, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 15 – A consortium of Civil Society Organisations on Wednesday committed to spend Sh100 million in 10 counties over the next nine months to strengthen public participation in county governance.
The CSOs, which came together under the banner of the Kenya Dialogues Project, said events over the last year of devolved governance show that the understanding of public participation, as enshrined in the Constitution, was wanting.
“What we’ve seen are sections of the public taking to the streets to protest the extravagance of their county budgets after the fact. But when invited to give their views during the budget making process, only a handful show up,” Irene Kamau, Executive Director of Action Now Kenya, said.
An unfortunate state of affairs, they argued, further proved by the findings of studies carried out by various research organisations and the recently publicised observations of the Devolution forum.
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“Only 5.7 percent of Kenyans have participated in citizen consultation forums at the county level in the past one year. Only 17 percent of Kenyans are aware of how much funds have been allocated to their counties. Sixty-eight percent of Kenyans have major concerns regarding the way local governments are run. However, 72 percent of them believe that as individuals they can only do little or nothing to influence Government,” Cornelus Oduor, CEO of the Centre for Enhancing Democracy and Good governance read out.
Statistics, the CSOs argued, that reflect a lack of awareness of the responsibilities that come with the expectation of public participation.
“We demand of them (county governments) to make a change without really being clear about what we want them to do. We need to move beyond that to saying we want this to be done but even as we request of you, this is the role we shall play as the community,” Kamau said.
The first step toward which, Irungu Houghton of the Society for International Development said, would be explaining to the public why they needed to participate at all.
“What we are trying to effect is behaviour change. Just because you know eating a certain food is bad for you, doesn’t mean you’ll stop eating it,” he said by way of explanation.
The CSOs, Kamau said, would then embark on informing the public of the avenues available to them for participation in the running of their county governments.
“Mama mboga doesn’t have time to read the newspaper, maybe she can’t afford it, maybe she can’t read. And when you invite her to participate through an ad playing over the radio at 7pm, she’s busy tending to her family. Her chama may be the best way to reach her,” Kamau proposed.
The consortium comprises Action Now Kenya, Agency for Pastoralists Development, Centre for Enhanced Democracy and Good Governance, Community Research in Environment and Development Initiatives, Institute for Civic Education and Development in Africa, Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium, Management of Arid Zones Initiatives and Development Options, Poverty Eradication Network, Society for International Development, Social Ministry Research Network Centre and Womankind Kenya plans to, from November to August 2015, raise this awareness in Nairobi, Nyeri, Bungoma, Garissa, Kajiado, Kisumu, Machakos, Nakuru, Taita Taveta and Turkana.
The 10 counties having been selected on the basis of their representative nature, Houghton submitted.
“The whole reason we passed this Constitution was to give power to the people, to make the people the centre of power but unless the people know how to tap into this power, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on,” he explained.