How Will Kenya Be After Elections?
- Monday, 25 June 2012
Kenya has entered a crucial phase in its democratic transition. A peaceful and democratic general election will be the watershed for this transition. The present day political challenges are related to deepening of democracy; strengthening accountability, the rule of law and civil society; and tackling structural inequalities and biting poverty.
Success has been recorded in some sectors but when it comes to more substantial aspects of democracy such as enhancing accountability, fighting corruption, building strong party systems, adhering to the rule of law and access to justice, Kenya still has a long way to go.
Kenyans are confident in the durability of democracy, but they are also cautious. With well developed central and devolved socio-political institutions and also established horizontal, vertical and ‘third dimension’ accountability mechanisms there is every chance Kenya would evolve into a prosperous democratic state able to meet her citizens’ security, justice and livelihoods concerns.
Majority of Kenyans fought for democracy in the hope of greater social justice, broader political participation and breaking the cycles of violence and impunity. They expected democracy to bring more effective development. Political uncertainty, inequality and violence have marred their country’s democratic transition. They seem to have lost confidence in the effectiveness of government and to some extent faith in democracy.
There are two main reasons for this status: democratic institutions keep on being subverted by corruption, elite capture and have inadequate reach; and there are gaps in democratic practice. In the next critical phase of democratic governance consolidation, Kenya has to invest in building and strengthening democratic institutions, promoting democratic politics and cultivating judicial independence and activism that defend democratic institutions and practices.
Democracy, in itself, does not guarantee greater social justice, faster economic growth or increased social and political stability. The links between democracy and human development are strong but not automatic. Those links need to be strengthened. People must go beyond simply expressing their views during elections and preferences to check the power of rulers and influence decisions. Accountability is key. It is about people having power — not just a say in official decisions but also the right to hold their rulers to account.
The Kenya of the future has to remain fully committed to pursuing a sustained pace of reforms, which are vital for the consolidation of the nascent institutions, deepening democracy and the rule of law. It has to ensure increased public participation and grassroots involvement in the decision-making process and to respond positively to the legitimate expectations that Kenyan citizens have in holding fair and transparent elections and beyond those elections.
It is necessary to encourage building on the current foundations for a stronger democracy and institutions. Full implementation of the constitution and its internalisation by both state and its organs and the people is of paramount importance. This are the first steps towards a path to greater democracy and more opportunities for citizens to meaningfully engage in political life and enjoyment of their fundamental rights and freedoms. It would also be a milestone in amicable resolutions of disputes and breaking cycles of violence and impunity.
Deepening democracy is about translating Kenya Constitution on democratic governance into democratic practices. And there are plenty of opportunities. While a constitution is certainly important for building democracy, citizens and public officers with capacities for practicing democracy in cooperation and mutual trust is actually more important. Such trust and capacity doesn’t come out of the blue but from successful practice of democracy.
Once true democracy is established, efforts have to be made to transform the current electoral systems in order to make it fair, representative and inclusive. It has to be a system that facilitate accountability in between elections, give electorate platform to influence policy and law-making and build strong political institutions. Also it should be able increase the numbers of women participating in competitive politics and holding public office.
Punitive measures for fighting corruption are essential to cement the rule of law and democracy, and boost fair economic growth. Therefore enhancing transparency and strengthening law enforcement mechanisms remain a pivotal challenge. A lot will be needed to build on the extensive co-operation in the all-important field of public financial management.
Kenya is still faced with major challenges which have to be addressed. To this end, the strengthening of the civil society is a crucial element in order to help the Kenyan people address these shortcomings, support grassroots organizations to enhance citizens’ political participation in order to ensure the success of the democratization process.
Civil society has been instrumental in steering and helping the country towards a democratic human rights state. It remains a key driver and contributor to advancing, stabilising, and deepening democratic values. The capacity of civil society organizations to advocate for more transparent, accountable and representative government institutions and policies need to be increased and sustained.
It will be expected to focus on stabilization and deepening democratic practice in the devolution of public decision authority to empowered local units; the creation of formal linkages of responsibility, resource distribution, and communication that connect these units to each other and to super-ordinate, more centralized authorities; and the use and generation of new state institutions to support and guide these devolved problem solving efforts rather than leaving them as informal or voluntary affairs.
Also beyond the general elections the other challenge will be facilitating active political involvement of the citizenry, forging political consensus through dialogue, devising and implementing public policies that ground a productive inclusive economy and healthy society, and ensuring that all citizens benefit from the nation’s wealth. Access to opportunities means sustainable growth but also inclusiveness, social cohesion and moreover dignity for citizens.