The Center for Multi-party Democracy (CMD) hosted The People Dialogue Festival (PDF), now in its fifth year, over the last four days of last week at the National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi.
Almost 2,000 locals and internationals came in daily to voice their ideas or simply to observe the ongoing conversation from March 8 to 11, with numerous stakeholders being brought in at various stages for fruitful dialogues.
It was a unique opportunity for decision-makers and the governed to interact, talk about topics that concern Kenyans, take into account the gains made, and enhance democracy.
A democratic society places a high value on dialogue because it allows for the scrutiny of the government’s openness to its constituents and the opportunity for the people to hold the government responsible.
Political dialogue village
Political parties are shaping the 13th parliament’s legislative agenda.
Concerns about how political parties can implement democracy within their organizations in terms of membership, political communication, political function, and political socialization have been raised through intra-party democracy conversations.
As this discussion was taking place, Jeremiah Kioni, the former Jubilee Party Secretary General (SG) and Kanini Kega, the party’s current Secretary-General, almost exchanged blows within the event grounds, compelling even the organizers to intervene.
Disagreements arose about who should speak on behalf of the party at the meeting as the candidates for the party secretary general met on the morning of March 10.
The conflict began when Jeremiah Kioni, the party’s former secretary-general, entered a meeting where Kanini Kega was delivering a speech.
Since when the Jubilee party’s national council made modifications to replace Kioni with Kega on February 9, their antagonism intensified.
The Centre for Multi-party Democracy (CMD) claimed, in a statement later that day Kioni was responsible for the close call and entered and interrupted a session in which Kega was taking part.
CMD released a statement regretting the disorderly conduct at the event, which occurred as Jubilee party sections publicly fought among themselves in front of guests and partners.
The message further stated that the CMD-Kenya Board is aware of the events and that decisions will be made regarding the Jubilee Party’s next course of action.
Following the election of last year, political unrest has plagued the Jubilee Party, an ally of the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party, as nearly 30 of its MPs made a commitment to cooperate with the Kenya Kwanza Government.
Even though everything seemed to be going well, politics is not always smooth sailing, and the political party experienced a confrontation at its exhibition stall.
The Youth Village
The event featured open discussions between various youths, organizations and policymakers, who shared their perspectives on how to increase the political space for young and underrepresented communities throughout Kenya.
The main lesson learned was that everyone must be held responsible for youth representation.
At a panel discussion on the second day of the festival, candidate for senator Esther Okenyuri stressed the importance of youth representation in policy and legislative dialogue.
Other panelists also spoke up to reaffirm the importance of young people building solid institutions.
Organizations focusing on youth engagement, such as Democracy Network, Crime si Poa, and Siasa Place, came forward to discuss youth engagement and participation.
It was clear that attitudes toward taking part in political activity or respect for authority figures and other people’s rights are formed early on and reinforced by socialization factors that are dominant in adulthood, which is why a youth dialogue was necessary.
Government and the people
The festival’s opening day was presided over by Moses Wetangula, Speaker of the National Assembly, who underlined the importance of free communication for a more affluent nation.
The Speaker, who was also this year’s chief guest and was there for the third time, praised multi-party democracy as a wholly beneficial form of political rivalry.
On the second day, the Prime Cabinet Secretary, Musalia Mudavadi, had a lengthy conversation during which he clarified several matters, including the office of his wife, Tessie Musalia, which has long since aroused questions about whether it is run from public resources.
Speaking at the ceremony, he said that the primary responsibility of the spouse to the Prime CS will be a nationwide philanthropic effort to support charitable endeavors, which means that it won’t need any funds from the national budget.
He clarified that the plan had been in place for some time, even before he was appointed Prime CS, and that his wife had been volunteering in the neighborhood and at charitable events.
“There is no public expenditure that has occurred in the conversation around Tessie Mudavadi and I don’t see any public expenditure occurring because I truly appreciate that activities of that nature are not government activities,” Mudavadi confirmed.
According to him, the Office of the Spouse is just but an office to compliment the work done by the first and second ladies, Rachel Ruto and Dorcas Gachagua.
“Mrs. Musalia has been at this process, whether in or out of the government, and we shall not stop supporting people in any part of the country through any charitable efforts. But I am clear that it shall not be at the expense of the exchequer,” he said.
Not only did he touch on issues concerning governance, but he also commented on the high cost of living.
Mudavadi urged Kenyans to be patient with the new regime, posing that reviving an economy is not serving instant coffee.
The SDG’s village
By promoting the Sustainable Development Goals as planned for Vision 2030, the festival also adhered to the UN Development Plan.
Several county assemblies exchanged lessons learned and best practices on public engagement, resource allocation, and information management systems during the SDG Village.
The festival was founded on the idea that genuine answers originate from collective thought from all facets of society.
It ideologically engaged its attendees in seeking a way forward to close the gap between citizens and politicians to implement the SDGs.
Through the discourse, organizations working toward the goals may now solve these issues with the help of insights from the public engagements that the festival saw them through rather than addressing them on their own.
The Center for Multi-Party Democracy set up a forum where political parties and other governmental and non-governmental actors came together with the citizens they serve and care deeply about, to discuss governmental reforms and socioeconomic issues to maximize democratic gains.
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To advance social justice and human rights, the event functioned as a platform for multi-party dialogue with the help of community leaders and officials.