Democracy Dialogue held by the Elgeyo Marakwet Civil Society Network, Elgeyo Karakwet county, Kenya, 3 August 2018

Participants: 24 (17 male, 7 female)

Introduction

The meeting started with a word of prayer from one of the participants followed by introductions of the CSO members and officials present. Some of the expectations by the participants included:

  • To know the extent of democracy at the county level
  • To gain more knowledge and ideas and how they will apply in order to enhance democracy
  • To know how CSOs can work together to enhance democracy in the county
  • To know some of the actions to improve democracy
  • To relate on how democracy works and how it works for the citizens and CSOs

The meeting norms were set to govern the session in an orderly manner.

In his opening remarks, the EMCSO NETWORK coordinator appreciated the positive feedback by the participants and introduced the day’s agenda for the Democracy Dialogue, emphasising the following:

  • Changes to be expected after the dialogue
  • Results experienced by the CSOs represented
  • Reflection on democracy and taking it back to the community.
  • Discussion of the positive/negative changes democracy has brought in the county and nationwide

He then declared the meeting officially open.

The project coordinator, IIEC Keiyo North Sub County then facilitated the next session where he introduced the day’s agenda on democracy and assured the meeting would be more of participatory since it involved discussions.

Mr. Kimaiyo then shed more light on the partners facilitating the day’s meeting (CIVICUS) as a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world.

  1. Definition on democracy

The participants were then divided into groups of three to discuss on what democracy entails and these are some of the results from the same groups:

  • A governance system that recognises the freedom of the citizens to participate.
  • The ability of citizens to get a free space and will for opinion, get information and participate without hindrance.
  • A situation where the leadership of an organisation or government involves the subjects or citizens in decisionmaking through representation.
  • The process by which people express their ideas, decisions, issues, complaints, views pertaining them directly or indirectly for their benefits and well-being i.e. the rule of the people, by the people, for the people.
  1. Key problems in our context

From the diagnosis on the current state and direction of travel of democracy, the topical issue identified in Elgeyo Marakwet County was public participation. The following issues/problems on the same were identified:

  • Poor channels of communication
  • Poor access to information by the public from the county offices/website.
  • Late submission of budget documents
  • Unwillingness of the public to attend public participation forums.
  • No feedback on how the decisions of the citizens have been considered.
  • Unwillingness of duty bearers to deliver better services.
  • Presentation of voluminous documents during public participation especially on CIDP and ADPs.
  1. Key Elgeyo MarakwetCivil Society Network responses

Some of the positive responses by the network discussed included:

  • Involvement in the co-creation of Open Government Partnership commitments of which one includes robust public participation.
  • Oversight of public institutions through instituting social accountability initiatives such as social audit and community score cards.
  • Civic engagement of the public through civic education that enlightens on advocacy issues and public participation.
  • Pushing county government for the actualisation of the Public Participation Act and simplification of budget documents through roundtable meetings.
  • Submission of memorandums and petitions on issues that affect the public.
  • Mobilising citizens to attend public participation and make contributions.
  • Dissemination of information to the grassroots through the established networks.

Challenges in Elgeyo Marakwet Civil Society Network responses

  • Insufficient funds to conduct civic education throughout the county and neighbouring counties
  • Poor feedback on memorandums and petitions submitted to the county government, thus need for close follow-ups.
  • Limited capacity to follow up issues of social accountability- funding and technical
  • Poor timely dissemination of information before public participation by the county government; CSOs don’t have enough capacity to print and disseminate the county voluminous documents.
  • Unwillingness and apathy of the public to attend public participation forums e.g. some of them demanding for handouts because they need an immediate response.
  • Lack of access to information by the public e.g. the county government not uploading budget documents on time to the website.
  • Non-implementation of the ACT of Parliament on Public Benefit Organisations that govern the work of civil society.

Recommendations for Elgeyo Marakwet Civil Society Network and other actors in reimagining democracy

  • Setting up and actualisation of village parliaments’ Bunge Mashinani’ that involves the citizens in decision-making and implementation processes this will help boost on democracy.
  • Scheduling public participation forums nearer to the people (where accessible) e.g. to sub-locational level i.e. further decentralization
  • Building of CSO capacity to have a vibrant and wider knowledge on cross-cutting issues that affect citizens so as to be well-suited to handle issues affecting the public.
  • Simplification of budget documents for easy understanding by the public.
  • Commitment as CSOs as mediators between the county government and the community.
  • Mobilisation of resources to enhance sustainability in the network.
  • More civic education to the citizens in the community to improve on public participation.

Support needs for Elgeyo Marakwet Civil Society Network in responding

Some of the proposed support needs by the participants included the following:

  • Technical and financial support on instituting social accountability initiatives
  • CSO personnel to be equipped with knowledge and skills through trainings, workshops and seminars on civic knowledge and democracy issues.
  • Institutional strengthening in terms of structures and capacity
  • Funds to build capacity among constituent CSOs so as to reach more citizens in the county with issues of good governance.
  • Mobility funds and stationery to be used during field works.
  • For the county government to assign them more duties to help in community needs and its development.

Creative/innovative ideas on improving democracy

These included personal commitments by the CSO members present to promote democracy. Some of these ideas raised involved:

  • Collaboration with the county government in advancing democracy
  • Establishment of bunge mashinani (village parliaments for debating and sharing information)
  • Learning exchange visits and tours with advanced democracies such as Germany with a similar model of governance (devolution)