It is no secret that Kenya is one of the most unequal societies in the world. It is also one of the most corrupt nation ranking poorly in corruption for the last two decades. Indeed, it is one the worst places in the world to be poor or underprivileged as the government does little in terms of bridging the gap between the rich and the poor.
If you are absolutely poor, then there’s nothing the government can do for you. Hunger or disease will most likely kill you and your poor kin have to do a fundraiser just to bury you. Our leaders have resisted the need to bridge the gap, they have cheap votes come the election time. By raising the standards of living, buying voters becomes hard or expensive.
However, having a population that is impoverished guarantees politicians easy votes. Sometimes, for a few hundred shillings and a few packets of maize meal is all it takes to secure a seat.
Once elected, the leaders go on to widen the gap. “eating” wherever they can, with little regard for the poor. Despite our progressive Constitution, this country is lacking in meaningful interventions for the poor, old, marginalized citizens. The antics at the August House with a disgraced Public Accounts Committee show where our leaders priorities lie.
Perhaps, our leaders have missed Chapter 4 of the Constitution under Economic and Social rights, it says;
(1) Every person has the right–
(a) to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care;
(b) to accessible and adequate housing, and to reasonable standards of sanitation;
(c) to be free from hunger, and to have adequate food of acceptable quality;
(d) to clean and safe water in adequate quantities;
(e) to social security; and (f) to education.
(2) A person shall not be denied emergency medical treatment.
(3) The State shall provide appropriate social security to persons who are unable to support themselves and their dependents.
Senator Hassan Omar’s move to introduce the Human Dignity Bill is a laudable move to ensure that leaders deliver as per policy and not play politics with service delivery especially to the poor people. The bill enshrines support for the poor in government policy both at the national and county level.
The bill seeks to;
(a) Ensure that economic and social rights are realized by all as set out in the constitution.
(b) Establish a framework to guarantee economic and social rights
(c) Ensure that National and County Governments adhere to standards set towards realization of economic and social rights;
(d) Monitor and promote the realization of the economic and social rights by the County Governments;
The bill also addresses the need for central government to provide grants to ensure human dignity at county level and proper allocation of the equalization funds especially for urban counties that are struggling with big populations of underprivileged people.
“This Bill will see that every person has access to the highest standards of health, accessible and adequate housing, is free from hunger, have access to clean, have social security and education,” said Omar.
Should this bill sail through, it will alter the political landscape forever. It puts the responsibility of ensuring human dignity squarely on the government at all levels with clear policy. Politicians will no longer use projects like opening public toilets, improving hospitals, feeding the poor as campaign tools.
It is their job in the first place and delivery will be guaranteed to citizens by Constitution. This Bill may finally de-link politics from informing policy especially where human dignity rights are concerned.
It is perhaps time, as Senator Omar argues for leaders at the national and county government should tell us how how better-off the people are and not on how many highways they constructed.