Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) Training

By Martin Ndichu

The training on Human Rights Based Approach was held on 26th June 2014 at Maisha Poa Centre in Kawangware. It was conducted by Consolation East Africa and was supported by Mensen met een Missie. In attendance were representatives of various institutions working in area of Governance and community organization. Institutions present were Community Based Organizations (CBOs), and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) based and working in the larger Nairobi County. These organizations address different community concerns including Gender Based Violence, Environmental conservation, Education, Peace and Justice among others.

In the training were government representatives, these included the Ministry of Planning and devolution, Uwezo Fund Dagorreti South and the Police Administration. For one reason or the other, some of the invited government institutions were unable to attend. The training was aimed at enhancing Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) in governance and community organization and also offer a platform for the members of the public to engage with the service providers. Millicent Agutu facilitated the introduction of the HRBA concept including the historical background of human rights and their characteristics. Bridged Faida facilitated the classification of Human Rights and Human Rights Instruments. Martin Ndichu led the participants to explore the Bill of Rights in the Kenyan Constitution while Josephat Khamasi highlighted the different commissions concerned with Human Rights and which are legislated by the parliament.

In welcoming the participants the project officer commended the gender representation which is one component provided for in the Kenyan Constitution and also a vital tenet in HRBA. She pointed out that the training would have a special focus on the Constitution as a governance instrument. She led the participants to understand the HRBA concept covering topics such the definition of HRBA, its importance and principles as well as the values of HRBA. She also explored Human rights definition, historical development, characteristics and their importance. Participants also discussed the responsibilities that come with different rights. The participants were made to understand that rights go hand in hand with responsibilities. Also noted is the fact that Human Rights have limitation and their validity may vary from one region to the other depending on the constitution, culture and practices.

Bridged Faida introduced the second session, this session dwelt on exploring the classification of Human Rights and the Human Rights Instruments. She led the participants to understand the classification of human rights which included Civic and Political Rights, Social, economic and Cultural Rights and Collective or group rights. The participants were made aware that all human rights are contained in the three categories of rights. She also led the participants to understand the Human Rights Instruments, this include the Regional and the International instruments. These instruments are also known as treaties and which are formal agreements between 2 or more states. Some of the treaties highlighted as international instruments include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, 1976), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR 1976).

Participants were led to understand that some treaties focus specifically on particular types of violations and these include; The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1951), the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD, 1969), The Convention Against Torture and other in human or degrading treatment or punishment (CAT 1987). Other treaties were particular groups of people such as The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (CSR, 1954), The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC 1990), The UN Declaration on Rights of Older Persons (1991), The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC, 2002), The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their families (CPRMW, 2003), The UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People (2007), Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD, 2008) and International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance (2010)
The participants were led to understand that we also have regional instruments or treaties that also seek to uphold human dignity. These treaties include; the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (African Charter, 1986, The African on the Rights and Welfare of the Child Charter (ACRWC, 1999), The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Human Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (African Women’s Protocol, 2005), the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (2006), the African Union Convention for Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Person in Africa (Kampala Convention, 2009) and The African Youth Charter (AYC, 2009)
The facilitator led the participants to understand that both the regional and international treaties are only applicable in those countries that are parties to them. This means that the provisions of a particular treaty are only effective in a country that has signed in agreement with the treaty. The participants were also made to understand that once a country signs such a treaty, the provisions contained herein are embraced as laws in that country and the state is required to submit reports to the supervisory committee on progress in domestic implementation of treaty obligations.

The third sessions sought to explore the fundamental rights and freedoms as outlined in the Constitution of Kenya 2010. Facilitated by Martin Ndichu, participants were led through the Bill of Rights that highlights the fundamental rights and freedoms. These rights and freedoms are contained in Article 29 to Article 57 of the Kenyan Constitution. It includes a definition of the rights and also defines limitations on the rights and freedoms. Participants discussed how successful the bill of rights was in terms of implementation, it emerged that some provision in the Bill of Rights were not clearly defined hence may have loop holes.

Article 59 of the constitution establishes the Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission to promote respect for human rights, gender equality and promote the protection and observance of human rights in public and private institutions. The facilitator, Josephat Khamasi led the participants to understand the role of Human Rights Commission. The participants were led to understand that these commissions are established by the constitution and that the parliament is empowered to restructure the Human Rights Commission into two or more commission. Consequent to this, the parliament enacted The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights Act, The National Gender and Equality Commission Act and The Commission on Administrative Justice Act as independent commissions to pursue different functions.
The participants were led to understand the functions of the different commissions and some of the accomplishment that have been made by individual commission. Though independent to each other, the participants were made aware that these commissions at some point undertake their functions together.

In earlier activities, Consolation East Africa had involved with some of the community organizations to pursue HRBA in community organizations. Representatives from these organizations were given chance to share on how they had applied HRBA in their activities. Mrs. Betty Hamud representing Westlands Peace, Gender and Development Organization reported that her organization had strived to exercise gender sensitivity in their programs. The organization has also led advocacy for protection of women from gender based violence, their efforts have seen them establish a gender violence response centre in Westlands. Their active participation has seen them receive recognition by the administration in the area.

Another beneficially of CEA trainings Mr. Timothy Odongo representing Riruta Environmental Group (REG) reported that his organization had strived to uphold the right of each individual to live in a clean environment. He emphasized on the need to conserve the environment and held that through their environmental conservation endeavors they have afforded the community a chance to live in dignity. Mr Richard Karanja of Kangemi Gender Based Violence and Peace Working Group reported that their participation and engagement with the administration Police in Kangemi area of Nairobi in addressing the issues affecting them has seen an improvement in the level of security and development.

Lillian Achieng’ a teacher at Vigil School was also a beneficiary of past activities by CEA. As a result of the lessons learnt through these activities, they have been able to adopt better management as well as humane practices in helping the children in education. For instance, as a school they have ensured that all their children enjoy their freedom of religion by setting aside time for prayers for the different religions that the children belong; these include Muslims, Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) and Christians. They have also included in their program home visits for their children who show signs of distress. This way they have maintained a close relationship with their children and parents and have also been involving them in setting the strategic plans for the school.

As part of program, there was a briefing from government representatives on the available government services. Mr. Kayaga from the Ministry of planning and Devolution and Mr. Nyaga from the Uwezo Fund Committee Ng’ando Ward briefed the participants on the services available. He pointed out the Kenya Youth Empowerment Program (KYEP) a project that is supported by World Bank and partners with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) in a bid to empower mainly the young people age 18 to 29 years by equipping them with life skills, Co-business skills and internship opportunity to increase their employability. They also pointed out other financial supports including the Youth Enterprise Fund, Women Enterprise Fund and the Uwezo fund. They went ahead to explain the requirement to receive such funds.

Participants discussed other funds that were within their knowledge, from the discussion funds such as the Cash transfer for the aged, disability fund and the street children rehabilitation funds were identified. Participants working in areas funded by these funds or requiring such funds, were encouraged to find more information on the requirement for accessing such funds by visiting/consulting with institutions that are tasked to manage these funds.

There was an expectation that this session would offer more opportunity for the public to engage with their leaders but as noted earlier most of them were not able to attend hence other sectors of the administration were unrepresented. This include the police, the Chief, the Member of the County Assembly, Member of parliament Dagorreti, the District Commissioner among others.

After the training, participants expressed gratitude in the training and encouraged that each of the individual organizations represented should strive to incorporate HRBA in their activities. They also required that the participants present share the information they got with others not present and also in their organizations. By so doing the participants expressed confidence that they would popularize the practice and have better organizations.

Participants further suggested some activities that could be carried out in future on the same area. These activities include; Organize HBRA trainings for Community Based Organizations, Self help and youth groups existing in the different areas represented by the organizations present in the training. Organize exchange visits for organization for collective learning, organize training on Children Rights in schools, convene a forum for people with disability and also organize forums that analyze the underrepresented issue to be presented to the media and leaders.

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Raila writes to Uhuru Asking him to Welcome the National Dialogue

By BERNARD NAMUNANE, June 20th 2014, Daily Nation

Cord leader Raila Odinga has written to President Uhuru Kenyatta, assuring him that he is not interested in grabbing power.

Mr Odinga said he had accepted the results of the General Election and that he was ready to play his role in the opposition.

Addressing President Kenyatta as “my brother”, Mr Odinga was categorical that he neither held a grudge over the way he lost in the last elections nor would he use the clamour for dialogue to seek a position in government.

He said Cord’s intention was to use the national dialogue to debate and find solutions to the avalanche of problems he warned “may tear the country apart if not immediately addressed”.

The former Prime Minister also assured the Head of State of his support in the war against terror and criminal gangs, which he said had taken an upper hand in parts of the country, leading to the killing of 65 people in Mpeketoni, Lamu.

“I want to assure your Excellency that we hold no grudges nor do we want to interfere with your tenure and that of the Jubilee administration as the President and the Government of the Republic of Kenya,” he said in the letter dated June 20.

He said he and other Cord leaders have been holding peaceful rallies as a way of engaging the people in an open and public discourse “on how we can make Kenya great and prosperous; a free nation, a people-liberated and an independent country in the international community of nations”.

It appears Mr Odinga’s move is intended to cool political temperatures that have risen in recent days following his return three weeks ago from a three-week stay in the United States.

The letter comes in the wake of growing tension in the country, triggered by terror and criminal attacks on the one hand and a heightened political mood arising from the clamour for national dialogue.

POLITICAL REASONS

While Cord has insisted that it is the only way to end the current “crisis”, Jubilee MPs have argued that the opposition was using the push for the conference for political reasons — to acquire power outside the ballot.

President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto have argued that some of the issues that Cord wants discussed can be resolved through Parliament and warned that while they hold forte at State House, they were open to talking over “a cup of tea” with their rivals.

But Mr Odinga argued the issues at hand were beyond the floor of the House, requiring both sides of the political divide and other stakeholders to resolve in a “structured” way.

“We have a constitutional mandate as the opposition in Parliament and as a coalition of political parties. However, the problems and challenges facing the country cannot all be addressed as an exercise of law-making or oversight. Nor can they be resolved on the basis of the classical interplay between the three arms of government,” he said.

Quoting Isaiah 1:18, he said great leaders in the world who chose the path of national dialogue in times of crisis emerged victorious.

But in Friday’s letter, he repeated that there were five critical issues afflicting the country and which needed to be discussed to guarantee Kenya’s security and prosperity.

“I seek no office or reward. So I offer the hand of peace and an olive branch so that we may dwell in unity, peace and liberty and in happiness and prosperity,” said Mr Odinga in the letter.

The five points Mr Odinga wants discussed are inclusivity and national unity, devolution, corruption, the electoral process and national security.

He enumerated the incidents that have called into question the state of the country’s national security, among them the attacks in Mpeketoni, Likoni, Diani, Mwembe Tayari, Thika Road and Gikomba in which more than 100 people had been killed.

“To deal with this sequel of terror and its fatal and devastating effects, the nation must sit and dialogue together and in unison combat terror and other invasions to our peace, prosperity and the rule of law,” he said.

He called for the withdrawal of the Kenya Defence Forces from Somalia.

The Cord leader said corruption had manifested itself in the payment of Sh1.4 billion for Anglo Leasing type contracts and questions surrounding the standard gauge railway line and the laptops project for primary schools. “Major questions are being raised about the probity and accountability of several pork-barrel and ‘sweetheart’ deals in the energy, oil, mining and agricultural sectors,” he said.

On the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, he said: “It is not my wish to contest the results of the presidential elections held in 2013. Rather, I want the power and might of the ballot exercised and cast in freely contested democratic elections.”

There was a mixed reaction to Mr Odinga’s overtures from President Kenyatta’s allies, with Starehe MP Maina Kamanda saying the move would help cool tension in the country.

“That’s all he (Mr Odinga) was required to do. It shouldn’t have taken him rallies to ask the President to sit down and talk. I know the President will discuss the issues with him,” said Mr Kamanda.

However, Prof Kithure Kindiki and Mr Aden Duale, majority leaders of the Senate and the National Assembly respectively, said there was no reason for dialogue.

They said what Mr Odinga was asking for was addressed competently in the Legislature “where Cord is well-represented, and by constitutional bodies”.

“The government does not work under the supervision of Mr Odinga. Jubilee is charged with the mandate to govern, while Cord is charged with the opposition duty,” they said in a joint statement.

Riruta Community-Administration Forum

By

Millicent Agutu

Riruta sports fraternity is an association of youngsters, resident of Riruta Location in Dagoretti South sub-county. The youngsters draw from different outdoor and indoor sports in two levels; Provincial League and Academy. This association comprises of different sports groups including RISA, Amani Yassets, Makarios, Amazing Grace and Kianda. The association together with Dagoretti South administration held an open forum to deliberate on eminent societal issues affecting the young people. Two main agendas were highlighted, these being insecurity and development opportunities. There was a concern from the youths in attendance on the access of government funds and services such as Youth fund, Uwezo fund, Njaa Marufuku and Cash Transfers for OVC’s.

Among those in attendance were CBO’s, FBO’s and NGO’s like KARDS, Comprehensive Diverse Initiative (CDI) Kivuli Centre workshop, Plan International, Consolation East Africa, Maiden Hope, Kivuli Youth Group, DYSAE Youth Group and YEEP among other non-governmental actors.

The occasion was graced by government officials from Dagoretti Constituency i.e. Riruta Chief Mr. James Ndichu and his Assistant Mr. Rhuphas Mwangi, the Chief Kawangware Location Mr. Chege and his assistant and Assistant Chief Kabiro. Also in attendance was the Police Inspector Kawangware Mr. David Langat, police officers stationed at satellite police station, CDF County Youth Representative Officer Mr. Kabera, and Dagoretti Uwezo Fund Committee member Mr. Nyaga. Other institutions represented were; Ministry of Education, Ministry of Devolution and Planning and Dagoretti District Development Office.

The representatives of the groups lamented on the issue of exploitation of young people in sports by individuals who only serve to satisfy their own interest through the talents of these young people. They requested the administration to provide an enabling environment for the youth and their coaches to fully exploit the potential existing in sports. They pointed out that getting the youth fully engage will reduce the chances of individuals in the society using them to cause chaos and commit crimes.

Drugs; This session started with one of the coaches sharing reason for man’s creation on the six day, which was to manage Gods issues. But because of identity, we create problem for ourselves and others; This was just to infuse the minds of the youth on reasons to why some of them engage in drug use. This brought about the questions of i) How do we address issue of identity ii) How will we do it? iii) How does the drug use help you?( As an individual, team and community). The topic will be fully discussed in a future date in order to come up with action plan.

Public amenities especially the in areas of sports which mainly incorporate playing grounds and sports academies lack in this area of Riruta and those available are in bad shape. In this area for example there are only two play grounds Kinyanjui Technical and Kawangware ground which are commonly used for football leaving no space for any other type of sport. There was therefore a proposal that the administration and well wishers to look into ways of providing space for other sports including; basket ball, tennis ball and other forms of talents i.e. music and arts.
These facilities should be safe enough to enable both male and female to participate in the trainings. The facilities should also assure security of the participants including the young children in the academy and thus should not expose them to bodily harm or material loss. The association representative urged the citizen and administration to further development of sports through the collaborative efforts.

On the issue of development opportunities available for the youth, it was noted that sports present valuable opportunities for the youth to engage meaningfully in the society. There also exist other government opportunities for the young people to further their innovative ideas for self sustainability. To access these funds however, the young people were advised to form groups either youthful or community based groups and come up with development and business ideas to assist themselves. The administration emphasized on the need to involve both gender in the groups as this was a requirement by the constitution. They also advised the young people to link the administration with members of the community who qualify for the cash transfer fund that is aimed at assisting the OVCs in care of poor guardians. The fund also supports old members in the society who do not have any immediate support from their children.

The forum also addressed the many cases emanating from insecurity in this area. It emerged that the young people are prone to engage in crime since they are mostly idle due to joblessness yet they need to provide themselves with the basic needs. It was argued that engaging the young people in sports would act to reduce the chances of these young people engaging in deviant acts. The forum highlighted factors contributing to insecurity and noted the following;

• Lighting system – The lighting system within Riruta is very poor and as such the thugs take advantage of the dark streets and corners to continue mugging citizen. It was therefore proposed that the administration provide street lighting to address this.
• Unemployment – Lack of employment has forced many young people to engage in crime in search for livelihoods and thus there is need to offer more opportunity to these young people.
• Poverty – Poverty levels in the society have risen thus calling for a need to put up more measures to help the young people make a living.
• Infrastructure – poor state of infrastructure especially the roads have left the citizen prone to highjack as the culprits take advantage of the fact that cars drive slowly in damaged roads and also during the rainy period. There was therefore a need to improve the state of the roads.
• Communication – There lacks a free and prompt communication between the citizen and the security providers hence delay in communicating emergency cases. It was suggested that there be employed a mechanism that the citizen can promptly contact the security personnel in case of such occurrences.
• Corruption – Corruption was highlighted as a major challenge both in the administration and the community which is a major block in getting justice. There is need therefore to institute measures to fight corruption cases.
• Distance from one police post to the other – Distance from police posts inhibit timely response to emergency situations. There is need therefore equip the police with facilities such as vehicles in good condition to enable them make to the scenes with ease.
• Relationship between the police and citizens – There is need to improve the relationship of the police and the citizen for there to be a free interaction and information sharing.
• Responsibilities and roles of citizens – There is a need for the Citizens to actively participate community forums that are geared towards addressing issues affecting them. It was noted that most strategies employed by the authority to curb insecurity were met with a negative reception despite the efforts by the authority to have the citizens involved in making the decisions.

Social Capital; A Perspective On Organizational Development

By Martin Ndichu
Social capital

Social Capital is almost a new concept in modern organizations, this is despite its long existence. Social capital refers to the networks, institutions and norms that mark and define the quality and quantity of interactions within individuals in a society, organization, project or business. In this context, social capital does not account for players within the network but acts to glue them together. It is evident that cohesion within any organization is a vital component for development and sustainability of that organization. This is mainly because of the effect it has on the degree of association of individuals or players within that organization or network.

There are several attributes that constitute social capital, these include; Trust, Reciprocity, Appreciation, Acceptance and tolerance among others. These attributes of social capital have an effect on organizational productivity and well-being of individual players and reduces the costs of doing business by facilitating coordination and cooperation within the organization. Trust among individuals within any context is vital in promoting transparency while on the other hand reciprocity of goodwill encourages continuity of healthy interrelations; it also eliminates the feeling of abuse among partners. Acceptance and tolerance of individuals within an organization regardless of educational background or qualification, disability, societal branding, race or religious affiliation goes a long way to promote self-esteem, self worth and organizational ownership by the individuals.

So what’s the impact of Social Capital on organizations? True to my word, organizations that nurture high-quality social capital have staffs and partners that demonstrate a high sense of obligation towards the organizations and collectively engage in the attainment of the ultimate goal of the organization. Such organizations experience low staff and partner turn over which in turn increases the prospect of success. On the contrary, organizations with little or no social capital exhibits low growth, poorly motivated staff with a high element of self centeredness. They worry much on what they get in return of their service to the organization than on the welfare of his fellows or the organization. This has the effect on the organization security both internally and externally, simply because most of the individual/partners may be unwilling to stand by the organization when it faces challenges of different kinds.

Building social capital can be fun and disappointing at the same time. This is mainly because it comes with a strong element of expectation. This is mutual, so as a leader in any organization as much as you would want to grow social capital within your fellows or partners ensure that the benefits accrued are mutual such that no one feels abused. Learn to note actions by your partners that desire your reciprocity and promptly act back. As an organization, appreciate the little efforts made on daily basis by your staffs because they may end up being the best they ever do before stagnating due to unmet expectations. Building social capital could constitute a big budgets such as increase in remuneration, luxury holiday and excursions, but could also be done in simple ways in the day to day operation of the organization. Try volunteering your special skills to an organization, mentor someone of a different ethnic or religious group, avoid gossip, Say “Thanks” to colleagues and support staff and the likes.

To pen off, a message to managers and officers in charge of project, human resource, public relations, chairpersons of youth groups, women groups, CBOs, NGOs, aspiring entrepreneurs and other organizations in general government included; observe the element of social capital within your networks and you will not have to worry about how to meet your goal, how you will accomplish your tasks or with whom to share your plans. Caution though, social capital is an investment of a kind so invest wisely and please have a fair interest rate that won’t hurt incase of bad debt!!…won’t you? All the best.      

 

 

Building Roads to Equality: the Gradual Political Journey of Kenyan Women

By Julie Bowen

In recent years there has been a determined push to put more women into strategic positions in Kenyan politics. Much of the pressure has come from the various women’s organisations in the country – in particular the Women’s Leadership Academy and the Women’s Empowerment Link, which is managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – under the auspices of Amkeni Wakenya, a civil society that works to encourage communities to be involved in the democratic process, and in particular to promote policies that are favourable to women. In 2010 the new Constitution was signed, promoting gender equality and seeking to encourage the inclusion of women in political leadership and decision making. The ‘two-thirds rule’ that requires a maximum of 66% of either gender in elected political bodies forced all the political parties to recruit an average of 23% more women. Although a significant gender divide remains, the future of gender equality in Kenyan politics looked set to change.

In the run-up to the March 2013 election, as a result of the Amkeni Wakenya initiative, more than 350 women from all areas of rural Kenya had been trained in leadership skills as a preparation for becoming candidates at county and national level. 70 of these women were able to enter the contest with a real prospect of victory. This was to be an election of real significance in Kenya – both as the first general election since the violent aftermath of the 2007-2008 election, and the first to be held under the new constitution. As such, hope ran high. The result, with women winning nearly 20% of the seats in the National Assembly and the new Senate, compared to only 10% in the old Assembly, vindicated all the effort put into realising the dream of a more equal political landscape in Kenya where women have a real power to influence policy.

During the election, various local civil society organisations worked with UN Women and the Angie Brooks Centre to coordinate 500 trained election observers, which made over 1,200 reports from around the country about complaints, threats to the electorate, property damage and violence, which were resolved efficiently. The election was judged to be a success, although there is still a way to go before the process is considered as representing the ideal of a fair and peaceful democratic process.

A Different Approach 

The political spheres in many countries have encouraged an increase in the number of female politicians and leaders for a number of reasons. While it is not wise to over-generalise about character and gender, women are generally known for being non-confrontational, motherly and hard working. In the cut-throat world of national and international politics and business, this caring side often equates to a more soothing and measured counterbalance to male ruthlessness. According to Debra Burrell, females are thought to be generally better than men at seeking and implementing compromises, which translates into a desire to build for the long term rather than aiming for the short term relish of a single moment of victory. While any man or woman can pick up a book and learn about the theory and application of politics and business, their actions are usually influenced by their gender. Collaboration, democracy, persuasion and attentiveness are all attributes commonly brought to the table by female leaders. Women have therefore come to have a crucial position in politics and business in Europe and the United States.

Getting Started 

The greatest battle faced by women is to get their foot in the door. According to Nicholas Anyuor, many parties have found it challenging to respect the Constitution with regard to gender representation because of the lack of any decisive strategy to implement change. Without proper intellectual and logistical infrastructure, engendering real change will always be a challenge. For example, the UK elected its first female Prime Minister in 1979, and she continued to hold that position until 1990. A ruthless politician whose success apparently stemmed from a combination of her fierce intellect and caring femininity, Margaret Thatcher was virtually alone female in a male political world. Even now there are only 146 female members of parliament in the UK compared to 504 men. Between the three main parties there is considerable inequality. In the coalition government the leading Conservative Party has 19% women, the Liberal-Democrats 14%; only Labour, the main opposition party, has a healthy 51% female representation. If the UK, which has been striving towards gender equality in politics for more than thirty years, has still failed to achieve equal representation, it is no surprise that Kenyan politics, which began to address the issue only three years ago, has not yet achieved equality; but there has been remarkable progress.

In 2012 the Supreme Court judged that the ‘two-thirds rule’ would not be achievable in 2013. The Court ruled that this would be implemented progressively during the three years up to August 2015. Chief Justice Willy Mutunga spoke against the majority ruling: ‘Parliament by its silence cannot deprive women of this country the right to equal representation. In the event that Parliament fails to implement that principle, any of the elected houses will be unconstitutional.’ Equal representation may be a long way off, but the situation overall is one of hope and good intentions. The fledgling constitution has managed to increase the number of women in politics despite inequalities in the system and the resistance that females in Kenya continue to face.

Worldwide Scrutiny

Other countries such as the UK, US, and Australia have already done much of the groundwork in showing the world that women can become competent politicians and business leaders, which should make the struggle for Kenya’s women easier. Religion, tradition and superstition continue to be used to dissuade women from entering the political race (for example, a reporter for Aljazeera News claims that voters are warned that they will go to hell if they vote for a woman); but the internet and globalised media have opened up the situation in Kenya to worldwide scrutiny and the results are beginning to show. As a new generation of women reaches their intellectual maturity, the country has never been in a stronger position to make the transition to gender equality. The finish line may be a long way off, but if campaigners and politicians keep working to pave the way the chances of reaching it are high.

Can technology eliminate corruption?

Posted originally in the Daily Nation by John Walubengo here

The government has in recent times put more pressure in the implementation and use of the Integrated Financial Management Information (IFMIS) platform within ministries.

IFMIS is a computerised financial system aimed at capturing and reporting government expenditure in near real-time.

It is assumed that by automating the financial processes across all government departments and agencies, it would be easier to reign in on the rampant corruption and pilferages frequently occasioned by government officials when dealing with tax payers money.

But is IFMIS the magical solution to our Kenyan problem of embezzling and misappropriating public funds?

First, we must acknowledge that automation does improve transparency and accountability.

Without automation, the Auditor General used to be 4-5 years behind the fact or event. In other words, audited government reports used to be discussed in Parliament 4-5 years after the theft had taken place and the culprits had long moved on.

With automation, it is possible for the Auditor General to file audited accounts within 1-2 years of the event and therefore putting preventive pressure on the culprits who now know that their actions would be discussed fairly soon and within the institutional memory of their colleagues.

But automation without top leadership commitment to fight corruption will not yield the desired outcome. Indeed, corrupt deals in government can never be successfully executed unless authorised or blessed from “above”.

In other words, if the Principal Secretary or the chief executive officer of a parastatal wishes to rip-off the public, they will still find ways and means to do so and cover their tracks. Unfortunately, there is no amount of automation that can prevent this.

One quick way to do this is by incurring the expenditure outside the IFMIS tool – that is use the manual and verbal ways of authorising expenditure.

Another method – with the help of compromised IT professionals – is to use the IFMIS tool but disable or outrightly delete the corresponding audit-trail.

But if the IT team fails to cooperate, the determined high ranking government official still has the option of compromising the Auditor General staff so that they conveniently forget to highlight significant queries.

Beyond that, he or she can always think ahead and spare part of the fraudulent funds with view to “talking” to the Prosecution or eventually the Judge; to have the case disappear or dropped altogether for lack of adequate evidence.

In summary, dealing with corruption requires the same approach as dealing with a mutating AIDS epidemic. It requires a multi-pronged approach that involves multiple players with different interventions in order to be successful. Isolated IT automation of processes is not sufficient and can never be the single sliver bullet to end corruption.

Rwanda’s civil service is for example considered less corrupt than Kenya’s – despite the fact that their automation levels are much lower than Kenya’s.

Perhaps it is because their executive, judiciary, prosecution and professionals practice zero-tolerance to corruption while we on the other hand seem to celebrate corruption and its perpetrators.