Osongo D. Akinyi
The last general elections took place in August 2022; some Kenyans voted while others did not. However, elections are over, and many Kenyans are waiting for their elected officials to fulfil set promises. What is lost to many is that electing leaders is only one of their civic duties. Holding politicians accountable for their promises is the next phase of Kenyans’ civic duty that should be approached with zeal and determination, just as in the elections.
After elections, most Kenyans become pessimists, and it is common to hear them say “wanasiasa ni waongo” when politicians fail to fulfil their promises. After this overused statement, most return to their normal hustling lives and leave politicians to trample over the country, go back on their words, and do their worst in these leadership positions. But this vile behaviour does not have to be the case if Kenyans take their civic duty of holding politicians accountable seriously.
The common mwananchi has more political power than they realize, as they can use their voice, activism, resistance, and written words to hold their elected leaders accountable. So, when elections are over, your work as a Kenyan voter is just starting, as they are so much you can do to keep elected leaders on their toes.
Track Your Elected Officials Promises
Kenyan politicians make the wildest promises during the peak of the campaigning season due to the desire to get elected. Most of these promises are created out of excitement and can be seen as outright lies, while some are realistic. Regardless of their nature, it is your duty as a Kenyan to track the promises your elected leader made, check if they are being fulfilled, and remind them constantly of what they promised. An example is Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja, who unleashed a 32-page manifesto full of promises during the campaign. Therefore, it is the duty of Nairobi residents to ensure Governor Sakaja fulfils his promises by reminding him, keeping him in check, and repeatedly calling him out when he missteps. It is within the roles and duties of other Kenyans to also ensure elected officials know the people have not forgotten the promises they made, and they want them fulfilled. Every Kenyan should therefore keep copies of the manifestos of the elected leaders and use it as a yardstick in holding them to account. The Constitution of Kenya on one hand and the leaders’ manifesto or the plan on the other.
Know How Your Elected Officials are Voting
Members of Parliament (MPs) and Senators vote on crucial issues in their parliamentary sittings that affect the livelihood of Kenyans. In parliament, MPs and Senators are known to vote for their own interests, but on social media, they protest with the citizens. It is your duty to follow up and find out how your MP and Senator voted on essential issues such as the Fuel Tax, increase in their salaries, and loan acquisitions. Call out these elected officials on social media and public rallies when they vote against the interest of the people who put them in power. It is foolhardy to let your elected officials get away with talking about economic problems when the power to transform Kenyan lives lies in their votes, as it is their duty to carry out oversight.
Advocate For Issues and Criticize Your Elected Official
Advocacy is a crucial aspect of democracy every Kenyan should master and utilize when speaking about issues that matter to them. Several ways exist to advocate for issues that matter, but currently, most people use social media to voice their issues and criticize elected officials. Are you angry at the ongoing insecurity and hate being spewed towards the LGBTQ community? Are you struggling due to the high cost of living? Are you frustrated by the CBC education format? You can raise these issues on social media, tag respective bodies and leaders, and call for the desired action. Your voice matters, and it will be heard if past events are anything to go by. Kenyans in the past have been able to call for justice for victims of rape and murder and address social issues using the power of social media. It is also your job to remind your MPs and senators of their accountability through criticism on social media platforms. It is by staying active on social channels that we can advocate, check in on elected officials, keep tabs on their actions, and hold them accountable.
Organize or Attend Rallies, Marches, and Protests
Kenyans have the right and power to organize and attend rallies, marches, and protests. However, it is essential to note that police violence and extra judicial killing is a common feature in rallies, marches, and protests, even when Kenyans maintain peace. Should violence stop us from practising our civic duty? I believe not, as marches, rallies, and protests are a painful reminder to elected officials of the promises they made and the state of living of the people they claim to serve. Rallies, marches, and protests also get global attention as videos taken by media amplify protestors’ cause further. The best thing Kenyan in rallies, marches, and protests can do is be their brother/sisters’ keeper to ensure everyone gets home safe despite common police violence. Therefore, across the country, every Kenya has a great power to organize and attend rallies, marches, and protests that make their voices heard.
Finally: We need to start tapping more into our strengths as Kenyans because we have the power to hold leaders accountable. Our civic roles do not end at voting, as the biggest task begins when we start to hold politicians accountable for their promises and actions. The term “wanasiasa ni waongo” will be quickly replaced with “wanasiasa wanatimiza” if Kenyans stop tolerating the lies of elected politicians who think they have more power and should do whatever they want.