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POWER TO THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE AND BY THE PEOPLE

By CAROLINE BOYANI OYARO

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The divide-and-conquer strategy has been successful in past years and still dominates today. Reward a few individuals from a particular area and neglect others in an attempt to cause disagreements so you can rule.

The former Member of the County Assembly (MCA) of Viwandani Ward ruled with partiality, embracing development in some villages and neglecting others. His reign was short-lived, as the people elected a new leader, who they believed would be more effective.

While in a community baraza (meeting), residents of various villages expressed opposing views on the performance of the current MCA based on his manifesto, highlighting the inequality in service delivery. Peter, a resident of Sinai Village,  believes the MCA has delivered by 68 per cent. “Our MCA, Mr Rooney, has seen through the opening of a rehabilitation centre for our youths to reform and has ensured access to clean drinking water amidst the water shortage.”

Ann, a resident of Kingston Village, strongly disagrees. “The borehole in our village is not functional, and we have to go to neighbouring villages to access drinking water,” she laments. “We have to cross to neighbouring villages where water prices have been inflated, and sometimes the water isn’t safe for cooking and drinking.” She adds, “I understand the roles of an MCA do not involve direct development, but it would greatly help if he presented issues such as the renovation of the borehole so all villages can benefit.”

While most residents don’t fully understand the roles of their leaders, it’s up to those leaders to arrange for community and civic engagements to create awareness. This will help people avoid having the wrong expectations and falling for false promises.  Representatives from the county government maintain that they organize community forums for public participation and publish notices in newspapers. However, they attribute the low attendance to a lack of initiative from residents.

Most residents are willing to attend the barazas, but the distance of the social hall from their homes makes it difficult. Additionally, those with physical limitations find it difficult to attend, which means their voices are rarely or never heard, even though their input matters.

“When the rehab was built, it was supposed to be a hospital,” a resident said. “I was shocked when it was opened as a rehab, considering our top priority is efficient and quality healthcare. It would’ve been better if they converted one floor into rehab and used the remaining space for a health centre,” he opined.

Bringing the discussions to the people and them sharing their ideas and suggestions in leaders’ offices is important. The long-distance acts as a barrier to effective public participation, hindering progress. Strategies like holding chief meetings or public participation forums in each village will encourage people to take up their role of holding their leaders accountable and realize their power. When the same few individuals attend public participation events, the ideas can be redundant, or they may propose ideas that only benefit themselves.

People should ensure that proposed plans have not already been established before coming up with new ones. They should also inquire about how every cent has been spent, considering it’s their taxes that go into government service delivery and paying the elected and nominated leaders.

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