This event organized by MSJC and its network of human rights monitors, was held on 2nd August 2017 at the CDF hall in Huruma. Twelve-year-old Joseph Mulua and his colleague Dipsy Ng’ang’a from Huruma ward, kicked off the event with a dance-off battle as people trickled into the hall. The turn-out was quite impressive as the people of Mathare began to show up in their large numbers, both male and the female. There were close to 200 people who turned up for the event. The youth were the largest group in the hall, some of them taking a break from their NYS (National Youth Service) duties to come and participate in the forum.
MSJC’s Kinuthia Mwangi took to the stage and made opening remarks while inviting representatives from Sauti Yetu and University Mtaani to introduce themselves to the community members present. Following this, two members of University Mtaani graced the stage to educate people on the dynamics of voting and what goes on at the polling stations. They educated the community on each stage of voting through the IEBC (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) pamphlets handed to them. Questions were asked for clarity and they were answered immediately. Leaving a general mood of good voter education happening, hoping for no or few spoilt votes in the upcoming elections on August 8th.
Huruma Ward MCA Political Accountability
The first session to kick off was the debate of the Members of County Assembly, of which two aspirants for Huruma ward showed up for the forum. These were Vincent Sisia and Alex Mburu. Upon introduction, they both mentioned the issues facing Huruma ward: sanitation, security and crime among young men. The two aspirants appeared to both acknowledge the existence of these issues. A platform was also given to the community members to ask questions to the aspirants and mention the issues they face as Huruma ward residents. Among the key issues were insecurity, health and sanitation, youth empowerment, tribalism, water inadequacy.
Sisia, on the issue of jobs for the youth, talked of young people being given jobs to clean the community environment themselves. Alex talked of following up on youth development funds to help the youth start their businesses. He also mentioned allocating the youth bursaries to study technical courses then get jobs if he was elected to office. Jobs for garbage collection would also be made available for the youth.
The aspirants were asked by members of the audience if any of them had done anything to help the youth in Huruma before running for this position, and Sisia mentioned that he had worked with the youth on wood work and carpentry. Alex Mburu responded to this by saying he had created employment of about 200 young people from Huruma ward in his matatu sacco business. A community member stood up and asked the aspirants what the position of the adults in society is, since the aspirants seemed to only be concerned with the welfare of the youth. Sisia made it clear to the audience that he would work with everyone for the betterment of the community.
A community member present asked what plans the aspirants have for the disabled people and how they intend to fight extrajudicial killings. Sisia mentioned sourcing out for donors to consider wheelchairs for the disabled people. On extrajudicial killings, he added that he would group the young people to buy them bikes for the boda boda business, as a way to keep them out of crime. Alex assured the people of inclusiveness if elected to office. He also mentioned giving civic education to the youth on avoiding drugs, crime and availing them with opportunities to earn a living.
The aspirants were asked how they intend to include the public in their leadership, and with article 104 of the constitution being quoted on the need for leaders to be held accountable and the power of the people to be able to recall back those that do not live up to their duties as leaders. They were then asked of their consent to be held accountable to the Huruma community and the possibility to be recalled back if they failed. Both the aspirants accepted the pledge. Alex persuaded the community members to also take an individual decision each to be responsible for the betterment of the community. He said, it all starts with us.
A skit was showcased on stage by Hope Entertainers group, educating the community members on tribalism and the need for peace, for a better tomorrow. Danito (an up and coming local reggae musician) took the stage to perform his reggae tunes on social justice and issues confronting the community at the grass roots level. He gave an outstanding performance.
Present were two Mathare MP Aspirants, John Wesonga and Gacheke Gachihi. They were offered a platform to introduce themselves. Gacheke seemed to have this affiliation to music on his campaign. He started with Juliani’s Utawala song and sang it through his introduction speech. The crowd joined in and sang along to the powerful lyrics.
The first issue raised to the aspirants was accessibility of office should either of them be elected to power. Wesonga assured the people of Mathare that he will be as accessible to them as he has been for the longest time now. Gacheke also made an assurance to the community members that he will remain to be available for them, while working closely with community centers to initiate projects that will benefit the community even long after his existence in power.
The floor was opened for questions from community members to the aspirants. An elderly female member of the community asked the aspirants if they intend to maintain direct communication with the people of Mathare after elected to power, or they would cut contact and disappear for five years just like their predecessors. Another member of the community also stood up and asked how the aspirants intend to help change the mental slavery that is ignorance among the people of Mathare. This was followed by yet another question on what the roles of a Member of Parliament are.
Wesonga pointed out the need for the youth to be taught on how to think beyond and set up businesses and companies. He urged the women to use their small groups and start enterprises so that the face of Mathare would change to a community of enterprises. On communication, Wesonga guaranteed never changing his phone number. He clearly put himself as the point of contact and reference for the community’s needs, that if there be any problems he can’t solve as the MP for Mathare, he can always champion for them as a leader for his duty is to his people.
Gacheke affirmed that he won’t walk away from the community activities he had been engaging in before parliament. He looks beyond communication via phone and affirmed that he will sit down with the people of Mathare often and have discussions on real issues faced, even after the elections. Gacheke urged the people to come together and work to change their own situations without awaiting outside help as self-reliance is the key first step to true freedom and development.
On their closing remarks, both candidates championed for peaceful elections and said they would be willing to accept defeat and work together, regardless of who got elected in and who did not.
Report by Wyban and Julie
See some pictures from this event below: