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Access to information is critical for political parties

By Victor Bwire
Monday, January 25th, 2021
Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo. Photo/PD/File
In summary

While political parties in Kenya have remained brutal, cunning and complex, it’s time we thought seriously about allowing the public and in particular, party followers to understand how decisions are made in such entities. 

Current party politics is highly individualised and the main consideration for participating in affairs of a party, depend more on individual character rather than party manifesto.

Of importance is the establishment of an information sharing structure that allows party supporters to be involved  in the affairs of the units. 

We have turned seeking political party leadership to personality duels and rhetoric. Systems and ideologies never seem to be a factor, especially where critical decisions like nominating candidates for political party positions.

Our involvement in the Msambweni by-election and the forthcoming mini polls in Machakos, Kabuchai and Matungu, shows that while we are putting a lot of pressure on the media to give fair chance for all aspirants to be heard, it is very frustrating to access the aspirants; largely because the participating parties, save for the independent candidates remain inaccessible for in-depth interviews and interrogation on their campaign issues. Sadly, they expect coverage in absence of a structured  information sharing strategy. 

Most of the information is left to brokers and the candidates expect media to get this through their public rallies; where mostly, the candidates spend more time on empty rhetoric and blaming others.

Political messaging seems a big challenge to these institutions, and most of them have no serious structured communication units.

Most political parties operate like personal fiefdoms of certain founding owners and financiers and a good number remain dormant, only to resurface during elections. 

Few of the parties abide by the law and can barely give you information about their operations, membership expenditures and source of funds. 

As seen from the by -election preparations, it shows once again the reforms and changes in the way we do our politics rarely evolves; our politics tend to be dictated by those who founded the parties, instead of party followers while at the same encouraging and the culture of handouts and bribery. 

This political extremism has narrowed the political space while at the same time frustrating efforts by institutions like the National Counter Terrorism Centre that are implementing projects on preventing extremism in the country. 

I have seen a building in my village serving as an office for almost all political parties in the region at different time; and only one office holder.

Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo, was indicating recently that the political party that sponsored her to Parliament changed names and symbols without her knowledge! 

Once more, it is evident that our political party system remains the main cause of tension in Kenya; it favours players and fixers; not necessarily because of money but those cunning; and some grey haired professionals in government commonly known as deep state. 

  Today, reading the emerging coalitions and party formations, as routine, you rarely hear or read about respect to gender considerations, people with disabilities or minorities, it’s the same male, regional, tribal balance that its dominating.

Our political parties have men and women, highly-educated professionals with integrity who freely abandon values to cross the bridge; very intelligent men who know what they are doing; but will rarely do what benefits Kenyans.  — The writer is the Deputy CEO and Programmes Manager at the Media Council of Kenya

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