Friday, December 19, 2008

Can we? No, we can’t!

Press statement - Can we? No, we can’t!
Bunge La Mwananchi

We have convened as Bunge la Mwananchi leaders to reflect on the past one year of creating awareness on governance issues and generating effective demand for responsive, responsible and accountable leadership in Kenya at all levels. We have been doing this through various activities as part of a nationwide campaign encouraging Kenyans to hold to account all those who have committed improprieties especially in public office.

The campaign, which climaxed on Jamhuri day celebration at Nyayo Stadium, had actually started in March 2008. The campaign was initially mobilized around "unga for 30/-“ as a clarion call and later revised to include "ushuru".

Our earlier activities with the public included holding public forums where Kenyans would come and share their views on governance openly and suggest ways forward. However, the government through the police brutality, arrests, threats and intimidation made it difficult for us to enjoy our freedoms as protected under chapter 5 of the constitution of Kenya.

Noticing that the government's (in)security machinery often violently disrupts lawful and peaceful public meetings and street processions before the message is delivered, in the run up to Jamhuri day we decided to be creative in our communication tactics and instead deliver our message at State organized functions.

Therefore, armed with our mouths on the 12th December, 2008 we made for Nyayo Stadium to dramatize our disappointment with a grand coalition leadership that was presiding over unchecked price increase for basic commodities especially unga, bus-fare increase as result of high fuel prices, reluctance of the political class to implement the Waki report, the criminal behaviour of members of parliament refusing to pay tax and the latest addition of gagging the media.

Through the heroic actions of the thousand Bunge la Mwananchi members who thronged the Nyayo Stadium on Jamhuri day, and especially, through Fredrick Odhiambo, we terminated President Kibaki's speech although an attempt to hand the Head of State a petition letter failed.

We recognize that the issues we risked our lives to bring to the nation’s attention have not dissipated and are therefore make the following demands:

Food: while we campaigned for unga for 30/- the government intervention gave us unga for 52/- and 72/-. Why the difference in prices? When will that unga get to shops in the countryside? Basic commodity price is still high, many families still cannot access food, and majority of Kenya are on skip-a-meal program or in the danger of starvation. This is shameful. Our message to the government and all political leaders is that they do not have business being in power if they cannot ensure food security for all Kenyans. Plans must be made to zero rate tax on all basic commodities. If the government, especially President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila, do not check the price of basic commodities quickly, “the terminator” of the Jamhuri speech will pale in comparison as we shall invoke other unconventional methods of communication and dramatization of unga issues.

Fuel: on fuel pump price reduction – an estimated 15million urban poor use kerosene for cooking; and according to KRA an estimated 5million Kenyans have cars. Why then is the price of Kerosene higher than that of petrol?

MPs taxation debate – taxes fund national projects such as roads, schools and hospitals among others. We earn less than 10,000/- per month and we are sufficiently philanthropic to participate in nation building. Does the MPs refusal to pay tax mean they are sufficiently against national building? Why should we pay tax to feed fat people while Kenyans starve? We are now asking the current MPs who worked in the NGOs and Civil Society and who spoke eloquently as human rights defenders: “When are you writing your tax check so that we come and escort you to KRA?”

On the Media bill: the media serves the whole society and not just politicians. The media has done well in it is work of telling stories of our struggles, especially in helping us demand to know who and why the Members of Parliament don’t want to pay tax. Our message is that the media serves 40million Kenyans not only 222 members of parliament. In a democracy like Kenya, we the 40million must have the day; we demand that MPs stay away from our media of communication. We are challenging President Kibaki to use wisdom not to sign that bill into law. If he does the mistake he shall have invited the wrath of 40 million Kenyans into a protest.

Today’s Bunge la Mwananchi leaders consultative meeting at Shauri Moyo YMCA, has drawn representation from Bunge la Mwananchi’s network across Nairobi (especially its informal settlements), Kisumu, Siaya, Eldoret, Nakuru, Naivasha and Mombasa. We have adopted this meeting as a forum to reflect, deliberate, vocalise and dramatise issues and protests against apparent injustices as set out earlier, all of which are close to the hearts of the many Kenyans that are represented by this cross section.

We invite all the 40 million members of Bunge la Mwananchi to remain firm in the demand for responsive and accountable leadership and where there are improprieties they must hold those involved to account.

NOTE: Sukuma Kenya advocates for NON VIOLENT CHANGE

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