Strengthen public participation with BBI, pandemic

Thursday, September 3rd, 2020 00:00 |
Constitution of Kenya. Photo/Courtesy

Judy Kinyua 

The rights of citizens to participate in governance have been an important pillar enshrined in the Constitution 2010.

It is one of the most treasured components the Constitution brought, and with it the power and sovereignty of the people as Chapter One dictates.

It also brought with it the hunger for knowledge on governance by all people.  

The citizenry is now more educated and knowledgeable on governance than ever witnessed before and have had their input in all that is happening in the country.

Therefore, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and Covid -19 should not erode steps made by public participation in a decade’s time now.

The president’s directive to have all Covid-19 tenders uploaded on Kenya Medical Supplies Agency’s (Kemsa) website could never have been timelier.

This is one of the most important steps in making sure the public is included in the fight against the coronavirus.

Those of us not in the procurement sector and may not even be interested in bidding for tenders will be taken care of for we will be well equipped with necessary knowledge of what is happening at Kemsa and at other government agencies.

Besides being valuable, this is a right that as citizens we should not be deprived. 

Proper communication in all the national government and county governments are doing is mandatory, especially during this pandemic when there seems to be an overhaul in how things are carried out.

The media’s efforts to educate citizens on what is happening can never be underestimated too.

One of the greatest benefits public participation has done is to ensure the public does not engage in empty talks, but contribute to a matter of national or county importance from a point of knowledge.

Everyday briefs by the Ministry of Health have been exemplary in communicating matters Covid -19.

This has enabled inclusivity, accountability and satisfaction by the public because the health ministry has ensured a broad spectrum of the public is informed.

Yes, even the children playing ball at home identify with Covid-19 communication programs and mtu wa corona, who must appear on TV.

This is the kind of communication we should get from other platforms.

 The importance of public participation highlights primary value the people of Kenya have and attach to the important tenet of democracy.

Ten years down the line, there has been formulation of many laws on public participation.

In fact, all 47 county governments have formulated laws on how to carry out this important exercise.

Such laws present citizens with an invaluable platform to influence planning, budgeting, and formulation of policies and laws, while ensuring progressive realisation of socio-economic and cultural rights enshrined in the Constitution.  

With social distancing and cancelled gatherings, where public participation used to take place such as social halls and the churches became no-go zones.

Fortunately, digital media has bridged the gap and social media is now a venue where we talk and air our views. BBI should only strengthen this exercise.

The past decade has been educative, and time for amendment of the Constitution is here.

However, the basic tenets of public participation could only be made better.

The core principles including right to participate, responsiveness, accountability, acknowledgement of interests and  inclusivity as well as the basic tenets namely consultation, transparency, flexibility, accessibility, integration, trust, commitment and respecting other people’s rights and views should be strengthened. — The author is a communication speacialist and  Master’s student

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