- Kenya’s 2010 Constitution's Article 118(1)(b) mandates that Parliament encourage public involvement in legislative and other proceedings of the Assembly and its committees at the national level of governance.
- It also stipulates that Parliament’s committee meetings must be open to the public.
Several theories have been postulated on how Alexander the Great rose to high echelons of power.
One of the theories states that Alexander used his sword to cut through a deftly knotted knot, referred to as a “Gordon knot”.
Numerous attempts to untie the “Gordian knot” had been unsuccessful.
A difficult and nuanced problem was easily resolved by Alexander by severing the knot with a sword.
The move earned him accolades and royalty status.
Back home, the sword that will cut through the Gordon knot of poor leadership and corruption that has bedevilled our country for ages is public participation.
Kenya’s 2010 Constitution's Article 118(1)(b) mandates that Parliament encourage public involvement in legislative and other proceedings of the Assembly and its committees at the national level of governance.
It also stipulates that Parliament’s committee meetings must be open to the public.
In the same breath, Article 196 (1)(b) – requires that the county assemblies facilitate public participation in the legislative and other business of their assemblies at the county level.
The goal of public involvement is to close the gap between the 48 governments, the private sector, civil society, and the general public.
Inclusive and better decisions are made as a result of public engagement because it provides decision-makers with more comprehensive information to consider during the decision-making process, such as citizens’ viewpoints.
This not only ensures inclusivity but development plans are receptive to citizens’ needs.
The balance between governing by the people and governing for the people is created by public participation.
The idea places emphasis on the necessity of enhancing further citizen inclusion and meaningful participation in the decision-making process within government systems.
When appropriately utilised, public participation can potentially play a large role, have a significant impact on decision-making, and ultimately improve the governance process.
To ensure effective public participation, the government must take a proactive approach and lead from the front.
For instance, the effectiveness and success of public hearings heavily rely on the leaders’ dedication to scrutiny, openness and public participation.
On the other hand, civil society organisations should go beyond that of watchdogs to include swaying public opinion in favour of or against local government policies and practices.
Long-standing civil society organisations have made enormous contributions to fostering a culture of public participation in Kenya.
The private sector too has a role to play in assisting and monitoring public-private partnerships and advocacy initiatives.
The issue then becomes how ordinary people may actively be involved in making decisions.
Public hearings, lobby groups, citizen report cards, social audits, and citizen action groups are just a few of the many approaches that civil society organisations have deployed in the recent past.
At Africa’s Voices, we deploy an interactive radio and SMS approach to connect citizens with decision-makers.
By way of sending SMS feedback to live radio shows, citizens can share their questions and opinions.
Their SMSs are analysed into actionable insight to inform decision-making.
A government that is proactive rather than reactive, and citizens that are active rather than passive, are essential for our nation's future.
Samuel Kimeu is the Executive Director of Africa’s Voices Foundation