Governments the world over, and especially legislators in national assemblies are always accused by their constituents of neglecting them once elected. Kenya is not spared in this. Kenyan mps have time and again, increased their salaries, fought efforts to pay taxes, approved the discredited director of public prosecutions and generally thumbed their noses at the Kenyan voter time and time again. What makes legislators act this way?
According to Jean Jacques Rousseau, there are three voices that tell every legislator in all governments what to do in their job:
• What the government(executive) wants
• What the legislator wants
• What the people want
In a perfect democracy, the executive creates and implements the policy that originates and serves the public interest, while every legislator’s interest and want is the representation of the people who elected him to parliament. Hence what the people want what the legislator wants and what the executive wants is one and the same thing. But Kenya is not a perfect democracy, and the interests of the executive and the parliamentarians have many a time drowned out the public interest and general will.
Why is this?
Some of the reasons why this happens are as follows:
We vote in governments based not on the general goodwill and on the interests of good governance and visionary leadership. Presidential candidates are elected mainly on tribal basis. Their own ideologies, characters, principles and values are further down the pecking order. Hence the government becomes lopsided towards a certain region, and some tribes feel included at the expense of others. However only minority elite from the ‘ruling’ elite benefits from this government while ordinary Kenyans interest suffers.
In parliament, debate and checking of the government becomes a tribal affair, and going against the tribal line is considered treachery. As a result the public interest suffers.
Secondly, our reasons for electing parliamentarians are not worthy or parallel to the general will. In all constituencies the clan, tribal or religious interests come first, while the richer the contestant, the more likely the chances of election. As a result, murderers, drug lords, launderers and land grabbers ascend to parliament. There is no way such people would pass legislation that could lead to their prosecutions or arrest, despite them being in the public interest. Watu wa mtaa are also likely to go into parliament, despite their lack of knowledge on political science, law, foreign policy or economics. The voters have to start analyzing the contestants, their sources of wealth and their principles and visions for them rather than the above mentioned characters.
Most important, we must start viewing ourselves as stakeholders who deserve honourable, visionary and driven leaders in government. We must start viewing ourselves as individuals, not tribes. Kenya is made up of 40 million people, not 43 tribes. That is the mantra we must carry as we choose our leaders to the two arms of government, the executive and the legislature.
That is the only way to ensure the public interest is not drowned out in government when the budget, laws and policy are being enacted.