Kenya needs dialogue through established democratic institutions

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BY PRISCILLA NYOKABI

It is no doubt that we have interesting politics in Kenya and we never have a dull moment. We would actually enjoy our politics save for the fact that our negative ethnicity politics sometimes run out of hand and cause nasty episodes like Mpeketoni, Wajir and other places. On the more interesting bit an important topic has been thrown on the table, a request for National Dialogue by the CORD Leader Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. The word dialogue has attained a new meaning and I hope a baby will soon be named Dialogue. I decided to read more on the subject courtesy of materials sent be a friend who has spent more time on the subject.Upon reading the illuminating materials and write ups on Dialogue. Here are some key points:-

1. Inter-Party Dialogue is best handled in Parliament and there must be very good reasons of seeking complementary spaces outside democratic institutions paid for by tax payers like Parliament where dialogue and debate happen as a matter of course. Jubilee – Cord dialogue should happen in Parliament.

2. Dialogue is good during transition and post conflict for instance what we had in 2007/08 after Post Election Violence. Dialogue follows violent conflict (God Forbid). Kenya is not in such circumstances. We finished our peaceful election more than a year ago and the challenges we have can be handled by the Govt of the day, through established democratic institutions.

3. In the event that dialogue is to be held extensive preparations are required in a highly political and contentious process. We don’t need to get into this at the moment seeing that we have just emerged from competitive electoral processes and an economic agenda to pursue, coupled with continued implementation of our2010 democratic constitution, the best in Africa.

4. The Agenda must be realistic and well communicated and there must be absolute transparency on the purpose of the dialogue. The objectives must be clear. To what end are we having the dialogue? There are some people who remain opposed to the New Constitution and its promises and principles and would use this opportunity to change it especially the electoral system. The CORD leader former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his running mate Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka are the only lines outside the democratic institutions, the dialogue outside of the current democratic institutions might be a ploy to try to get them into the fold. It is not easy to understand the purposes of the dialogue in the form and shape being advocated for as most of the Dialogue we needed to have in Kenya happened towards passage of the New Constitution. Issues like Security and Cost of Living are handled through many laws, policies and budgetary allocations work done by the executive and the legislature. CORD can very well table some policies, laws and other measures to bring down the cost of living or address security challenges as they have done through a many motions they introduce in parliament.

5. The participants to the dialogue are another contentious matter. They must be scrutinised and picked through various models including elections. The dialogue must include a cross section of people including women and youth (The Constitution addressed this matter and put women, youth and persons with disability in Parliament). We therefore need to give implementation of the new constitution greater impetus and time, so that the established mechanisms can work.

6. There are many types of dialogue: – Sustained Dialogue, Reflective Dialogue (an inquiry), Generative Dialogue, and Democratic Dialogue. Which dialogue is CORD leader asking for? The type of dialogue determines the quality of the conversation. There is a lot to say on the design on each type of dialogue.

7. The dichotomy of Democratic Dialogue VS Democratic institutions is deep with lots of analysis as dialogue would end at the democratic institutions anyway. As we have Parliament, the National Assembly and Senate, the CORD leaders have to take their space there and raise issues in the democratic institutions. One of the issues they might want to raise through their representatives is possibly to amend the constitution and other laws to allow for presidential candidates to run for Parliamentary or Senate offices, so that losers may have a political avenue to contribute to the development of the country.

CORD Leaders have sufficient space in the democratic institutions to raise issues. CORD has admitted that they have not played their role of official opposition well. This is where they need to start, by internalizing what it means to be a responsible opposition side offering constructive criticism to Jubilee and its policies. As an MP serving on the Jubilee side I see many opportunities that CORD have to improve matters in Kenya. For instance when they opposed Nyumba Kumi Security Strategy they should have offered an alternative. When they criticize laptops they should offer an alternative approach.

Kenya does not need a National Dialogue as proposed by CORD Leader. Kenya needs a Government side that is working hard to deliver on its election manifesto and a CORD side that keeps Government on its toes. All the leaders should be responsible, effective, hardworking and not corrupt. Dialogue in the form being advocated will not help Kenya. Conscientious leaders will help Kenya overcome challenges and give our people hope. Kenyans need hope and peace for a conducive economic growth environment. Dialogue within existing institutions and spaces will serve Kenya better.

(Nyokabi is the Nyeri County Women Representative)

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