We have, however, noted with concern that very limited concrete action has taken place since this statement of intent.
FURTHERMORE, SOME OF THE ACTIONS WE HAVE WITNESSED SINCE THE MARCH 9 COMMUNICATION HAVE MADE IT CLEAR THAT THERE IS A HUGE GULF BETWEEN THE CONCERNS OF THE PUBLIC AND THE PRIORITIES OF POLITICAL LEADERS EVEN AS THEY EMBRACE NATIONAL DIALOGUE.
WE THE PEOPLE wish to categorically state that the true custodians of any national dialogue effort can only be the people of Kenya. All initiatives emerging from dialogue must meet the people at their point of need and aspirations. It must never be about the comfort levels of the political class or about creating private solutions to public problems as seen in the delivery of public services detailed below. It for this reason that we wish to highlight the following concerns as those requiring immediate solutions:
Kenyans are tired of controversial elections whose unanswered questions are swept under the rug and avoided until the next electoral cycle comes. We cannot lament about divisive elections and fail to seek accountability for the irregularities and illegalities that occur with every election.
WE MUST HAVE A COMPREHENSIVE AND TRANSPARENT AUDIT OF THE 2013 AND 2017 ELECTIONS IF WE ARE TO FINALLY PUT INCONCLUSIVE ELECTIONS BEHIND US.
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecution in conjunction with the Police must follow through on the pledge to investigate the criminal culpability of IEBC personnel in relation to the failures in the 2017 elections. We note the intrigues within the IEBC which have culminated in the resignation of a number of commissioners from office. These intrigues are the latest evidence that the IBC is damaged beyond repair and that the country would need to start afresh in building an accountable electoral management body. To pave way for this, the remaining commissioners must also resign from office forthwith, and a consultative process should yield recommendations on how a comprehensive independent audit of the IEBC would be conducted. Only after the audit would the country be in a position to fill vacancies within the IEBC. Kenyans also demand accountability for the violence meted out by security officers during the 2017 elections. There must be answers for victims such as 6- month old baby Samantha Pendo, 7-year old Fred Omondi and 8-year old Stephanie Moraa whose lives were ended in the midst of electoral violence they had no role in causing. We must see the police held to account for the use of excessive force with compensation to victims and their families as well as an official public apology from the Commander in Chief with an undertaking that such senseless killings will no longer be tolerated within our security forces. Without this, the 2017 elections cannot be considered a closed chapter.
Electoral reforms must be undertaken in a true multi-stakeholder setting. We will not accept yet another rushed political compromise like the James Orengo and Kiraitu Murungi-led 2016 Joint Select Committee on the IEBC or the ill-advised amendments to the election laws that took place in September 2017.
Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law
Fellow Kenyans, public officers who swore to uphold the Constitution have instead set us on the path of lawlessness. The latest incident of Miguna Miguna’s unlawful deportation was the outcome of government officials who believe they have the power to arbitrarily withdraw your constitutional right to citizenship and totally disregard court orders that protect your rights. Sadly, these same officials orchestrated the shutdown of 3 media houses in January 2017 for covering an event by the Opposition. The President’s threat to revisit the Judiciary in the immediate aftermath of the first Presidential Election Petition has now evolved into Cabinet Secretary for Interior Fred Matiangi choosing which court orders are good enough for him to obey and castigating Judges within the safe precincts of the National Assembly instead of answering to charges of contempt before the Court. Paradoxically, the government, in another instance, expects striking lecturers to abide by a court order and return to work. If the courts cannot protect your rights or provide you with remedies when they are violated, then where should Kenyans turn to?
WE CANNOT BUILD A NEW KENYAN NATION WITHOUT RESPECT FOR THE RULE OF LAW.
Those who disregard court orders and disparage the judiciary as an institution cannot be fit to hold public office.The National Assembly must enact legislation to realize the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule as a matter of high priority while the Executive must effect this constitutional principle in appointive positions as well. It is disgraceful that our political leadership has failed to make this a reality despite numerous promises and court orders instructing them to fulfil this critical constitutional provision.
Revisiting the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission Report
National dialogue will benefit from the much broader and incisive analysis contained in the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) report. The four volumes of the TJRC report were the result of numerous public hearings and memoranda from victims of human rights violations as well as the general public and contain thematic recommendations that enjoy broad based support.
IT IS THEREFORE IMPORTANT TO ENJOIN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE TJRC REPORT TO THE CURRENT DIALOGUE INITIATIVE IF WE ARE TRULY SEEKING TO NOT ONLY LEARN FROM OUR PAST BUT ALSO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT.
Part of the reason for the current national crisis lies in the fact that no meaningful effort has been made in implementing or even publicly discussing the TJRC report since it was submitted to the President in May 2013. It is time to revisit the unfulfilled pledge made by President Kenyatta in his 2015 State of the Nation address to establish a restorative justice fund and support the implementation of the TJRC report. This is the surest way of achieving national cohesion and defining the national ethos described in their joint statement. More specifically: Ensure that the National Assembly adopts the TJRC report and an implementation framework without further delay; Instituting clear policy and regulations to guide the KES 10 Billion fund as the inception of a reparations fund that will be refinanced in accordance with the victims’ needs and; creating a comprehensive and transparent process for identification and profiling of victims for future reparation programmes while also undertaking an audit of the IDP resettlement programmme.
Ending Extra-Judicial Killings
We must acknowledge extrajudicial killings and executions are a systemic issue in the security sector as demonstrated most recently during the 2017 elections where numerous unjustifiable deaths were attributed to acts of the police sent in during protests. Proposed solutions must therefore include the following:
- Commissioning an official audit on the state of security sector reforms with a pledge of political support to prioritize and fast-track the pending security sector reforms;
- Reopening the police vetting process to public scrutiny and ensuring allegations of human rights abuses are considered during the vetting process;
- Ensuring criminal and civil liability at the individual and command responsibility level where security officers are found culpable of committing human rights violations; constituting a judicial commission of inquiry on extrajudicial killings and executions in Kenya as a pathway to accountability in this critical area and;
- Issuing an explicit repudiation of shoot-to-kill orders and undue use of force in policing of protests with a guarantee of prosecuting officers found culpable.
KENYA HAS FAILED TO APPROPRIATELY CONFRONT THE TRUE EXTENT OF HISTORICAL LAND INJUSTICES THAT HAVE BEEN THE SOURCE OF ETHNIC DISCORD AND VIOLENCE ACROSS THE COUNTRY.
This is the essence of the conflicts we are currently witnessing in Mt. Elgon. It is at the heart of conflicts in the Laikipia and Baringo Counties that have demonized pastoralist communities who have lost grazing lands to large ranches, conservancies and large-scale government projects without any thought for their livelihoods and the added burden of climate change. Communities such as the Ogiek and the Sengwer have been forcefully evicted from their ancestral lands and have been wrongly blamed for the actions of rogue loggers who have decimated the Mau and Embobut forests. In the coastal region, communities have felt so disenfranchised that they were willing to embrace calls for secession as a way of reclaiming their ancestral land. We have created a generation of landless youth who consider themselves dispossessed and disadvantaged in a manner that can only serve to radicalize them against a political and economic system that has shut them out. There is need for a firm political commitment to undertake meaningful remedies which include land redistribution, restitution, and/or compensation. Dealing with community land must allow for the involvement of local mechanisms in decision making processes in a manner that embraces free, prior and informed consent. Furthermore, there must be a fund established to cater for the outlined remedies with clear guidelines as to how the fund will be managed and resourced. The Community Land Act must be fully operationalized without further delay.
An Ailing Healthcare System
Many families are burdened by the inability to afford adequate treatment for their sick loved ones. Fundraising appeals for medical fees and blood donation drives are a regular feature on our social media platforms, as citizens take it upon themselves to provide what is supposed to be a public service and more importantly a constitutional right. Public hospitals are largely a nightmare for patients as they are largely ill-equipped and staffed by doctors, nurses and medical officers who are underpaid and over-worked. Political leaders on the other hand enjoy world class healthcare at the taxpayer’s expense which enables them to travel abroad at the slightest of ailments.
THE GOVERNMENT HAS STATED THAT IT WILL IMPLEMENT UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS BUT THIS WILL NOT BE ACHIEVED AGAINST A BACKDROP OF CORRUPTION AND OVERBURDENED MEDICAL PERSONNEL.
There must first be accountability for failed projects such as the mobile clinics that cost taxpayers 800 million Kenya shillings, the leasing of medical equipment that lie idle in various hospitals around the country and most recently the supply of expired medicines to the tune of Kenya shillings 323 million . The grievances raised by medical personnel agitating for improved working conditions must be addressed in a comprehensive manner instead of the kick-the-can-down-the-road approach that we have witnessed for decades.
The demand for medical personnel must be met through a clear-cut policy of absorbing the graduates from our universities trained at the taxpayer’s expense and not temporary fixes such as flying in 100 doctors from Cuba and expecting them to fully integrate into a broken system. We must salvage the public healthcare system as a matter of highest priority for Kenyans. Even in its current state of insufficient support, our public hospitals have shown remarkable innovation and resilience such as the successful operation on conjoined twins by a team of Kenyan doctors at the Kenyatta National Hospital or the first caesarean section delivery at Habaswein Hospital after an upgrade of the facility by the Wajir County Government. We applaud initiatives such as the roll out of universal healthcare in Makueni County by Governor Kivutha Kibwana which has proven that leadership and integrity can bring the best out of our healthcare system.
An Education Crisis at all Levels
The education sector is in the throes of a crisis that has been decades in the making with far reaching consequences on the economy and national cohesion of the country. The failure to uphold collective bargaining agreements with unions has seen perennial strike actions plague the primary, secondary and university levels of our education system. Four-year undergraduate programmes are by default becoming six or even seven year programmes at great cost to the students and their parents. Governance in both public and private universities is at its lowest and instead of addressing challenges raised by students, university administrations are resorting to violent suppression of dissenting voices with the help of the police. Meru University student leader Evans Njoroge was shot and killed by police for simply leading a protest against the increase in fees by the institution.
There are virtually no teachers in Mandera County at the moment- these teachers long endured a harsh environment of insecurity and discrimination and when it became clear that the Teachers Service Commission and the national government would not intervene, they elected to leave the area. A blend of limited funding and corruption has seen free primary education deteriorate in a manner that has left a lot of children behind in as far as progression to the next levels of education is concerned. A curriculum review was undertaken without sufficient consultation and hurriedly implemented in a manner that has rendered our children part of a dangerous and costly experiment.
LITTLE HAS BEEN DONE TO EXPLOIT THE POTENTIAL OF OUR EDUCATION SECTOR TO SERVE AS A PLATFORM FOR REBUILDING OUR NATIONAL COHESION AND NATIONAL ETHOS. THIS CANNOT BE THE FOUNDATION THAT WILL ENHANCE OUR COHESION OR ADDRESS THE CRISIS OF YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT.
It is dialogue on these issues that will have true meaning and meet the people at their point of need and aspirations. WE THE PEOPLE as a movement will therefore seek to empower the public at all levels to effectively participate in and own this arena of national dialogue for a transformed Kenya.