It was Harold Lasswel who said that politics is the art and science of deciding who gets what, when and how signifying that those who get the power in its absolute sense hold the key to various issues that are pertinent to the growth and development of a nation.
As we edge closer towards the next Kenyan general election that is slated for 9th of August, 2022, aspirants from various political parties and those vying independently are criss-cross the country to hunt for votes that would propel them to the echelons of power.
The adage of all times equally reminds us that politics is about interests, the political class will come together to propel their interests in an effort to capturing power. The notion remains practical even to those who understand politics remotely. The voters are equally aligning themselves to political parties that best suit their interests, and Kenyans with Disabilities (Kenyans with disabilities) are not an exception. The Americans are famous “for no free lunch”, slogan. But it’s the French that are more succinct and pronounced on matters interests. Their “quid pro quo” jingle or scratch my back i scratch yours comes to mind. Kenyans with disabilities can no longer afford to be flower girls or boys in these coming elections. As an organized interest Group, they must put forward their cogent agenda in the arena of needs for analysis reflection and action. They must acutely negotiate their interests, their needs, their concerns with prospective Member of County Assembly in their wards, their Member of Parliament, governors of their counties, and Senate and the next President of the Republic of Kenya. Those with their best interests and plausible proposal on how they will significantly address their agenda should earn their votes and nothing else.
In as much as the Constitution of Kenya 2010 guarantees some basic and fundamental rights to every citizen including equal and full participation at all levels of governance, to most Kenyans with Disabilities this has remained a distant dream. This population remains at abyss of its own peril as leaders bluntly ignore their plight; making it difficult for them to fully participate in development, decision making and accessing their basic needs. The Kenyans with disabilities therefore, remain largely aloof as exclusion take center stage with most policies and plans being overly opaque and insufficient to address their needs and concerns. It’s not lost to most of us that legislations are in place, monumentally so; presenting an ideal situation that could improve the lives of Kenyans with disabilities, but implementation remains a mirage.
As we ponder about the inherent biases and lack of engagement for Kenyans with disabilities, it is a clarion call to all aspirants seeking elective positions to articulate the varied concerns that have remained systemic and perpetuated by unyielding discourse that seems not to go beyond mere talks. It’s high time our leaders treated the plight of Kenyans with disabilities with the seriousness it deserves so that they are not marginalized and excluded from what matters to them. The political class should therefore step up their efforts through formulation of robust policies and plans that are adaptable and comprehensive enough to guarantee inclusivity.
In anticipation to a better future ahead, Kenyans with disabilities are therefore compelled to demand; and rightly so, for the inclusion of their ten points agenda individual candidates and political parties’ manifestos and plans as some of the irreducible minimum for their votes.
That, your manifestos and plans should adequately address education and training of Kenyans with disabilities. Meaningful empowerment of Kenyans with Disabilities can only come when we make their education and skills development mandatory. To this end we need to urgently revive and fund the Education Assessment and Resource Centers (EARC) across the Country to be able to assess children with various forms of impairments and to accordingly refer and place them, depending on their needs and degree of impairment.
It also envisaged that your plans will guarantee conducive learning environment where we can adjust and adapt public schools and all training institutions to have the necessary enabling supporting environment for children and learners with various forms of impairments so as to foster integration and inclusion in the long run. Expand space and infrastructure for learners with severe disabilities that may not meaningfully benefit from “regular” schools by introducing home learning.
Your plans should equally put in place adequate mechanisms for effective and robust implementation of the accessibility clause in the Kenyans with Disabilities Act 2003. Those who fail to implement this clause should be sanctioned just as is punishable if you do not pay tax.
It is our expectation that you policies and plans have provided mechanisms for reviewing the Kenyans with Disabilities Act 2003 and the Policy to make them relevant and in tandem with the 2010 Constitution, UNCRPD 2006, vision 2030, sustainable development goals and the present realities and needs of Kenyans with disabilities
The policies should explicitly give direction on development of new social protection regime to cushion/support all unemployed Kenyans with disabilities and those with severe /multiple disabilities. Further to that, enterprise/ economic empowerment entities should factor and focus on Kenyans with disabilities
Additionally, counties should implement and fund county disability councils for effective services at the counties as envisaged in the county disability acts
For inclusivity and adequate representation of Kenyans with disabilities, clear mechanisms must be put in place to affect the Kenyans with disabilities 2003, UNCRPD 2006 and the 2010 Constitution requirement of 5% consideration of Kenyans with disabilities in both appointive and elective positions. Commitment to support the political empowerment for Kenyans with disabilities is therefore paramount.
We further remain hopeful that, your plans have elaborate strategies and means of mounting public awareness, education and sensitization on disability rights, reduction of ableism and development
In line with the 2010 Constitution which recognizes sign language, braille, as the key language to enable effective integration of the deaf, Blind and Deaf-blind in society, we need a robust plan for its development and utilization in public discourse
Noting that, the Kenyans with Disabilities Act 2003 creates the National Council for Kenyans with Disabilities as well as the National Development Fund for Kenyans with Disabilities which are key in social economic and educational development of Kenyans with disabilities yet they are grossly underfunded; these need to be reviewed.
Finally, support for the organizations of persons with disabilities, development of robust Groups and individuals of Kenyans with disabilities and Parents of children with disabilities Children's Organizations as legitimate vehicles for effective engagement with policy makers on their agenda should also be central to your planning.
It is incumbent upon the government and other stakeholders to make deliberate efforts towards formulation of comprehensive plans and policies that are in tandem with the needs and requirements of the Kenyans with disabilities, as a means of tackling the barriers to full social and economic inclusion. Consequently, and amidst the challenges that we grapple with as a nation, it’s worth noting that Kenyans with disabilities will suffer disproportionately from attendant inaction. As we chant our political slogans, most of which depict a unified and peaceful Kenya for all, it is imperative to move together as one indivisible nation where everybody feels empowered to fully participate in every aspect of life. Kenyans with Disabilities must wake up from slumber and effectively use their votes to effect the positive changes they have been yearning for, it is possible, and it’s doable.
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The views expressed here are for the authors and do not represent any agency or organization.
Dr.Phitalis Were Masakhwe, PhD, is a Disability Inclusion Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org, hile Dr Tom Odhiambo Teaches Literature and Performing Arts at the University of Nairobi, Tom.odhiambo@uon
-bi.ac.ke Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity, inclusion and sustainability expert.