Naivasha, Kenyans expect them to take into consideration their views and opinions, and find a win-win solution for all of us.

Also, we need to ensure those who criticise or critique the government's positions are not profiled, ostracised, or intimidated

Our elected leaders' conduct is increasingly coming into disrepute because of the language and tone they are using to address each other in international and national media and the violence and intimidation they are subjecting each other.