Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Roles of pressure groups in changing Kenyan politics in Mwai Kibaki’s regime

Muslim demonstrators in Kenya
A pressure group is a collection of individuals who share common beliefs, attitudes, values and concerns and who come together to interact as a group to try to change government policies. In changing Kenyan’s political landscape in Mwai Kibaki’s regime, the pressure groups have been involved in demonstrations, lobbying, directly supporting candidates with the same views in elections, moving to court to contest against policies and direct advertisements in the media.

In Kenya, and especially during the Kibaki’s regime of 2002-2012 the following pressure groups have played a pivotal roles like Kenya National commission on Human Rights, KNCHR; Law Society of Kenya, LSK; Association  of Media Women in Kenya, AMWIK; UASU, FIDA and SUPKEM.

In my discussion in this this blog post I will look at roles of pressure groups in changing Kenyan politics in Mwai Kibaki’s regime with examples. Finally I will conclude with an overview of risk of pressure groups in the country political system.

Roles of Pressure groups
Pressure groups have enhanced participation, pluralism and diversity in shaping opinion in Kibaki’s regime by being a voice for the citizens on government policy. Their constant press release, counter policy and expert opinion has formed a discourse of argument in formulating of policies in aid of wanainchi.  During the illegal appointment of public prosecutor, attorney general and budget controller by Mwai Kibaki, the LSK and other pressure tipped the balance into rescinding of the appointments which was unlawful.

Secondly, since they are lawfully registered bodies with well established office carrying out well stated agendas they don’t risk jailing and victimization by the government unlike ordinary citizens. Pressure groups too offer a legal way to its members to channel their issues. Labour unions like the UASU and KNUT have been responsible in putting the government in toes in providing for their promise with the latter currently pressurizing the government to hire the 10,000 teachers currently on contract in permanent basis.

For minorities who risk being locked out in majority rule democracy or minor tribes being locked out by major tribes in Kenyan tribal politics, pressure groups are a major channel for their grievances. Minority also mean slum dwellers, small scale traders and laborers without adequate voice in government policy. The association of Kenyan taxpayers and Marsgroup are instrumental in keeping the government responsible in managing CDF and LATF funds by providing their own ranking of poorly managed funds and foster transparency.

Additionally, the roles of pressure groups in giving out important facts and information hidden by the government to citizens, journalist and other opinion makers during Kibaki’s regime has made the government to quickly revert their original poor policies, carry out their own official results or give out the information albeit grudgingly. KNCHR former commissioner Maina Kiai efforts in alerting the world of the governments extra judicial killings in fighting Mungiki, crimes and the mount Elgon operation against Sabaot Land Defense Forces has been a key in Kenya having their own research and has culminated into the most needed police reform which tarnished the regime of Kibaki.

Lastly and most important is that pressure groups in Kibaki’s regime through the above mentioned roles and relevant examples has acted as checks and balances in government policy. By offering counter policies, lobbying, demonstrations and going to courts the Kibaki regime has contracted in their policies. When the Nairobi City Council sought to increase the parking fee at the CBD, Matatu owners, citizens and traders protested and moved to courts where they successfully squashed the move.

A thorn in Kenyan democracy?
Sadly, pressure groups still suffer the same repression, killing and discrimination meted to them during the dictatorial KANU rule of Moi. Adesina Badejo in writing Raila Odinga’s biography notes the protracted tribal politics that derailed the constitution making while former Tetu  MP Wangari Maathai sadly note that during the 2008 post election violence when they met at Uhuru gardens to pray as members of Green Belt Movement were dispersed away  with police brutality.  Professor Maathai and PM Raila note in their books that tribalism in Kenya is a curse that pressure groups have to fight with to survive.

On the other hand, pressure groups have been a detrimental to democracy in Kenyan politics in Kibaki’s regime by having few powerful groups easily shifting opinion in a single way against the wider citizens.  Taking the example of parliament as pressure group in Kibaki’s regime, they have successfully increased their salary at the expense of taxpaying Kenyans.

Lastly, the revenue used by pressure groups like cigarette firms is wastage and cripples democracy by shifting intention from major issues of affecting citizens.

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