By Caroline Boyani
Despite the Kenyan government making strides through devolution and human rights through the constitution, little has been done to sensitize its citizens on the importance of active participation in decision making. Citizens have a duty to attend public barazas, to propose what is to be included in the County Integrated Development Plan(CIDP) which later is presented in the Annual Development Plan(ADP). They also have a duty to hold their leaders accountable to promote transparency and effective service delivery.
The common mwananchi is used to having others make decisions on their behalf and some of their priorities as a constituency or ward are not considered and neither are their needs met. Issues on garbage collection, water rationing, and taxation affect people’s daily lives, therefore, there’s need for active involvement through public participation.
Hassan is a resident of Majengo in Mombasa County and believes it is the responsibility of the members of county assembly and parliament in his area to prioritize the needs of citizens in Majengo.
“We pay them through our taxes to make decisions; why would I again waste my time in attending community meetings?” Hassan asks, perplexed.
In his thinking, Hassan was both correct and wrong.
Most of the leaders do not live in the villages. While getting Constituency Development Funds and salary might be their immediate need, water allocation and reduction in tax should be a priority for Hassan. Attending the community meetings will help Hassan raise concerns on their living environment, which will be backed up by the rest of the residents, pressurizing the leaders to deliver.
Civil societies and non-governmental organisations uphold government leaders accountable through budget audits to ensure they deliver on their promises. However, this will be better if resident of various wards attended community Barazas and raised issues that are a priority to them. They can also take time to go through and understand the budget process through various documents used to track budget allocation.
In a discussion that brought various organisations like Ajenda Kenya, Prudent, Kama Si Mama and Youths for Advocacy, some gaps were highlighted hindering effective public participation, which in the long term affect effective delivery.
To begin with, residents of wards do not understand the power the constitution has given them to propose and oppose county government’s 5-year plan under County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP).
Illiteracy is a major setback. Some residents- who have attended Barazas- complained of not understanding the documents and not allowed an opportunity to go through the proposed document before the community Baraza. The documents are supposed to be available to residents seven days before the meeting to get enough time to understand them.
These gaps, if not addressed, will drag county development, and we will complain of the same issues repeatedly. If we want different results, we must change how we tackle problems. Change starts with you and I. We either change or perish. And I dare say, we either take part in governance or perish!