Yes, you can sue political leaders

Azimio leader Raila Odinga and President William Ruto.

Azimio leader Raila Odinga (left) and President William Ruto.

Photo credit: AFP | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Abuse of power is made worse by inertia within the political parties, which never react to malpractices by party members.
  • There is no bigger fraud than being duped by political representatives.
  • Kenyans should stop being bribed with cheap ugali or held to ransom over it.

Before I tell you why, I will first tell you the story of Japanese MP Yoshikazu Higashitani. He was fired from his role as MP for ‘not turning up to work’. Mr Higashitani is reported to have done not a single day’s work in Parliament since his election.

It may sound odd that an MP could be fired but, politicians now must be held to account for failing to work.

The issue of MPs not working is not just a problem in Japan. We have bigger problems with truancy in Kenya’s Parliament too. Perhaps even worse because most political representatives in countries such as ours never think that they are elected and paid to work for the electorate.

The national Parliament and the 47 county assemblies are viewed as platforms for wealth creation through over-inflated wages and allowances and the attendant corruption deals. It explains to a large degree the violence that goes with the political journeys to Parliament as people scramble for that famed source of wealth.

Abuse of power is made worse by inertia within the political parties, which never react to malpractices by party members.

We still have MPs convicted of corruption serving in Parliament and others facing murder and or rape charges, yet their parties have not seen it fit to expel them. How then would it be possible to challenge MPs who do not work? That responsibility has always fallen on the electorate, who have never thought of challenging lazy and thieving political representatives.

I am glad to see that the tide is slowly starting to turn, with some parents in Uasin Gishu County challenging their officials on theft. Their grievance is not linked to loss of public funds but their own money which they deposited into a trust account held as part of Uasin Gishu Overseas Education Fund. You guessed it — the officials embezzled the funds and failed to remit the students’ fees to the universities they enrolled into in Finland!

Parents, or in many cases the voters, need not only take legal action in breaches involving personal matters between them and their political representatives, but they should also remember that they have the right to take legal action when their political representatives fail to provide services to them.

The days when voters were expected to vote people in, then stand by the roadside and ‘tingisha kidole’ (wag the loyalty finger) in rags are gone! Politics in Kenya is mired in fraud. There is no bigger fraud than being duped by political representatives who take the oath to serve you but instead use your tax to pay themselves huge salaries and steal the remainder while you are left leading a life of squalour.

Time to sue

If your area has no free-flowing fresh water, good hospitals, schools and security or roads or any other agreed services, then it is time to sue your political representative for failing to provide these amenities.

Like any relationship between an employer and an employee, there exists a contract between a political representative and his voters from the moment they are elected. You do not cast votes to give MPs, MCAs, governors and indeed all elected officials a five-year holiday on taxpayers’ money. They must show value for money for the huge salaries paid to them and keep to the agreed script they shared through their manifestoes.

The expanded governance structure that heralded devolved units was intended to bring services closer to the people through their political representatives. So far most have been missing in action.

A majority have been mute as Kenyans starve as a result of drought and hardly speak up even when their voters are forcibly evicted by unscrupulous property developers. In fact, most rarely act on voters’ problems, let alone being proactive to avert these problems before they happen.

Being an elected official gives rise to legal and fiduciary duties. A majority of such officials have rarely ever taken these duties seriously, which is why we still have huge numbers of Kenyans living below the poverty line in one of the largest economies in East and Central Africa.

This calls for voters to understand what is legally owing to them and if there are breaches of the contract between them and their political representatives such as failure to provide services, then they must resort to the courts to ensure they are not only served but served well. Public service is not about enabling politicians to live better than you but about the duty to serve the public.

Kenyans should stop being bribed with cheap ugali or held to ransom over it. They must remember they deserve better. Crucially, they must remember that their political representatives have legal and fiduciary duties given the social contract that exists between them. If they fail you, gladly sue them for breaches of the law and your rights.

 Failure to better voters’ socio-economic position must be challenged. It is time the citizenry rose to their duty of holding their political representatives to account. Previous check-and-balance measures have failed as politicians continue to fatten each other instead!

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected] @kdiguyo