Contributing to greater public input in county governance in Kenya

Statement by 11 organisations working towards building active citizenship

Nairobi, Westlands, October 15, 2014 – 11 organisations today, 15th October 2014 announced a joint Kshs.100 million Active Citizenship Programme in ten Kenyan counties namely Bungoma, Garissa, Kajiado, Kisumu, Machakos, Nairobi, Nakuru, Nyeri, Taita Taveta and Turkana. Under the banner Kenya Dialogues Project, the programme aims to build a culture of active citizenship, protect the spirit of the Constitution and promote positive and more meaningful engagement between citizens and duty bearers.

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 has been recognised by many as having contained Africa’s most progressive rights and laws. The International Community called it a watershed for reform on the continent. While this is case, at least on paper, only 5.7% of Kenyans have participated in citizen consultation forums at the county level in past one year. Only 17% of Kenyans are aware of how much funds have been allocated to their counties.  68% of Kenyans have major concerns regarding the way local governments are run. However, 72% of them believe that as individuals they can only do little or nothing to influence Government. 28% of citizens believe that they can influence Government only up to a certain extent.   

Four years on, the constitutional promises of public participation, integrity, equality and devolution hold a transformative vision and covenant for over 40 million Kenyans.   This vision is being strangled by tokenistic participation strategies, disrespect for the rule of the law and rapidly intensifying conflictual relationships between and among elected Representatives, National and County Governments. In this context, the constitution is becoming less of a covenant and more of a football that our leaders are playing games with.

In light of this, the 11 organisations have come together to call on citizens to exercise their constitutional responsibility to provide oversight, vigilance and organize to challenge the daily actions by other citizens and leaders that are not consistent with the spirit and letter of the constitution.

Speaking to the press, Cornelus Oduor, CEO, Center for Enhancing Democracy and Good Governance (CEDGG) said that 'This is the vision contained in chapter 1 that states all sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya. Working nationally and in ten counties, we call for renewed commitment and accelerated plans for the full uninterrupted implementation of devolution by our elected and appointed representatives.'

'We rededicate our Staff, Board members and a combined annual budget of Kshs.650 million to accelerate citizens’ demands and actions towards the full realization of the constitution.' said Irungu Houghton, Senior Advisor, Society for International Development (SID).   

The ten counties in which the 11 organisations work have a combined population of 9 million. These counties voted for all the political parties and both of the major political alliances. They include some of the richest and poorest counties in the country with between 10-90% of the population living below the poverty line. Together, the organisations have the capacity to directly reach over 1 million Kenyans.

In the next 12 months, the programme shall invest in creating:

1. A new spirit of active citizenship to seize spaces for participation in County Government and Assembly affairs;
2. Meaningful, inclusive and structured public participation to enable the broadest engagement with the broadest diversity of stakeholders;
3. Unreasonable demands for public accountability and transparency in the use of public resources at both the county and national level;
4. County accelerated plans and specific actions towards the implementation of Schedule 5 and 6 of the constitution.

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