Q&A with political analyst Nerima Wako: ‘Ruto and Raila have to find a resolution’

May 22, 2023

Nerima Wako, a prominent political analyst and Executive Director of Siasa Place, shared her insights with the Standard on the state of the country and key requirements for it to progress.

What can you say has been the greatest impact of your organisation, Siasa Place, since its inception?

There have been several, such as getting youth involved in public participation forums and attending them frequently, and meaningfully engaging, they have drafted many memos, and last quarter we had a total of 18 petitions and supported youth to push for resources to go toward youth programmes and initiatives in the country, and it has resulted in millions allocated in the budget.

Young people are able to highlight their issues, and organise themselves. Some have been appointed to particular boards and committees, some have managed to produce research documents and carry out social audits. We have had three vie for political positions, and as we speak we have great partners who are now members of county assemblies.

Additionally, one of our petitions is recorded in Kenya Law, Petition 190 & 193 of 2019, contesting the appointment of Mary Wambui Munene as the Chairperson of the National Employment Authority.

The case was based on the individual not meeting the required constitutional and statutory qualifications and experience for appointment to the position of the Chairperson and also the gazette notice did not meet the laid down substantive and procedural constitutional requirements applicable in public service appointments.

From your point of view as a political analyst, do you think Raila Odinga’s causes are for the interest of Kenyans or there is some other agenda?

The fact that Raila is practising his constitutional right to demonstrate should be of interest to all Kenyans. We are all protected by the constitution, and peaceful demonstration is a right. Whether there are personal interests, maybe, but the protection of our constitution needs to always remain.

Politics is all about interest, however, Kenyan politics tends to focus heavily on individual interests. There are systems in place in other countries to limit personal interests or at least hold political leaders accountable if personal interests are discovered.

One of our values in the organization is constitutionalism and the constitution of Kenya talks about power belonging to the people. Our focus is always having the people at the core of decisions and less about individual interests.

Do you think Dr William Ruto’s government is on the right track? If not, where do you think they are going wrong?

We need to be careful about utterances that are being made by the administration. When one is in power, they are put on a pedestal and a symbol of national unity, they are to be the bigger person because they represent the people and serve an office. They cannot have unreasonable, outlandish and immature speak whenever they want. Also, the focus of the administration is on the wrong things.

Things are tough for the Kenyan people and it will continue to be so for the next months, so people want to see a government that is working more and speaking less, minimalist.  People are concerned about issues, and a country with a high youth population and limited opportunities requires a government that is working tirelessly and valuing frugality.

Based on what happens in every general election, perhaps we need to find a way of accommodating a presidential run-up?

Some have suggested a parliamentary system. And there are plenty of reports that have reviewed the issues with our electoral management bodies. However, the intention to implement the recommendations is lacking.

How best should the corruption menace be handled in the Kenyan context?

Seeing corruption cases actually being charged. Kenyans have lost trust in independent institutions that are supposed to protect them. When very key positions are now presidential appointments it becomes tough to bite the hand that feeds you. We have seen so many cases abruptly dropped and no one really paying the price for being corrupt. And people who have pending cases still being given the green light to vie for political office. Vying for an elective seat should be a privilege and not a sanitizing station.

Do you think we need the international community to solve the political woes bedevilling us at the moment?

No, foreign interference is not what we need. Perhaps partnership and support, but not control. Even foreign countries have their own woes to be focusing on, and our solutions have to be home-grown and managed by us.

If Raila and Ruto don’t get to solve the differences, where do you think the country will be headed to?

They have to find a resolution. No country can prosper in instability.

Your parting shot?

Politics is everything around us, and people need to be engaged on what is happening around them, especially young people and that’s why we call ourselves Siasa. Find something you are passionate about and choose to engage in it.  By pretending an issue is not there does not solve the problem, the reality is that it exists and it is calling for our concern and participation.

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