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Shadow cabinet provides for inclusivity in national discourse

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MICHAEL MUGWANG'A

By MICHAEL MUGWANG’A
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Tribalism has served its time in Kenya’s politics. It is time to say goodbye to it and the explosive ethnic loyalties which blow up our country during elections.

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Taskforce identified ethnic antagonisms and divisive elections as two of the nine core challenges our country should overcome.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga promised to listen to Kenyans. 

The BBI Taskforce offered solutions to the problems Kenyans pointed out. It is now our turn to investigate and approve the recommendations which must lead to a more representative and stable form of government.

The BBI proposal to establish a shadow cabinet is mentioned as one such tool to empower and enfranchise.

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According to this, the runner-up in the presidential election will become the leader of the official opposition and the head of the Shadow Cabinet (unless of course he is brought into government, perhaps as prime minister). Their role is to keep ministers and other officials on their toes by challenging the government’s position in Parliament.

Institutionalising the opposition’s role for in the daily workings of Parliament would ensure a more inclusive system of representation.

It would also promote peaceful elections in future. The Shadow Cabinet would also encourage the government to propose policies which have been well planned and that appeal to many voters.

The introduction of a Shadow Cabinet and a leader of opposition means that even if a presidential candidate finished second in the race, they won’t completely lose.

This is a key point that President Kenyatta has emphasised for a long time. Kenyans who supported the second most popular candidate can rest assured that their political views would be represented for the entirety of the upcoming term.

A Shadow Cabinet is essentially a mirror cabinet, meaning that for each ministry and issue area, the Shadow Cabinet nominates a Shadow Minister to monitor the work of government ministers.

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If dissatisfied, it is their job to offer better policy proposals. The Shadow Cabinet works as the perpetual critic of the government, highlighting the differences between the draft policies of the latter and the preferences of the minority voter basis.

By holding a mirror up to the work of the government, the Shadow Cabinet can function as a de facto alternative.

This is imperative not only for the purpose of representing the supporters of the opposition but also to point out when the government does not live up to its promises.

As a result, the Shadow Cabinet and the Leader of the opposition can sway votes in their favour throughout the entirety of their political term.

The BBI has been right to highlight that our elections stand out and that our laws unnecessarily pit opposing political groups against each other.

With an institutionalised opposition, we will be able to bridge the divide between election periods and periods of governance.

The existence of a Shadow Cabinet will also change the way government functions.

The same mirror that can be beneficial for the opposition represents a risk for the government.

The incumbent President and his government ministers have to consider this and anticipate that if their policies diverge from what was promised, or what is good for the greater whole, then the opposition will be there to capitalise on it.

This consideration would encourage future governments to follow a consistent people-oriented policy strategy and to think over proposals before presenting them in Parliament.

Establishing a Shadow Cabinet with a leader of the official opposition is one of the most innovative proposals put forth by the BBI taskforce.

It will empower the ‘losers’ in elections and re-enfranchise those whose voices are currently worthless if their side does not make it into government.

The recommendations put forward will make Kenya a safer, fairer, more representative democracy.

Making sure that the contents of the proposal are enshrined in the Constitution and actually improve day-to-day governance in Kenya is now up to us.

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Our wizards saw the Brave New World, but none saw coronavirus

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By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO

Last year in December, Nation Media Group held its first Kusi Ideas Festival in Kigali. The festival tried to peer ahead the next 60 years in Africa.

There were many Brave New World ideas about how that future might look like, and also the perils that progress almost always brings. Needless to say, no one saw Covid-19 coming.

A futurist curtain-raiser in The EastAfrican, titled Africa in 2079, came close to outlining a mirror universe to the one Covid-19 is bequeathing us.

Between London, Zimbabwe, and the corners of Africa where Econet’s fibre optic network reaches, Strive Masiyiwa, founder and chairman of Econet Wireless and former chair of the board of AGRA wrote:

“I recently invested in a tech start-up that has created an Uber-like platform for tractors, enabling farmers to link up with a central database and order a tractor via SMS…freeing the farmer from the drudgery of the hoe. This service is particularly valued by women farmers, enabling them to circumvent social norms that might otherwise hamper their ability to hire a tractor.” From wherever we are hiding from the virus, unable to roam the farm, Uber farming could be the new way a lot of our food is produced.

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From Tanzania, Aidan Eyakuze, who is executive director of Twaweza East Africa and has been confined in-country as an elegant prisoner for nearly two years because of his love of inconvenient data, painted an intoxicating but strange utopian-dystopian picture of Africa at the end the century.

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By 2079, he foresaw the “vast majority of Africans earn their living through multiple micro-tasking (MMTs) ever since every ”job” was unbundled into its component tasks…leaving only those unbundled micro-tasks needing social intelligence, creativity or dexterity to be done by people. All ”taskers” are always-on private contractors who bid relentlessly for the privilege of tasking.

Incomes are kept low by the relative scarcity of tasks requiring the human touch.

“The unrelenting competition for tasks is both stressful and socially divisive — you are competing against everyone all the time…even marriages have renewable term limits, ‘in case someone better comes along.’” With work-from-home regimes, the former has come 78 years earlier.

Indeed, even for the latter, more people now probably think being cooped up with the same man or woman in the house “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part,” is a very archaic model.

Between Italy and Kenya, the Society for International Development’s Arthur Muliro, peered into a what a truly borderless Africa might look. Among others, his gaze settled on, of all places, Libya.

“Libya…was now welcoming other Africans and allowing them to settle. The peace deal that had come after a decade of civil war was holding and there was new optimism, in part boosted by the arrival and expansion of new migrant groups who had settled there and were helping rebuild their adopted country.”

On a close re-reading, turns out Aidan hinted that Turkey, which jumped in the Libyan fray as the coronavirus made its way out of Wuhan, might have something to do with it.

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Stadiums progress welcome – Daily Nation

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By EDITORIAL

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Last week, the Sports ministry’s top officials, led by Chief Administrative Secretary Hassan Noor Hassan and Principal Secretary Joe Okudo traversed the country to access the ongoing construction of stadiums.

President Uhuru Kenyatta also made an impromptu tour of the Nyayo National Stadium to ensure that all is well besides giving Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed full support. That has made sure that renovation works resume at all the stadiums — including Kasarani, Nyayo, Kipchoge Keino, Kamariny and Wote — and that everything is running on schedule.

Upon completion of some of these arenas, the country will have positioned itself to host major world events, especially in football, athletics and basketball. The ministry must, therefore, ensure that, while it has given contractors an ultimatum to finish their work, it also insists on quality delivery.

But there are concerns about work at county stadiums, especially in Mombasa, where those who redesigned the arena have done away with the internationally approved running track.

The new stadium has been designed for football only hence won’t host any track and field events. The four lane track will only be for warm up and this has raised eyebrows.

Mombasa County Chief Sports Officer Innocent Mugabe said Bububu grounds in Likoni and Kenya Ports Authority’s Mbaraki Sports Club will be upgraded for sports use. Mombasa being at low altitude, it is suitable for staging major World Athletics events, having staged the 2007 World Cross Country Championships.

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Kenya is bidding to host the 2025 World Championships in Athletics and Mombasa can easily be the venue with a good stadium in place. There is still time to build a county stadium.

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Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly

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By EDITORIAL

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When Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha announced a fortnight ago the postponement of school reopening to January next year, he gave an exception. Universities, teacher training colleges and technical training institutions were directed to be ready to reopen in September.

Consequently, they were asked to put in place safety measures prescribed by the Health ministry, including reorganising classrooms and hostels to ensure social distancing. Just a month to the planned reopening, are those institutions really prepared?

In the past few days, Prof Magoha has convened meetings with the heads of the institutions to plan for the reopening and visiting the colleges to assess their preparedness. Preliminary reports from these engagements indicate that just a few institutions are ready.

POOR STATE

At the university level, so far, only Strathmore has been declared ready for reopening. Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly

For teachers’ colleges, three — Murang’a, Kibabii and Kericho — have met the threshold. Assessment is ongoing for the technical training institutions.

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But the broad observation is that most of the institutions are not ready. Though not surprising, most of them are ordinarily in poor state and Covid-19 has just exposed them. Beyond the situation, long-term actions are required to revamp and revitalise them.

Reopening the colleges in September will be the starting point for relaxing restrictions in the education sector. The reason for beginning with colleges is that they have mature students who understand the health protocols and can, therefore, take care of themselves and minimise infections. Their experience would then inform plans for reopening primary and secondary schools.

REPEAT CLASSES

Closure of schools and colleges has dealt a huge blow to education. Learners in schools have lost a whole year and have to repeat classes next year. This comes with high social, economic and psychological. Indeed, this is the first time in history that schools are being closed for a year.

The last time the education sector suffered most was in 1982, when, following an abortive coup, the University of Nairobi and then-Kenyatta University College were closed for nine months. That created a major backlog and that took five years to clear. This is the reason steps should be taken at the earliest opportunity to mitigate the damage.

The challenge, therefore, is for the colleges to work on those health protocols to prepare for reopening. All other sectors, such as transport and tourism, are reopening and, therefore, colleges have no reason to lag behind. We ask the management of the institutions to expedite the required processes and get ready for reopening in September as directed.

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