By Hwaa Irfan
This is not an unusual notion, but it is one that has increasingly gone out of practice. Come election time we hear of a new candidate that we may know something of, but in general not enough, we make our vote for whatever reason, and generally it without real thought about what kind of world we want (because we have given up on what we want), or the kind of world we want for our children. In fact, more often than not, more and more people are not voting believing that whoever one votes for, nothing will change unless it is a reactionary vote.
Yet when things take a serious turn for the worse, we blame our government, after having relinquished all responsibility. Yet that thought might seem a bit unfair, when in fact one was denied a choice, as South Africans were as a part of the negotiations towards ending apartheid. Nelson Mandela in “Mandela’s Way” he shared with author Richard Stengel:
“The king was not an educated man (he could neither read nor write), but he was the custodian of Thembu history and custom. The king may have been born to leadership, but he was also seen as the people’s servant. Chieftaincy was treated as a priviledge, not just a right. The chiefly style of leadership was not about vaulting oneself to the front but about listening and achieving consensus.”
Royal court was where all the men in the village came, and anyone who wanted to speak spoke. Afterwards the king would summarize all the views expressed, not allowing his views to dominate the views of the community.
Being this involved in the running of one’s nations, give one a sense of responsibility, one that is not handed over to a representative who one does to know very well who will use whatever views to exploit the situation in favour of his own interests. As we cut ourselves off from the decision making process that runs our respective countries, our world become smaller, and so does the sphere of influence around our small little world, for our small little world is forever being influenced by an arena that we are not a part of.
The decision making process for South Africans may have been devoid of a king, but it was common practice amongst the ordinary South African to gather together to discuss the issues at hand in smaller communities throughout the country.
Now we gather on the streets occasionally making singular demands when the greater sphere of influence that determines that demand, is an ongoing process void of people who are truly representative.
In 2011, Kenya with all its trials and tribulations, pre-colonial and neo-colonial (one can never really say post-colonial), the People’s Parliament is asking for its potential leaders to stand up and be counted. The People’s Parliament, Bunge La Mwananchi have brought together in a forum prospective candidates who will be questioned by the public for the Kamukunji constituency with oridinary Kenyans invited to sit on the panels.
What the next step would be once a candidate is elected one is not in a position to say, but given the tendency to run away with the prize, it would be worthy to have each piece of legislation, each decision accounted for in the same manner. In this way the member of Parliament will be constantly reminded that he/she is a servant of the people. In the words of reporter Odhiambo T Oketch,
“Time for lethargic service for Political Leaders and Public Officers is up. Kenyans will be following all you do day and night and at the right time, we will have many Ahmednassirs and Nyongesas asking you to account for your past.”
Coverage of the debate is available from Kenya Citizen TV
Okecth, O. “Kenya: Citizens Hold Politicians to Account.” http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/73425