Constitutional review: Information key ingredient in democratic State

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019 00:00 |
Thirdway Alliance Kenya party leader Ekuru Aukot hands over Punguza Mizigo documents to Nairobi County Assembly Speaker Chege Mwaura at City Hall in Nairobi. Photo/File

 “I love Esther, but I don’t feel like I am good enough for her. I try to ensure that she is comfortable, but this relationship leaves me feeling exhausted and unappreciated.

The country will most likely hold a referendum on Constitutional  review next year ahead of the 2022 General Election.

Already, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) team established by President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga has retreated to compile its report. 

 Meanwhile, the Ekuru Aukot sponsored ‘Punguza Mizigo’ initiative is also set to be debated in county assemblies.

It remains to be seen how these two crucial constitutional and competing political initiatives will be carried out. Hopefully,  sobriety  will prevail and see them collapsed into a truly national conversation involving its main stakeholders — the citizens — before they are subjected to a referendum.

However, ahead of the plebiscite, it is important for some key issues to be resolved to avoid the acrimony witnessed at every election cycle that has left Kenyans divided and impoverished.

At stake should be consolidation of national unity, inclusivity in governance, socio-economic inequities and resource distribution, which have scarred the wellbeing of the country  since independence in 1963.

The government must exercise its obligation to the people in a transparent and accountable manner in line with the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

To achieve the goal, it must effectively communicate its agenda to the citizenry and give the people the opportunity to discuss and give their feedback on these programmes and the challenges encountered.

Article 33 of the Constitution asserts that every Kenyan has the right to freedom of expression, while the Access to Information Act compels both private and public entities to disclose information to the citizenry.

Despite the existence of this law, many people are either unaware of it or understand how effective it can be used in addressing some of the challenges  that affect them directly. And this should certainly be  among the issues of the constitutional review process. 

This law gives citizens powers to question development programmes or services from public or private entities. It gives wananchi a chance to track what is going on within government and thus expose corruption and mismanagement.

Through critical reporting and divergent views, the media remains a crucial partner of the government in fulfilling this obligation of exposing ills in governance. Freedom and independence of the media is guaranteed under Article 34 of the Constitution.

The Access to Information Act is also a tool for seeking justice, getting to police and seeking reforms while holding fair trial, as well as acceptable levels of violence from security agencies. It only enlightened citizenry that can demand its rights and hold the authorities accountable to the law. 

Based on this vital cog of the democracy and development axis, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology appointed a task force to make recommendations on how to improve government information and public communication.

And the team has already completed its work and is in final deliberations before releasing a report. 

Without pre-empting its findings, the team must have learned that the public expects the government to be more trustworthy and transparent about its programmes to win the people’s confidence.

Timely and open information, optimum public participation as enshrined in the Constitution build the wananchi’s trust in very important government agenda such as electoral reforms, Huduma Namba, population census, allocation of revenue to counties and the launch of the new currency.

With the people and their government in sync, democracy and development can thrive. [email protected] 

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