Posts tagged ‘Democracy’

February 4, 2015

The Key to Unlocking this African Moment

By

This is a crucial moment for Africa. At the opening Intergovernmental meeting on the Post 2015 framework in New York in January I was invited to share the voices of African people with those tasked with drafting the key documents for UN member states to agree in September. These documents will replace the Millennium Development Goals agreed by member states in 2000.

Together with my colleague and former volunteer Nancy Maina, we tried to stress the importance of African communities being part of the decisions that affect their lives.


Asking people what they need

I have been part of the Participate Research Initiative which did months of consultations with people across Africa (as well as South America and Asia), documenting the perspectives of ordinary people through a series of participatory research workshops.

When grassroots communities described their realities, they taught me that the development they envisioned is not the same as the development the majority of the world imagines they want. In their own narrative, the strongest message from communities is a deep desire to be given the ability to do it for themselves.

These people identified critical blockages standing between them and their ability to function. This catalogue ranged from feeling vulnerable and excluded based on social norms, legal and political discrimination, corruption, insecurity and crime, inadequate skills and lack of opportunities to own assets. Unlocking the African moment requires removal of these blockages.

So first of all, the new development framework mustn’t just ask, “what can I do for the people?” but also “what are the people doing?” and “how can we accompany them in their local development innovation?”

Shifting focus to the often-unrecognized people like volunteer groups, grassroots community led organizations and marginalized communities will be crucial to the success of any new and ambitious plan.

Name checking the volunteers
If all the volunteers in the world were put into one country, that country would be the 9th most populous country in the world. This is not always acknowledged so I was determined to set this straight when I was given the opportunity to speak on to the UN.

I explained that for every paid member of staff that the Red Cross has globally, they have 20 volunteers. Back in sub-Saharan Africa where I come from, that figure is even greater (the Red Cross and Red Crescent have 327 volunteers for every paid member of staff). At VSO , the numbers of national volunteers supplementing the work of international volunteers in education, livelihoods, business and health have also been growing significantly in the past 15 years.

We need to name check this vital group in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As Nancy said in her speech at the civil society forum on January 14th, both the Political Declaration and Means of Implementation Agreement that will sit alongside the Sustainable Development Goals, Targets and Indicators, must be just as sound and robust as the goals, targets and indicators we choose.

Volunteering is often the first step in people’s active participation in their communities and countries as evidenced in the inspiring 500 Ways initiative. With effective support and planning, we can mobilize the huge pool of skills, capacity and passion that volunteers have for the realization of the SDGs.

Shoulders to the wheel
Wrapping up the two day meeting, the co-facilitator, Kenya’s Ambassador to the UN Macharia Kamau, said that by September we need to have Heads of State coming to New York with real enthusiasm for this agenda. He called on us all to work together – civil society, government and academics – to tell the world why these are important and how they can be transformative. I, for one, am determined to put my shoulder to the wheel with my people so we can unlock the barriers to making this Africa’s moment.

October 3, 2014

Service and Youth

Is the National Youth Service (NYS) the way to go in bringing up a citizen who is service oriented to his country? The NYS act of 1964, envisaged Kenya creating a platform of reintegrating militant youths then to reorient, assimilate and create a pool of employable disciplined youths who can support the army or police force while pursuing national cohesion agenda. Forty nine years later, Kenya is at cross roads seeking betters ways of involving and motivating over 60% of its populations in nation building through the NYS.

Over the years, Kenya government and private sector have made huge investments in education which has seen high enrolment from Early Childhood Education to University level. On the other hand we have yearly police and armed forces recruitment drives absorbing many young people. However the rate of unemployment, deterioration of public service is quite evident in urban centers where provision of basic services such as garbage collection and poor roads and housing is in dire need. Above all these, Kenya is still a fragile state as witnessed in 2008 post election violence.

How then can the youth be involved in a constructive way without exploitation? Participation in nation building should be an obligation which a good citizen must carry out with pride. People have rights and the state has responsibility to do whatever is necessary to fulfill these rights. One such right is to ensure that we all live in safe and clean environment. Institutions such as education, military, police and work place should assist in fostering a sense of cohesion among the citizens.

The Ministry of Devolution recently launched a programme of recruiting young people through NYS and youth are equipped with skills to offer various services to the vulnerable communities. In Nairobi, the entry point has been participating in garbage collection in the informal settlements starting with Kibera. All over the world, governments have always strived either to control or involve youth in development. It is easy to control people who have passed through forces training since there is respect attached to chain of command. However the danger lies when it comes to demilitarizing the youths and reintegrating them back into civilian life. Conflicts in the region and ‘cheap’ labour might make Kenya a fertile ground for recruitment. The rate of unemployment is quite high all over Kenya which sometimes back, the World Bank had warned us that this is bomb’ waiting to explode.

In general, youth are very innovative and creative and Kenya government should think beyond controlling and militarizing the youth. Uwezo Fund must be ready to accommodate fresh ideas in this modern time. At the local level the youth should also take part in the real management of political parties, government to establish real funds for entrepreneurship ventures like implementing some of the ideas generated by students at the annual science congress while making access to information technology platform a priority especially in the informal settlements to bridge the disparity when it comes to access to information.

August 17, 2014

Why Mathare By-Election was Peaceful

ODM Mobilizing Voters

ODM Mobilizing Voters


The recent Mathare by-election campaigns were held in peaceful atmosphere despite open and rampant voter bribery across board. The By-Election was occasioned by successful petition by Stephen Kariuki of ODM against George Wanjohi of TNA. The by-election attracted a total of nine candidates all targeting more than 80,000 registered voters from different ethnic background.
The leading political alliances Jubilee and CORD managed to invest a lot of resources in ensuring that their candidates captured the vacant seat. There are four reasons why the by-election was peaceful.
First during the previous elections in Mathare, there was always presence of gangs such as Mugiki, Taliban or violent youths ready to be hired by politicians. This time round, none existed to be hired by politicians.
Secondly, the heat generated before the Saba Saba rally which ended peacefully also encouraged the local residents to maintain peace. When the TNA candidate opted to woo only Kikuyu voters this became counterproductive even amongst his supporters. This resulted even in many young Kikuyu voters shunning Wanjohi of TNA for Stephen Kariuki of ODM who is a Kikuyu too.
Thirdly, of late there have been many forums organized by various organizations such Sisi ni Amani Kenya, Inuka, Sauti Yetu Debates and other government led initiatives which all played an important role in integrating people from different ethnic background to meet regularly
Fourthly, when President Uhuru visited Mathare for a church service cum campaign trip for TNA candidate at Redeemed Gospel Church he never openly told the residents to vote Wanjohi rather he talked more about referendum politics and which Raila did later. The President body language betrayed his mission in Mathare thus helping cool the temperature down.
The heavy presence of police cannot be attributed to the peaceful election but can be praised for ensuring law and order was maintain during elections. However it was disappointing to note that most political party agents did not know how a BVR Kits operate. At the end of it all, Mathare has a new MP…Hon. Stephen Kariuki.

July 4, 2014

Ombudman’s Mathare Launched

2014-06-04 11.52.37The living condition in places like Mathare and the level of neglect by the government warrants quick measure by the residents to hold public servants accountable.
In some quarters it is said that 60% of Nairobi residents live under deplorable conditions.No existence of important service is a common feature.

Launching of the local Ombudsman Committee, ten members in Mathare has come at time when we have several government services being devolved at ward levels. The Mathare Constituency Ombudsman Committee will be based at Mathare Valley Polytechnic next to Mathare Chief’s Camp.
It is hoped that unlike before when resident did not know where to report, this time round things will be different.

Cases of police harassment, lack of responding on time to emergencies like fire outbreak are common. Kenyans are yet to fully trust that systems work like the judiciary and accessing proper justice for slum dwellers in still a pipe dream in Kenya.

With the office coming closer to the people, it is time for people to seize the opportunity and hold all public servant accountable. When forceful evictions occur this time round, we hope it will be investigated and proper action be taken against any public official abetting the vice.

Case Handling Levels see the website: (http://www.ombudsman.go.ke).

March 6, 2014

Letter from Aliens to Earth

Alien SoundI was abducted by a ‘Aliens’ and taken to a higher ground in a floating spaceship and this is what they told me about earth’

“We come in peace to visit our dear lost cousins.  From our world which you refer to as Alien, we are told of our long lost cousins who disappeared into the space never to return. Our mission on earth is to discover how you are doing and how we can co-operate and sustain the entire universe. We are happy to note that after many years of wars amongst yourself, you have tried to make initiative to unite your countries through United Nations and regional trading blocs which is slowly forging a common understanding on human existence.

Our main mission is to alert you about the depleting ozone layer, greenhouse effects and its impact on your existence and future. We have noted with concern your appetite and greediness to harness natural resources. You extract more than you need and hence there is increased solid waste generated which you have no plans on how and where to dispose. You have ended up throwing more waste into the lakes, rivers, forests and oceans. What has been the impact of these actions? You are now witnessing unusual weather patterns in your planet. In our experience, nature has a way of cleaning itself and it does not forgive when it come to correcting wrong actions. Please our cousins, your own expert predicts that is nothing is done on time then one fourth of your species on earth will disappear by 2050.  We are happy, a few leaders like Al Gore from USA have tried to explain the impact and in 2007, you awarded him a Nobel Peace Prize in for his efforts in raising awareness on Climate Change. But are  acting to save your planet?

Experience from our culture shows that wars caused extinction and not development. We are aware during the First and Second World Wars some families lost a whole generation. You have invested so much in weaponry than in human development. In the year 2012/2013, according to your calendar, we noticed some increased human activity at a place you call China, which has increased its military budget allocation and we are equally concerned with high level of air pollution and we are disappointed. Wars and conflicts are almost in all corners of African countries from Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo to West Africa apart from the never ending conflict in the Middle East between Palestinians and Israel, while there is still no sight for a solution to the Afghanistan war. As your experienced cousins, we implore you to reconsider your investment priorities.

We advice that Earthlings should invest more in their own current and future development. Discovering Us (Aliens) will lead to disappointment which we are not sure whether you will be able to handle. This planet is blessed with enough resources for all. You don’t need to discover Us at the expense of human development.

When you launched Millennium Development Goals in 2000, the Alien Council decided that we shall come and visit you and celebrate the success together in 2015. We are disappointed despite advancement in technology the levels of disparities, diseases, extreme poverty and poor governance have continued with little progress worth showing. We have been made aware through our satellite imagery of earth some areas people asking for their human rights in Syria, Egypt and homosexuals are threatened with imprisonment and death threats. This is an unacceptable. A report from one of your own, Prof. Jeffery D. Sachs tells us that you are now moving towards Sustainable Development Goals. This is a good move since you are now focusing more on human development, investment and sustaining it. For now we shall postpone of our visit to earth until 2030 since there is nothing to celebrate. In Peace we Leave But We are Watching Your Every Move….” – Simon

February 19, 2014

Mathare or Kibera?

Both places, Mathare and Kibera are a reflection of low income areas with overcrowding, lack of social amenities, high crime level, unemployment, teenage pregnancy cases, gender based violence and general lack of strong accountability and governance structures. Mathare a place of less than 3 Km sq has more than 200,000.

kiberaMathare and Kibera share four things in common. First both had quarry at stage in life. Second they neighbour some of the most rich neighbourhoods. Kibera has Karen while Mathare is to Muthaiga. Another interesting observation is that the too have golf courses nearby. Mathare is next to Muthaiga Golf Club and Kibera has Royal Golf Club. Major road road construction are going, across Kibera we have while Mathare has Thika Highway.

Despite all these abundance nearby there is imbalance in the investment made by civil society. Kibera attracts high profile attention and funding than Mathare. The slum upgrading in Kibera is just one of the example how huge investments have been made. One might argue that most of the land in Kibera is government owned and that is why is easy to carry out housing projects.

Poverty level in Kibera is more glaring compared with Mathare. From housing condition and to terrain the place is terrible. In Mathare people also suffer too but they ‘hide’ it wth smile and welcoming charm. So many research have been conducted in Mathare but very little has been used to transform people’s life?-Simon

February 7, 2014

Maps and Slums

mathareNairobi is home to more than 100 informal settlements with little basic social amenities of low standards. The most ‘famous’ slum in Nairobi is Kibera. This is a place with many NGOs activities than schools.

There is high presence of NGOs in Kebera plus the place being put on the world map courtesy of OpenStreet Map However the residents continue to live in usual conditions found in slums. However there is hope for Kibera unlike Mathare. If the Kibera slum upgrading is completed and the houses distributed fairly without corruption then we headed to good times. Slum Upgrading projects are better off if the development process is monitored by various stakeholders.

kibera

Looking at the informal settlement in http://www.openstreetmap.org , in Nairobi section one notice that some of the informal settlements mapped are, Mukuru, Kibera, Mathare, Baba Dogo, Korogocho among others. Amazingly, the most mapped slum in Nairobi is Mathare! Almost all schools, health facilities, disaster prone areas have been mapped in details and shared in the OpenStreetMap platform. But has this visibility translated into Mathare being a popular destination with donors compared with Kibera? And what could be impeding factors? (Next week Mathare and Kibera)- Simon

February 1, 2014

Slums and Nairobi Master Plan

I have had the opportunity of being engaged in consultative meetings regarding Nairobi Integrated Urban Master Plan (NIUPLAN) which my parents never did in 1973, this is was the last plan for Nairobi. The 1973 – 2000 master plan was developed and one of the most important issues I have noted was recognition of the urban poor, investment in provision of housing by the council and well equipped city with accessible social amenities like playing grounds and social halls.

In the meetings I have attend, lack of space and high population have been attributed to the break down in provision of services. Listening to various presenters, one easily concludes that the city has been running without master plan for 14 years while urban planning department never had experts and qualified staff to enforce some of the recommendations in the 1970 Nairobi Master Plan. During the 14 years period, Nairobi City went to the dogs. Parking spaces in some city estates were grabbed, sprawling of slums along major Nairobi river become coupled with forceful evictions, the once safe and City in the Sun paradise became Nairobbery.

Slums are not an issues. The current Nairobi master plan assumes that slums will just disappear. Listening to concerns of residents from Marurui, Thome, Kasarani and Mathare issues such as controlled development are never adhered to. In some residential areas such as Huruma, Kayole and Pangani it is common to find buildings with more than six storey without lifts.

Poor road net has greatly contributed to uncollected garbage lying in low income neighbourhoods with garbage collectors’ lorry unable to access inside these place hence continued accumulations on solid waste.

The Nairobi Master plan is a good to start in the right direction.

November 30, 2012

Mathare Constituency Map

Mathare Constituency has been created out of Starehe. Below are the six wards.

map

Mathare Ward Population IEBC Target
Hospital 20,463 10,000
Mabatini 28,260 14,000
Huruma 36,247 17,000
Ngei 36,248 15,000
Mlango Kubwa 38,374 18,000
Kiamaiko 33,824 16,000
Total 193,416 90,000
November 30, 2012

Mathare for Credible 2013 Elections

On 29th November 2012 political representatives and aspirants for the constituency and ward, NGOs / CBOs representatives, religious leaders, elders, youths, people with disability women representatives and provincial administration gathered at Mathare Valley Polytechnic to be addressed by the local IEBC representatives.

IEBC had their agenda while most people had questions, which they wanted addressed. IEBC wanted to sensitize public about voter registration in Mathare constituency, perception on the public on BVR kit, public, violence, role model and morality. When it came to questions, public were more concerned about accessing identity cards, extension of voter registration, transportation of voters into Mathare, voter education and the process which was used to recruit educators, what are the current numbers of registered voters and target for each ward? From the meeting it was clear that the public agenda and that of IEBC was different.

The IEBC official(s) present informed the public on the progress as from 19/11/2012 a follows but these figures were given as estimates (only for the 1st week of registration)

Ward Target Expected 1st wk registered voters
Kiamaiko 16,000 4,481
Huruma 17,000 4,846
Mabatini 14,000 3,670
Hospital 10,000 2,423
Ngei ???? ????
Mlango Kubwa 18,000 4,617
Total (Estimates) 90,000 30,000

During the meeting, an aspirant brought a public address system to the meeting, which the public rejected. The IEBC officials should have rejected this move. By accepting ‘resources’ to facilitate an IEBC meeting from an aspirant amounts to being compromised.

The meeting was on a short notice. It was clear that supporters of certain politicians were more than others. IEBC needs to ensure that all aspirants are invited on time and their apologies acknowledged otherwise the public will view IEBC as collaborating with certain sections of the community. The public seems to be unclear on the new boundaries since it causing confusion among the potential voters. In Hospital ward for example, the Kenya Gazette had indicated that Gitathuru and Mathare 4B are still in Mabatini Ward. IEBC ward educators are expected to sensitize the public on the boundaries and other voter’s related issues. The Mathare area District Officer was very categorical that all residents have a duty to ensure that the elections are peaceful both at the party nomination and national elections. Public expect a credible election and IEBC officials should act in ways that will boost public confidence in the process.- Simon

%d bloggers like this: