Discerning the Concept of Political Representation of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Kenya

law opinion

The Constitution of Kenya (2010) carried with it an aspect of novelty; this is because the document represented a radical shift from the past. The Constitution not only designed a people-friendly governance structure but also brought on board a very robust human rights chapter. This chapter deliberately characterized by social, political and economic rights for women, youths the marginalized- and of interest to this paper- persons living with disabilities (PWDs).

Close to over a decade now, the world has been reverberating about the idea of disability rights culminating in political representation as the ultimate solution. After all, political representation is about making citizens’ voices, opinions, and perspectives “present” in the public policy making processes.

This article however, is concerned with three things: first, defining the concept of political representation for PwDs. Second, analyzing political representation for persons with disabilities as provided for in the law and lastly, looking at how well this has worked in Kenya.

What is political representation? The Concept of political representation has been a subject of social and philosophical discourse for decades. The origins of this traced to the likes of John Locke and Jean Jacques Rossue, spreading their wings to the modern day scholars such as Hanna Pitkins, and Nadia Urbinati. Interestingly, none of these scholars claims to have a conclusive definition of political representation. They however, agree on the components springing from what is called the simplest definition thus, an activity of making citizens views, opinions, present in a public policy or law and advocating, symbolizing and acting on behalf of others in a political arena. What about persons with disabilities? Con-temporarily speaking, Uganda like Kenya is now in the process of amending their electoral process to reserve political seats for PWDs. This is to ensure that they have a voice and take part in building the country. This is a requirement of international law that has been adopted by many other countries but how best it works is the point of discourse.

How does political representation for PwDs Kenya look like? The Constitution of Kenya (2010) recognizes representation of persons with disabilities as an integral part of Kenya. The preamble states that as the people of Kenya, we are committed to nurturing and protecting the well-being of individuals, families and communities hence perhaps affirmative action to ensure representation in the political arena. The idea of representation is strengthened by the national values and principles of governance stating inter alia human dignity, equity and inclusiveness and protection of the marginalized. Further, the principles of electoral mention fair representation of persons with disabilities as a key component.

Away from the principles, the Constitution of Kenya (2010) provides for a formula that guarantees representation of PwDs. The law provides for reservation of seats through political parties nominations. This means, out of the twelve members nominated by parliamentary political, there ought to be a member representing PwDs. Article 98 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 also provides for the nomination of a man and a woman to representing PwDs. There is also an elaborate formula with regards to representation in the county governments. Article 177 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 provides for representation for the marginalized youth and PwDs in the county assembly

Having seen the law, the last part of this paper looks at the practicality of the issues. Kenya is just about to finish the first electoral cycle under the new supreme law, prompting a need to take stock. Can we therefore say that political representation for PwDs has been successful? Are there gains to be counted? Is it “true representation” or is it a fallacy? Time always attracts evolution and change and therefore, it is inevitable that in the last five years we have had gains in respect to the lives of PwDs. However, it falls shot of true representation in light of the aspiration of Article 54 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.

The law requires access and facilitation in educational institution, reasonable access to all places, access of device material, 5% of appointive position to be for persons with disabilities among others. All these remain as aspirations and dreams with nothing to show for political representations. The lives of persons with disabilities are still in shambles with the advocacy work left for Non-Governmental Organizations despite having representation from all the legislative houses in the country. Political representation for PwDs is a fallacy-not true representation that requires change as we move to the next electoral cycle.

There are three things that can be done; first political parties need to create structures not only to promote disability awareness but to promote rights of PwDs. Second, the parties that nominate these members should hold them accountable, ensuring they deliver on their mandate and lastly, PwDs in Kenya need to take charge and demand real political representation.

By:-

Ouma Kizito Ajuong’

Lawyer and writer at Poetic Fountainhttps://poeticfountain.wordpress.com/

 

 

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Success Story of Alex Mmera Mwalati

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Alex Mmera Mwalati from Kakamega worked as a radio producer at Sauti Ya Rehema (Sayare RTVN) for seven years until October 2015 when he voluntarily chose to resign and pursue other things. He duly followed the process required in terminating one’s employment by giving a notice period and diligently completing his tasks as he‘d always done.

At the end of the working relationship with Sayare RVTN,  Mmera requested payment of his outstanding arrears something which he got verbal commitments from the network management but which was not forthcoming. After several unfruitful attempts to get his dues, he decided to seek legal assistance. He approached the Milimani Commercial Court in Nairobi. “The Courts are where justice resides”, he said. At the Commercial Court he was directed to Kituo Cha Sheria for further assistance. He walked through the gate at Kituo Cha Sheria, an organization he’d heard about but never interacted with before, in April 2016. Mmera was registered as a new Kituo client and given legal advice on the actions he needed to take to get his arrears.  This was done before he was given another date to come and see a lawyer with all the relevant documents.

On 25th May, 2016 Mr. Mmera presented all the relevant documents (appointment letter, resignation letter and bank statements) necessary for his claim to Ms. Christine Obiero, a Kituo lawyer who advised the client, drafted demand letters and pleadings in pursuit of his claim. The employer remained non-committal to all communication from our client until the matter was filed in Nakuru-the nearest labour court to where Mmera was working. On being served the employer finally acknowledged the employee status of Mr. Mmera and the amount owed in arrears. After negotiations an agreement was put in place giving the formula of payment with Mmera receiving a cheque of Ksh. 138,000-the first installment in September 2016. The employer is expected to clear the balance by December 2016.

A beaming Mmera received the cheque as reward for his labour and persistence in pursuing his rights; he urges people to follow-up their issues where they feel deprived but as a good journalist warns that patience is key. He remains grateful to the team at Kituo for their work in giving hope to the poor and marginalized that they too have rights safeguarded in law that deserve to be pursued.

RCKM-Kituo cha Sheria

We Care for Justice

Discussing the Right to Education in Kenya

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Playing Football without Goal Posts?

Discussing the Right to Education in Kenya

 What if FIFA were suddenly to take away goal posts from the game of football? What would it mean? Players engaged in a kick-about, without a target? What about the fans? Would they have anything to cheer for? Maybe the moves, but without goals most certainly the game will lose all its allure. I am sure you already see difficulty in working without a target or rather being in a system without eventuality.

This article seeks to talk to the right to education with the legal and social prisms in mind. Can we therefore say that the right to education in Kenya carries with it fruits or is it an empty right? With the year coming to a close, many will be excited because of one graduation or the other, moving from one class to another, one grade to another but to what eventuality? Can we equate this to progress? Can we measure this and say that the children have learnt and developed or is it just about passing examinations. What about those who graduate? Do they really have the required skill? I bet that even for the many that have skills, all they are given by the Universities is not the power to go and read as proclaimed but the power to gamble with their lives and wait for fate to place them somewhere. Answers to all these questions however, may lead you to one simple conclusion; we are playing football without goal post, but perhaps I am yet to convince you, so what does the right to education mean?

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) document A human Rights- based approach to education for all defines the right to education as one that is not only recognized by many treaties as an important right, but one that is pivotal to  development and social transformation in a society. In addition to these, the right to education also deals with individual personality growth and development. The nine (9) International instruments touching on education give it an amorphous look and an interactive sphere with other concepts of human rights, these include; best interest of a child, right to dignity, right to socialize, right to participate, equity, equality and social economic development.

The Constitution of Kenya (2010) read with the relevant Acts of parliament also support this narrative. In other words, the law contemplates a system that is not only progressive but one set out for social transformation, something we can’t really say about our glorious 8-4-4 education system. I tend to see this internationally proclaimed right as a toothless dog given that our policies and systems have largely remained archaic, ineffective and mostly corrupt. Pause for a minute and think about it; Kenya’s Education Cabinet Secretary-Fred Matiang’i has been a busy man this year. From changing the school calendar, issuing a number of threats and disciplinary actions while at the same time playing ostrich. It is an open secret that on matters of integrity and examination irregularities in this country, the door will always open and close with the examination bodies and if not cleaned up, the CS will be in for a rude shock comes January 2017. He may as well have been playing football without goal posts all along.

Away from this, I also feel that it is important to discuss the social implications of our education system. How much creativity and adaptability does it give a child? Why take chemistry as a compulsory subject and spend four years with it knowing full well that I intend to be a lawyer? And why append 16 years of study only to come out and feel wasted? A lot of football without goal posts is going on at the ministry of education and if we are not careful they will help in turning the children of this country into academic zombies.

The other aspect that we cannot ignore is the cost of education. Why have the right in statutes and books of law yet we know that as much as 60% of the population of Kenya cannot afford basic education. Today we have high schools where parents have to part with as much as 100,000 shilling, not to mention the commercialization aspect in our universities.

Clearly, we have to make things right. There is a need to re think the whole idea of education in Kenya. This includes the system, available options all the way down to practicality and alignment to the job requirements and the cost of education.  If we don’t do that we are bound to perish and render the right to education useless.

By:-

Ouma Kizito Ajuong’

Lawyer and writer at Poetic Fountainhttps://poeticfountain.wordpress.com/