CITIZEN OVERSIGHT

Youth must participate in devolution to realise Kenya’s shared prosperity

Politics is a battle about limited resources, control of those resources and only sometimes, a battle of ideas.

In Summary

• With Wanjiku’s high voter approval of 68.6 per cent in the 2010 referendum, Kenyans had ushered in the biggest change in their governance structure — devolution.

• Has your county delivered? Has it transformed? Are you able to measure?

The procession that accompanied the governors outside the Supreme Court on July 15
OVERSIGHT: The procession that accompanied the governors outside the Supreme Court on July 15
Image: JAMES MBAKA

"Deliver. Transform. Measure. Remaining Accountable”…that was the theme of the Sixth Annual Devolution Conference on March 4-8, 2019 in Kirinyaga.

An all-important annual event in the Devolution calendar as it presents a platform through which all devolution stakeholders evaluate the performance of both levels of government in matters of policy, accountability, good governance, and service delivery among others.

Seeing as the 2020 forum and for obvious reasons was postponed; here’s where I’d like to pick this discussion from. Has your county delivered? Has it transformed? Are you able to measure? On a scale of 1-10 ( 10 being the highest score), how would you score your county in terms of accountability?

As we ponder these and for the purpose of objectivity, let us remember that the Fourth Schedule of Constitution delegates only 14 functions to the county governments; 35 remain with the national government.

So before (as is of our liking) begin to hurl stones at our leaders and anything Government, let us stick to legal and factual focus. Out of the fourteen, and for the sake of being exhaustive, let us trade our lenses to only 1: Public Participation.

With Wanjiku’s high voter approval of 68.6 per cent in the 2010 referendum, Kenyans had ushered in the biggest change in their governance structure — devolution.

Key among the objects of devolution as enshrined in Chapter 11 of the Constitution is “to give powers of self-governance to the people and enhance the participation of the people in the exercise of the powers of the State and in making decisions affecting them.”

Power has never been with them since then; power is with me and you. Power, more so is with you the youth. According to the 2019 Census, 35.7 million of our population are youth ( 18-35 ), which is 75.4 per cent of the total population.

Out of these, 32.7 million or 68.9 per cent live in rural areas. This is an entire army; our strongest battalions being the 32.7 million-strong young men and women spread out in various villages across our counties. So, to this army I ask, how well has the war been fought?

Politics is a battle about limited resources, control of those resources and only sometimes, a battle of ideas. In our case, however, it is more often a battle about the first two, rather than the latter.

More the reason why public participation should be hailed, protected and championed is because through it, a platform for good ideas to size up against better ideas is created.

Public participation is a core element, and the Constitution enshrines it as a national value and principle of governance. Articles 174(c) and 232(d) protect the rights of citizens to engage in decision-making and accountability on issues and matters that affect them.

Moreover, the Constitution obligates counties to provide structures for citizen participation to be established (Article 191( 1 )). In its January 2016 ‘County Public Participation Guidelines’, the Ministry of Devolution and the Council of Governors, defined “public participation” as follows: “the process where individuals, governmental and non-governmental groups influence decision making in policy, legislation, service delivery, oversight and development matters.

It is a two-way interactive process where the duty bearer communicates information in a transparent and timely manner, engages the public in decision making and is responsive and accountable to their needs.”

So, to our battalions across the 47 counties, question is, more than belonging, how actively have you participated in the affairs of your county?

When that Budget planning forum was called, did you show up? More than show up, did u come prepared? Do you make an active effort in understanding the process?

Do you know your rights, duties and responsibilities as a citizen of substance? Or do you just stand on the sidelines and wait for the next time your favourite youth leader is talking about ‘forgotten youth’ for you to cheer on the pity party?

Luke 12:48 says: “To whom much is given, much will be required”. The Constitution gave much to you and much more is expected of you.

The Constitution is your shield and defender. Now, go ye” and seek the kingdom of knowledge. Make it your armour and by all means get active, engage and demand inclusive and shared prosperity.

How do we elevate ourselves to such levels of meaningful and positive engagements you may ask? Organised youth numbers! Therein lies the magic.

There is beauty in numbers, more so in political set-ups, numbers count. Youth have the numbers albeit fragmented, disillusioned, with a shaky value system, egoistic for a good part and even hopeless to a good measure.

But heck! As the great American Actor Rob Lowe would say; show me a flawless person and I’ll show you a person who has lived a very closed life. Of greater value, this army is idealistic, innovative and highly energetic; this should be the convergence point.

With a common vision, a value system and courage of conviction, our youth numbers can deliver a bountiful. So to you the youth army; even as the loud BBI ‘Ayes’ and ‘Nays’ voices choke up every little space in our airwaves, keep your focus on “what’s in it for devolution?”.

With a well-informed, active and engaged youth army offering civilian oversight over Devolution, it remains the surest pathway to realising shared prosperity.

For this to work, in the now and beyond; let us make deliberate and sustained efforts in keeping our citizen awareness on county budget planning processes, county strategies and county integrated development plans high.

In turn, awareness of public participation mechanisms will rise, attendance at public participation meetings will shore up and our resolve to keep at it for monitoring and evaluation purposes will be strengthened giving life to the truest form of accountability, equity and shared prosperity in our County governments.

Question is, what’s your youth DNA? Youth affiliate or Youth participant? Are you that guy who’s only happy to be affiliated with the Youth or are you that guy that shows up?

Here’s the news, as the county works on its obligation in delivering, transforming, measuring and remaining accountable, you too, got to play your part young blood; Do more than belong; participate in defining and charting that destiny.

Happy and active New Year!

Chabala Walter is Executive director at Ugatuzi Pride Initiative