A Call for Genuine Public Participation in Governance

File image of ongoing pu
File image of ongoing public participation

By Brenda Holo

Public participation is one of the foundational principles of democracy. Democracy is grounded on the idea that all citizens are equally entitled to have a say in decisions affecting their lives. Citizens’ participation in government decision-making is fundamental to the functioning of a democratic system of governance as stated in chapter one of the Constitution of Kenya.  Article 118  (1) (b) mandates Parliament to conduct its business openly, holding its sittings and committee meetings in the public eye.

Now it seems that Public participation, in our country, is becoming like an old shirt that is tearing away at the seams. Even the threads are rotten. The prevalent practice of organizing committees having a list of pre-selected speakers in public participation forums undermines Equality, as premised by Article 27, which states the necessity of ensuring that all citizens have an equal opportunity in legislative activities of Parliament.

The vice of having   pre-selected speakers, creates a hierarchy that perpetuates the voices of a select few, leaving the common mwananchi on the periphery of crucial discussions. Moreover, the Freedom of Expression, protected under Article 33, extends to the right to seek, receive, or impart information during public participation processes. Denying citizens the opportunity to articulate their issues directly contradicts the fundamental right to express oneself.

The common mwananchi, who bears the brunt of governmental decisions, must be actively involved in shaping those decisions. Allowing citizens to articulate their concerns ensures that the government remains connected to the needs and aspirations of the people.

It is time to empower the common mwananchi, giving them a direct and unfiltered channel to voice their concerns and contribute to the democratic fabric of our nation. Hence I call upon the government to actively discourage the practice of committees chair selecting speakers, as it undermines the essence of genuine public participation.

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