A Model for Citizen Consultation on Legislation Takes Shape in Kenya

County assemblies throughout Kenya are experimenting with new models of citizen engagement aimed at fulfilling the expectations of citizens based on the requirements set forth by the 2010 Constitution and activated by the devolution process begun following elections in 2013. The Kilifi County Assembly, in partnership with IRI, is implementing a model of citizen consultation on key issues that facilitates the inclusion of citizens’ needs and opinions into the legislation drafted and debated by the County Assembly.

The model of engagement includes public consultation through traditional engagement methods and SMS surveying as well as expert-led research that allows the Kilifi County Assembly to include stakeholders and citizens’ views into the legislation that it develops and debates.

Currently, the Honorable Saidi Mwachenda, a member of the Kilifi County Assembly, has proposed a bill that will address the needs of coconut farmers, sellers, transporters and consumers as well as improve the quality of products by regulating the production and sale of coconut products. The crop is not considered a cash crop in Kenya and therefore is not subject to national regulation. As a result, producers have faced pricing pressure that has affected profitability and the crops produced do not have uniform quality standards.

The consultative process began with the creation of a technical team comprised of County Assembly leadership, the chair of the agriculture committee, county executive officials and experts on coconut farming and production. The team, who will remain engaged in the entire outreach process, created a survey to ask stakeholders about their top concerns on the production and sale of coconuts. This survey was administered through questionnaires distributed at public events and was disseminated through the Toa Maoni SMS platform.

Leadership of the Kilifi County Assembly, including Speaker Jimmy Kahindi, participated in a radio show that drew attention to the issue and highlighted the upcoming countywide public forum series. Thereafter, the Assembly held a stakeholders’ forum where the technical team met with invited stakeholders, including coconut farmers, transporters, consumers, civil society organizations and processors. Finally, the Assembly conducted public forums in areas that covered all constituencies in Kilifi County. Attendees had the opportunity to hear about the proposed legislation and provide their feedback about what they hope the legislation should include.

The opinions and views collected through public meetings and SMS-based surveys will be used to draft the legislation and incorporated into a white paper that will be used as a resource during committee consideration and final drafting of the bill. The Kilifi County Agricultural, Livestock and Fisheries Committee will then present the draft legislation to the public through public hearings. Citizen input from the public hearings will be incorporated into the legislation and then be presented to the governor for consent. Should the legislation pass, the technical team will remain engaged in the implementation process through a working group of stakeholders in the coconut industry who will monitor implementation using social auditing processes.

Around the world, the IRI conducts democratic governance programs, working alongside political and government actors, citizens and civil society, to bring government closer to citizens, transforming government into a responsive, transparent and effective institution.

IRI has worked in Kenya since the early 1990’s to bring together civil society and elected officials as well as empower marginalized groups, such as youth, women and persons with disabilities, to increase participation in the political process.

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