• Some of those who have confirmed participation include National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and his Senate counterpart Kenneth Lusaka, Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka
• PDF will give all the parties concerned a fair chance to say what is on their mind about the BBI process as well as other governance reforms issues in Kenya.
Nearly 10 years ago, Kenya promulgated a new Constitution hailed around the globe as far-reaching and agenda-setting for countries interested in enacting a new constitutional order.
A landmark feature of the document was the latitude the common man was given in having his or her voice heard in the day to day running of government- both national and the counties.
It is against this milieu that last year, the Centre for Multiparty Democracy assembled stakeholders for the first-ever People Dialogue Festival.
The festival is a platform for political parties, actors, civic society and policymakers to dialogue and cooperate in strengthening multiparty democracy, promote social justice, governance best practices, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Although it was the first time such a meeting was being held in Kenya, they say some things have no copyright, so I acknowledge that the idea was borrowed from the Almedalsveckan (Politician’s Week) in Sweden and the Folkemødet (People’s Meeting) in Denmark organised over the years to provide an opportunity for citizens and leaders to meet and dialogue on level terms.
I have been privileged to attend the people’s meeting in Denmark staged on a beautiful island in the Baltic Sea. As a voter, this is the stuff dreams are made of.
It was a satisfying experience to move around brushing shoulders with ministers, politicians, CEOs, sitting and listening as the Prime Minister fielded questions from Joe Public, even as he queued for coffee like the rest of us.
Ministers jumped onto a bicycle and rode on the street with the rest of the people and not many gave them even a second glance, meaning this was a sight the Danes were used to.
Coming from Kenya, where our political leaders are surrounded by layers and layers of security, this was something I longed to see replicated in our neck of the woods.
This is exactly what PDF is trying to do. The fact is that there is a disconnect between the leaders and the led. I want a situation where my MCA and MP will be so close to me that he or she will not see me as a security threat but as his or her employer.
I believe a lot can be achieved by both sides if we choose the dialogue route. It is my utmost hope that those invited will not shy away from asking leaders the tough questions as to how they are being governed.
The inaugural meeting gave some 1,500 participants — from diplomats to politicians, ordinary folk and anything in between — a rare opportunity to meet, mingle, discuss with and pose questions to decision-makers and the political elite in structured and moderated conversations on a range of governance issues.
Building on the huge success of this festival, CMD-Kenya is once again hosting a similar event on March 5-7 at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi.
Some of those who have confirmed participation include National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and his Senate counterpart Kenneth Lusaka, Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, and several governors, senators and MPs.
Key members of the Building Bridges Initiative and various state agencies are scheduled to attend to field any questions from the participants. Other speakers will be Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa, UN Resident Coordinator for Kenya Siddharth Chatterjee and the First Deputy Speaker of the Danish Parliament Karen Elleman.
It is our hope as CMD-Kenya to take the agenda forward and make it even more successful.
There is no gainsaying the dividends that can accrue from such an achievement. The idea of politicians holding mega rallies where a lot is said but the only thing that is certainly left to the public is fumes of dust from their helicopters and top-of-the-range fuel guzzlers will end. Politics will shift to dialogue on issues and not a monologue by vote seekers.
I believe the high temperatures we witness in political debates will be greatly minimized after all, why abuse or even go physical against someone you shared the platform with at the previous year’s festival?
One of the things I am forever grateful for is the decision by political parties’ leaders to support the PDF initiative at its inception last year.
The BBI Steering Committee will participate, making the dialogue even more real as it is no secret that BBI is the behemoth of the local political scene at the moment. By its very format of one on one interlocution, PDF will give all the parties concerned a fair chance to say what is on their mind about the BBI process as well as other governance reforms issues in Kenya.
As I invite you to the PDF 2020, I refer to Mette Lindgren Helde author of The Dialogue Handbook who accurately captures our current context need for dialogue as a country. “Dialogue is necessary in a modern world characterized by contrast and change and where we meet each other, want to cooperate and indeed have to do so, across borders, cultures, viewpoints and motivations. It sounds simple, but it can prove fiendishly difficult in practice, especially when we want to enter dialogue with those with whom we disagree profoundly’’
Mukwanja is the executive director, Centre for Multiparty Democracy- Kenya
Email: [email protected]