Good afternoon.

I would like to extend my gratitude to the Board and Secretariat of County Governance Watch (CGW) for inviting me to attend this conference at Ufungamano House. Since its inception in 1966, this centre has served as the epicentre of significant political conversations and movements by Kenya’s opposition, civil society, religious groups, and the student community advocating for constitutional reforms. I also appreciate the symbolism as today I join the ranks of Kenyan patriots who have stood at this podium to advocate for Kenyans’ rights.

The work of CGW, led by Executive Director Kevin Osido, is genuinely commendable. One of your six thematic areas i.e., “Devolution and County Participation” have put CGW front and centre in addressing socio-economic and political development issues at the national and county levels in Kenya.

Specifically, the platforms CGW has provided for public participation have helped strengthen county government structures, giving citizens a greater say in how their resources are managed and decisions are made. In my opinion, CGW has had and continues to have a distinctive and important voice BECAUSE of your dedication to improving our society via citizen capacity-building.

It is also not lost on me that this keynote address takes place on the eve of our 61st anniversary of Madaraka – Self Internal Independence. Nor that the theme is AMKA – Stay Woke: Citizen Voices of Action.

61 years ago, Kenya held its first genuinely democratic elections – Lower House and Senate as well as Regional Assemblies – as part of the constitutional transitional process agreed upon in Lancaster House, London, Britain. This can be considered the FIRST REAL Public Participation Act by Kenyans – our FIRST WOKE MOMENT if you will – where the Call for Citizens Action was exercised by Kenyans at the ballot.

The allusion to the history of Madaraka is both essential and significant. As is the reminder here of the national values and ideals our Founding Fathers championed when fighting for our right to Independence so that ALL Kenyans would be free from ignorance, poverty, and disease.

On August 27, 2010, we promulgated The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 following a referendum on August 4. Before its promulgation, Kenyans reviewed the Proposed New Constitution, made recommendations and proposals, and forwarded their views to their respective Members of Parliament. That Kenyans from all walks of life were allotted 30 days to engage in the document that would become the supreme law of the land – was a WATERSHED WOKE MOMENT in our history. Some here may even consider this our FIRST GENUINE CITIZEN-DRIVEN LEGISLATIVE ACTION.

Significantly, Article 1 (2) of the Constitution empowers citizens to exercise their sovereign power directly. Article 10 (2) (a) includes national values, ‘…Participation of the people.’ Article 33 (1) provides that every person has the right to freedom of expression, which includes (a) freedom to seek, receive, or impart information or ideas. Further, Article 35 grants citizens the right to access information held by the State.

Moreover, although Article 94 gives Parliament sole authority to enact laws, Articles 118, 119, 124, 201, 221, and 232 define public participation in legislative proceedings. Article 232 (1) (d) makes it quite evident that “the involvement of the people in the process of policy-making” is a necessary public service value and principle.

Let me take this moment to address the National Dialogue Committee (NADCO) Bills and the Finance Bill, 2024.

Let me also remind you that these NADCO bi-partisan talks were a result of the sacrifices of more than 72 Kenyans who lost their lives during the Maandamano protests.

As co-chair of NADCO, we spent months at the Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi, listening to inputs from the public, Executive, County Governments, civil society and religious organizations, and the business community.

From your submitted proposals, we presented to Rt Hon. Raila Odinga and President William Ruto, what I truly believe was and continues to be the people’s Call to Action. It then was incumbent on our representatives at the National Assembly and the Senate to honour their voices by passing the Bills without amendments.

While the National Assembly adhered to the will of the people, the four bills that the Senate’s Standing Committee on Justice, Legal Affairs, and Human Rights (JLAC) considered in early May, had significant alternations. I am glad that our Minority Leader Kilifi County Senator Stewart Madzayo raised the red flag with the Senate Business Committee (SBC), and that Speaker Amason Kingi stopped the process so that the said Bills be corrected with what was agreed in the NADCO report, and republished for introduction in the Senate.

To be clear, this machination demonstrated a lack of good faith on the part of a sector of the Kenya Kwanza administration. Without our lawmakers’ sharp eye for detail, the four Bills may have passed, which would have been a travesty of immense proportion.

As regards the Finance Bill, 2024, it is my view here at Ufungamano Houe that these new rafts of taxes – from bread to M-PESA transactions and motor vehicle levies – would shackle Kenyans to prolonged poverty and disease.

We can no longer claim ignorance, ladies and gentlemen. AND, we must take all necessary actions to safeguard public participation as one of our democracy’s core foundations and uphold the promise.

We must do now, tomorrow, and always in the spirit of Self-Independence, reject the apparent tokenism of public participation in favour of true and of true and effective public discourse and engagement that leads to a legislative agenda that reflects the desire of the Kenyan people.

You and I, I feel, must have the bravery and voice to tell this administration that we have the capacity, dignity, and right to make decisions and shape our destiny.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is our Self Governance Moment; our AMKA – STAY WOKE MOMENT.

Thank you very much.

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