People living with disability in Nakuru County (PWD’s) want the budget committee in the county to ensure there is tight security during public participation forums.
There call is a response to chaos that erupted on Thursday during a forum that was meant to discuss budget in the county that was held in Nakuru’s Old Town Hall. The forum was targeting residents from Nakuru Town East and Nakuru Town West Constituencies.
However as the forum was kicking off a group of youth stormed in and disrupted it. The youth who are believed to be from Rhonda Ward in Nakuru Town West were led to the forum by the area Member of County Assembly John Macharia and they wanted to endorse their own budget estimates which had not been considered in earlier estimates.
The youth kept on shouting down every speaker who did not seem to support their move of endorsing their estimates, bringing the meeting to a standstill for close to one hour.
Such a scenario the PWD’s feel can be dangerous to them and now they want measures put in place to ensure their safety every time there is a public forum.
“We feared for our lives because when chaos erupted we were not in a position to defend ourselves and neither could we run for our lives,”
Steve Gatukia a representative of PWD’s who was attending the forum told Kenya Monitor.
Gatukia wondered why the forum had turned chaotic yet such events are not political. He condemned the MCA who was being linked to the unfortunate turn of events at the forum. He was also unhappy with the County Assembly Budget Committee as they had not issued enough copies of the budget and only had the Chairman Moses Ndung’u reading it to the residents.
“Kenyans are entitled to contribute to matters affecting them without manipulation and thereby we did not expect to be called to a forum in which the chairman is reading to us the budget instead of issuing each of us a copy which will aid in pinpointing matters affecting the common mwananchi,” he lamented.
Apart from providing security during public participation forums Gatukia urged that there should be a sign language interpreter in every forum to cater for people with hearing impairment.
“There is need to incorporate this group in decision making because we are also entitled to rights and privileges like other Kenyans and this can be achieved through the provision of devices which will enable us to make contributions on issues affecting our daily lives.”
Public participation forums are platforms through which residents of an area are given an opportunity to give input on the different issues touching on their welfare. Such can include projects being implemented in the region, the budget estimates for such projects and the implementation process as a whole.
It is provided for in the Constitution including in the County Government Act (2013). According to the Act one of the principles of Public Participation is
“timely access to information, data, documents, and other information relevant or related to policy formulation and implementation.”
In addition the Act seeks to
“protect and promote the interest and rights of minorities, marginalized groups and communities and their access to relevant information.”
However despite such legislative provisions, public participation forums have always been characterized by chaotic scenes such as the one witnessed in the Nakuru event.
Mwangi Muraya a Nakuru Human Rights Defender said it is important to involve PWD’s in public participation forums.
“They are Kenyans like all of us, they have needs which no one else can express better than them and the constitution aims at providing equity to all of us.”
By Lorna Abuga.