In light of the International Day of Democracy, which is commemorated on 15th September every year, CMD- KENYA joined the UN and other International Bodies to commemorate the day by organizing a public lecture in Nairobi at Ufungamano House. The public lecture brought together representatives from political parties, CSOs, religious leaders, youth and student leaders, to not only commemorate the day but take part in the discussions led by panelists who included Martha Karua, NARC-Kenya Party leader, Senator Abshiro Halake who also serves as CMD-Kenya chairperson, Nerima Wako, CEO Siasa Place, Cyprian Nyamwamu- Governance expert, Isaack Hassan Abey- Chairperson Economic Freedom Party (EFP).
The International Day of Democracy was declared by the United Nations as a means to create awareness around democracy. This year’s theme was participation, an opportunity to recall that democracy is about people. According to the UN, democracy is built on inclusion, equal treatment, and participation- and it is a fundamental building block for peace, sustainable development and human rights. Although Kenya is a constitutional democratic state, the country’s democratic terrain has undergone periods of attack, characterized by democratic regression, polarizing politics and the decline of democratic freedoms. Other indices that point to democratic decline include skewed economics where the elite control our economy; however, Kenya has registered positive milestones in democratic development. Article 10(2) of the constitution binds all state organs and institutions as well as state officials to an impartial system that was intended to ensure decision making is done at the local level.
Key speakers of the day gave out their views on the International Day of Democracy. Opening the floor of the podium, CMD-Kenya Chairperson, Abshiro Ahalake, appreciated the progress made thus far on matters democracy. She, however, observed that strengthening Kenya’s democratic landscape was dependent on the extent to which local and community-level citizen voices would be heard and integrated with decision-making. Guest speaker HON. Martha Karua highlighted the dire need to use the spheres of influence in order to agitate for change. She did not shy away from reminding the youth on their great responsibility in influencing and defending the democratic space and demanding for good governance.
Other speakers present expressed; the need for relevant stakeholders and policy makers to support progressive development of the youth initiatives in the country, the need to tackle the issue of ethnic marginalization and the unequal distribution of resources, the need to reach a consensus on impactful citizen participation as the cornerstone of democracy as well as the need to evaluate whether social media is a threat to our democracy.
The delegates discussed a wide array of issues among them being the citizenry role in democratic participation, citizens contribution to democratic governance by assertion when electing their elected representatives, the active participation of citizens in public forums in an attempt to give their views and recommendations, as well as the need for citizens to participate in budget making processes from the ward level to the county level and the national level question.
Ultimately, the feeling of most delegates was that Kenya is in a 65%-35% scale in terms of realization of democracy. 65% of the delegates believed that we are retrogressing as a democratic state while on the other hand, 35% of the delegates were hopeful that there have been some gains towards the realization of democracy in Kenya.