People’s Assemblies should be an undying feature of Devolution, not a tool for temporary resistance

By Viscount Francis K’Owuor,
November 9th, 2017,
The opposition plans to draft a motion that will be tabled in all ‘NASA controlled’ county assemblies from next week to establish people’s assemblies in the devolved units.
This is part of the strategy to resist the Jubilee administration for perpetuating electoral dictatorship.
It is not clear how the people’s assemblies envisaged by NASA will be structured, but it should be known that public participation is a concept that is anchored in our constitution, to be specific, in Article 196. In fact, the law stipulates that counties set aside funds for public sensitization meetings and forums. NASA leaders have been aware of this. Only that in the past they seem not to have been interested in involving the people in governance issues, lest the people questioned improprieties that were happening within the counties.  That is why in total disregard to the provisions of the law,  structures for public participation have not been set up in  ‘opposition controlled counties’. That is not to say that ‘Jubilee controlled’ counties are any better when it comes to popular involvement.
Fortunately or unfortunately, now it is going to be convenient for the opposition to establish such structures, because, via people’s assemblies, they are going to use such legal provisions  to disseminate anti-government propaganda. That is the application of the law for political expediency, which is against the concept of Constitutionalism as one of the cornerstones of Democracy. You don’t apply the law only when it suits your cause.
Public participation should be a lifelong character of Devolution, not a  tool to settle political scores. In fact, it is not supposed to be fashioned to be used against government, whether at the national or county level. Instead, it is supposed to work to improve relations between the people and government. It is designed to make government policies responsive to popular interests. Through public participation, the will of the people is reflected in decisions made by the government.
If anything,  this idea that a county government can take an adversarial position against the national government is totally alien to the spirit and principles of the constitution. Article 189 of the constitution describes the nature of relations that should exist between the national government and the government of the counties. It talks about co-operation, consultation, support, respect, sharing of information, and such other things that put the public interest at the core of inter-governmental relations.
It is therefore prudent that the opposition thinks of other ways to check the Jubilee administration instead of poisoning inter-governmental relations. By construing public participation to be a bludgeon intended only for the national government, county governments will run unchecked. Consequently, the vices of corruption, nepotism, abuse of power and mismanagement will all be transferred from the national government to the counties inadvertently.
Instead of being permissive about bad governance in friendly counties, the opposition should transform them into models of good governance. That will send a message at the national level that the call for reforms is an ideology that the opposition believes in, and is committed to. It will boost the opposition’s chances of taking over power.
Steve Biko said, ” the power of a movement lies in the fact that it can indeed change the habits of men. This change is not as a result of force, but of dedication and moral persuasion”.
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