Five months ago, this column lamented the absence of a big galvanising idea in the campaigns. With at least five manifestos launched in the last two weeks, parties have manifested their vision and mission should they get elected. How do they compare on some of the important issues facing the nation?
Manifestos are public declarations of intent. They are central to political parties. They are also the source of clarity for the world’s biggest religions. The 75 Koranic good manners and the biblical ten commandments guide the devotion of over 4.4 billion people in the world. State agencies and non-governmental organisations also have them. They call them strategies. Whenever we make a public declaration to do something, we are manifesting intent (the root of the word manifesto).
The publishing of manifestos by Agano Kenya, Azimio la Umoja, Kwanza Kwanza, The Roots Party and Independent Reuben Kigame can be welcomed. The nation reels from unemployment, the high cost of living and extreme inequalities. The parties seek the unenviable but worthy job of transforming a debt-distressed economy, a defaulting state, and a declining appetite by weary citizens for public participation and oversight. Reading both manifestos and minifestos this week, I looked for practical proposals that deepen our national values of social justice, leadership integrity and active citizenship.
With different levels of emphasis, most of five manifestos assert the importance of upholding the constitution, rule of law and access to justice, respect for human rights and Sustainable Development Goals. George Wajackoya’s promise to hang the corrupt and suspend the constitution is probably the wild card among the manifestos.
Azimio makes most references to governance (32) followed by Kenya Kwanza (10), Agano (10) and the independent Kigame (0). The manifestos treat inequalities very lightly apart from some references to gender and disability-based discrimination. Kenya Kwanza’s bottom up approach is probably the most pronounced. Agano refers to corruption severally but stops short of proposing policy and legislative strategies.
Kenya Kwanza plans to increase funding to and shield independent public institutions from presidential abuse, appoint judges within seven days and implement the National Coroners Service Act and the Public Benefits Organisations Act. They will invest more in post-prison care, create a quasi-judicial enquiry into extra-judicial killings and introduce human rights-based counter terrorism approaches. They promise to promote gender diversity, open and transparent governance and create the office of the Leader of the Opposition to play its oversight role among other policies.
Azimio promises to restore public trust, strengthen public participation, and introduce women’s anti-violence and financial and health empowerment programmes. They intend to enforce a clear line on leadership conflict of interest through an anti-corruption charter, a specialised department and declaring that corruption is a national security threat.
Independent Kigame’s Jenga Mkenya platform commits to not appoint men and women with tainted careers, introduce an anti-Corruption declaration and offer a 90-day amnesty for thieves to return corrupt proceeds or have the assets confiscated. He further proposes to further outlaw abortion unless the mother’s life in danger.
While agreeing with Kigame on a time-based amnesty followed by swift convictions for the corrupt, Waihiga also champions freedom of worship for all legally registered religious societies in Kenya. He proposes giving powers to prosecute to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.
Some noticeable gaps run across the five manifestos. None of the manifestos refer to the National Ethics and Anti-Corruption Policy (2018) This policy was written to interpret leadership integrity within Vision 2030 before it died in a government drawer. Unless developed further, there are also few propositions yet that address expanding citizens’ curiosity, commitment, and capacities to engage in public budget and policymaking and oversight. Leaning into a fiscal crunch without a strategy for responding to and channeling public discontent seems risky. Lastly, we will have to wait for more detailed plans and budget allocation ceilings from the parties.
Read the manifestos for yourselves and measure the promises against the experience of those seeking your vote. Words are easy, but a track record of delivery is critical. Idd-Mubarak!
This opinion was also published in the Saturday Standard, 9 July 2022
See Azimio la Umoja manifesto here
See Kenya Kwanza manifesto here
See Agano manifesto here
See Roots Party manifesto here
See Reuben Kigame's manifesto here