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Civil society should shape 2022 agenda

By Elias Mokua | January 27th 2021 at 11:11:45 GMT +0300

President Uhuru Kenyatta (C) flanked by Deputy President William Ruto (L) and ODM leader Raila Odinga. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Besides the highly politicised Building Bridges Initiative, the marathon to the 2022 General Election is fast picking momentum. But, pray, what is the campaign agenda?

There is no clear issue-based agenda driving this campaign other than pitting one group against another. We are also witnessing a lot of personality attacks.

The civil society is a very critical non-State actor for the development of any society that cares for the voice of the people in setting a public agenda. It is not an enemy of the State, much as it is often treated so. Any country that is truly respectful to its democratic processes will find in the civil society alternative views for proper and in-depth national discourse.

As we cruise towards the 2022 political duel, I propose that the civil society preoccupies itself with, among other things, the following agenda. First, it should seek to influence an issue-based political campaign.

In 2017, Jesuit Hakimani Centre conducted a nationwide study on the issues that were driving the 2017 General Election. Arguable, and as demonstrated here, the findings of the time will not be very different if a similar survey were to be conducted today. 

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The research revealed that 88.3 per cent of Kenyans see no connection between elections and issues.

This position was strengthened by the finding that only 9.7 per cent of those interviewed held the view that political party manifestos and candidates’ development blueprints are relevant regarding issue-based elections.

Party manifestos

This demonstrates that the issue correlation between the electorate and the political party institutions is weak. Besides, only 22.9 per cent of the respondents agreed that working with politicians to promote people-driven agenda is possible in and through a general election.

Can the electorate use political party manifestos and development blueprints to gauge the performance of political leadership? Very few Kenyans think so.

At least 90.3 per cent of the electorate look at manifestos as “public relations rhetoric” only meant for campaigns, and deliberately designed to hoodwink them. 

The civil society should therefore identify an agenda and demand that political candidates for the 2022 elections incorporate it into their campaigns.

Secondly, the civil society should try to address moral apathy. Moral apathy is best described as moral bankruptcy. Both are cultivated by deep state as well as political antagonists who bolt out of the government and become its sharp critics. The findings back in 2017 provide interesting thoughts for our 2022 preparedness.

University graduates

Agriculture is the mainstay of our economy. However, although 62.8 per cent or respondents acknowledged there is room to improve the sector, they were not optimistic this would lead to food security by 2030. This can closely be linked to 85.1 per cent of the respondents who decried the depleting of forests but found little motivation to reverse it.

Instead, they heaped blame on a government that is seemingly not doing enough. Besides, 68.2 per cent of the electorate were worried about the growing number of university graduates who have no jobs. 

Third, can Kenyans fight corruption? Only 57.4 per cent or the respondents said Kenya is capable of fighting the vice. Deepening this discussion, 68 per cent of them were willing to report ordinary Kenyans suspected of corruption to the authorities, but only 32 per cent would take similar action against an employee of government.

52.9 per cent of the respondents believed suspects would be be prosecuted if reported, but 35.6 per cent had lost hope in the war on corruption and had no faith in anti-corruption agencies. 15 per cent said it was not their responsibility to report corruption incidents.

The consequence is that corrupt leaders in government are more unlikely to worry about being arraigned. Overall, 85 per cent were pessimistic that corruption would end soon, despite efforts by media to expose some of the rot in the public sector.

These are findings from 2017. But, have we changed? Nothing has struck down our national soul than election campaigns that deepen divisions between tribes, between social classes and between friends who hold divergent views.

The civil society has a major role to play in ensuring meaningful elections.


Dr Mokua, is the Executive Director of Loyola Centre for Media and Communication

2022 Elections Civil Society
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