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.
Ouma Kizito Ajuong’
Lawyer and writer at Poetic Fountain– https://poeticfountain.wordpress.com/