Apparently we live in a represented democracy and the people elected represent us.
Over the past few months, I’ve been wondering what Nairobi has become. Who is representing us and are they really a reflection of us? Do we behave this way? We have seen our governor recording his “achievements” and using unconventional methods to solve issues.
However, the most recent mindboggling, cringing and discombobulated moment was watching Speaker Beatrice Elachi being kicked out of her office.
The news video showed her standing beside a dark mahogany table. The kind that you only purchase at brand furniture stores and probably costs about six figures. And she tested her pepper spray to make sure that it works.
As the television cameras rolled, and zoomed into her fingertips, we saw a brown spray shoot out of the canister and we watched as she smiled as if to say she was ready for whatever and she took a small step forward.
Elachi was in other words was digging in her feet, ready for battle. A nominated Member of the County Assembly was trying to push her way through her. When she could not reach her, she went for Ms Elachi’s plush leather seat. Dragging it out of the office…
What gangster life is this? Is fighting now a necessary qualification to join city politics? What happened to speaking and using avenues to resolve issues?
The eye-opening bit was what the members were so upset about. They were mad that the speaker was travelling on her own. Not sharing the opportunities. It had nothing to do with mismanagement of the office.
Then within the same week, on a public transport vehicle on a very popular radio show, I hear our Senator speak about how the people should be involved. Public participation is important. The people are called to these meetings and they do not come.
I wish it were that simple. First, how do people participate when they do not know what participation looks like? People have been called to a meeting and a budget is read to them. They have no idea why this is being done or what it even means. They are only there because they heard that they may receive a stipend –for some, just a meal.
The meetings are randomly called and terribly advertised, making public participation difficult. There are also cases of some of them starting so late and taking so long that people give submissions that are not considered for lack of time.
When we witness the capital becoming a reality show, you have to ask the question: Is our leadership changing and is this what they look like now?
People have been short-changed, we hardly talk about how to build on the Constitution – there is plenty of room for engagement but people do not know how to engage. Because the people are unaware of the Constitution, it removes their sovereign power to hold leaders accountable. Hence leaders can get away with such outrageous shenanigans.
What is the meaning of the Constitution if majority of the people do not apply it because they do not understand it – it is just a collection of words on paper? And the people are not taught how to participate. Our president did mention that the Kenyan people know enough, so that organisation that provide civic education are just wasting time.
It is no surprise to hear people justify their lack of awareness to, “If so and so has read the constitution, I do not need to,” following their leaders like sheep when those same leaders are just as ignorant and worse, have no desire to learn. What a democracy we live in.
Nerima Wako-Ojiwa is executive director of Siasa Place. Twitter: @NerimaW