By Nerima Wako
Earlier in September, Open Society Foundation released a report that younger people are likely to doubt merits of democracy https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/sep/11/younger-people-more-relaxed-alternatives-democracy-survey
On September 15th, the National Museum of Kenya came alive with intellectual fervour as Siasa Place orchestrated a gripping panel discussion in collaboration with Forum Civ and other partners. The session was filled with mainly young vibrant people sharing their views on democracy. At the heart of the discourse was the pivotal question: Does accountability and participation truly matter in Kenya’s democratic process?
Nerima Wako took the reins of the discussion, steering it through the intricate landscape of Kenya’s democratic dynamics. The focus was broad, delving into the Finance Bill and the intriguing revelation that despite the majority of Kenyans expressing their rejection through memoranda, the bill still managed to pass. In addressing the query of whether individual citizens wield a meaningful impact on decision-making, Mr. Kenneth Njiru brought forth his insights. The discourse gained further depth with the addition of Hon. Victoria Zillah, a Member of County Assembly from Kakamega, who shed light on various initiatives underway to amplify the voices of the people. The conversation expanded to address the barriers hindering effective participation, with Mr. Masese from the Center for Enhancing Democracy and Good Governance providing valuable perspectives.
As social media has increased the sharing of information, there are major challenges with sharing factual information. And many young people feeling that engagement is venting frustration online and not having to take any other necessary step. Ms. Diana Gichengo of TISA Kenya passionately articulated the ‘why’ behind our imperative need to participate and the assurance that we will. Acknowledging the pivotal role of commissions and institutions in the democratic framework, Mr. Jacktone from IEBC emphasized their significance. Mr. Misati, Chairperson to the Political Parties Liaison Committee, shared illuminating insights on how to assess the effectiveness of these bodies in promoting accountability.
The panel discussion was a mosaic of diverse viewpoints, each contributing to a richer understanding of the challenges and opportunities embedded in Kenya’s democratic fabric. From the intricacies of legislative processes to the grassroots initiatives fostering inclusive participation, the event encapsulated the essence of Democracy Day, encouraging young people to utilise their platforms to participate in processes meaningfully.