There was an event that took place at Nairobi’s Radisson Blu hotel but missed the attention of both mainstream and social media. Last month, Atlas Movement organized grassroots consultations to crowd source policies on how to improve the power of voting in Kenya.
According to the co-founder Ms. Colombe Salvador, about 110 people joined the in-person event and between 10 to 20 people were present online on a Sunday afternoon.
Mr. Andrea Venzon, a founder to the Atlas Movement, opened the event by explaining the urgency of finding solutions to voter apathy, and innovating voting as a whole.
Nairobi County Member Of the National Assembly
The event was opened with thought-provoking remarks by Clive Donnley, an Atlas volunteer and human rights activist; Nerima Wako-Ojiwa, CEO of Siasa Place; and Boniface Mwangi, a photojournalist, politician, and activist.
Hon. Esther Passaris was present and promised to push forward the proposals in Parliament.
Panelists mentioned core issues linked to the panel of voting such as endemic corruption, lack of identity documents that make it impossible for people to vote, and the difficulty for women to vote independently.
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Participants were asked to identify at least three issues they identified with “voting”, primarily focusing on the “power of voting.”
Many issues were outlined, and participants then prioritized the ones they wanted to tackle, or thought were the most important. They all had three votes and proceeded to vote.
Three main issues emerged. Top on the list was:
- Corruption and voter bribery and buying, as well as corruption of electoral institutions during the voting process
- Lack of youth involvement, empowerment and inclusivity in voting.
- Ethnicity and lack of values on how to not vote only along tribal lines.
Proposals that can be used in Kenya
Participants then made the following concrete proposals that could be used in Kenya.
Introduction of a leadership probation period for newly elected politicians was proposed. This could work for example by creating an independent committee to review behaviors of newly elected leaders and potentially propose a vote of no confidence to the public in the event of unethical conduct.
Develop a youth-led taskforce to highlight the needs of the youth to candidates and elected officials. This would help the youth in being heard before heading to the polls.
Blacklist politicians that have been guilty of corruption and run background checks on candidates. Provide options on the ballot to vote not only for candidates, but also on policies.
Create quotas in elected positions and for political parties to ensure more diversity in terms of age, tribes, gender among others.
Invest public funds in social media influencers for “go out to vote” campaigns and eliminate barriers to voting through digital, blockchain-based voting.
Put in place voting alerts directly sent to people from governments to remind them of elections the emergency COVID-19 alerts that popped up on phones.
Ensure that all candidates propose their ideas to their community by enabling the organization of state or community-sponsored local, in person events. This would specifically help provide an outlet to reach the public for less funded candidates.
Elect a national youth council to represent the youth and cultivate a political culture. Lower the minimum age of voting to 15 and enable the youth to have a voice more than every couple of years through participatory legislative processes
Ensure lifelong civic education, the teaching of democratic values from a young age, and encourage exchange programmes to overcome tribalism and encourage engagement in democratic life.
Expand the positions that the people directly elect to all important positions like the head of Judiciary.
Last but not least make political parties’ funding fully transparent to the public.