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People’s power

People’s power

Gyaneshwar Dayal, Chief Editor

The tragic events in Kenya serve as a poignant reminder of the need for Governments to remain connected with the people they serve and to approach policy-making with empathy and inclusivity
Kenyan President William Ruto, bowing to the people’s pressure has withdrawn his contentious finance bill. The nationwide protests which resulted in 22 deaths is one of the darkest chapters in Kenyan history, which has enjoyed considerable peace and freedom. This highlights the significant impact of public dissent and the critical lessons that can be gleaned from the situation. This incident underscores the importance of governmental responsiveness to citizen concerns and the necessity for transparent and inclusive policy-making. The finance bill, proposed by President Ruto’s administration, aimed to introduce new taxes and increase existing ones to bridge budget deficits and fund development projects. However, it was met with widespread resistance from various sectors, including business groups, civil society organizations, and the general public. Critics argued that the bill would disproportionately burden the poor and exacerbate the already high cost of living. The discontent culminated in mass protests across the country, with demonstrators expressing their frustration and demanding the bill’s withdrawal. Tragically, these protests turned violent in several regions, leading to clashes between security forces and protesters, resulting in 22 fatalities and leaving several injured. Indeed, political power dynamics are consistent worldwide, and their inherent nature often works against the very individuals they are supposed to serve. However, when people take matters in their own hand, they usher in changes that ought to be made in the political system. One of the most significant lessons from this crisis is the undeniable power of public opinion. The widespread protests and the consequent loss of lives underscored the importance of the government heeding the voice of its citizens. Ignoring public sentiment can lead to unrest and, in severe cases, violence and loss of life. Policymakers must prioritize public consultations and address concerns proactively to prevent such outcomes.
The controversy surrounding the finance bill highlighted the need for more inclusive policy-making processes. Stakeholder engagement should not be an afterthought but a fundamental aspect of developing any significant legislation. Including a diverse range of voices from the outset can help identify potential issues early and foster a sense of ownership and acceptance among the population. Effective communication and transparency are crucial in governance. The lack of clear communication regarding the intentions and expected impacts of the finance bill contributed to public mistrust and suspicion. Governments must ensure that they clearly articulate the rationale behind policy decisions and provide a platform for addressing public concerns. Transparent decision-making processes can help build trust and reduce the likelihood of resistance. This holds true for Kenya, across Africa, throughout Asia, and India is no exception. The incident also brings to light the delicate balance between addressing economic needs and ensuring social equity. While the government’s goal of raising funds for development projects is understandable, it is imperative to consider the socio-economic impact of such measures on the population. Policies must be designed to promote equitable economic growth and avoid disproportionately affecting vulnerable groups.

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