Citizen participation

In governance and management of urban areas

One of the fundamental principle of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 (CoK, 2010) is citizens’ participation in the governance structure as reflected by both Chapter 4 and 11 respectively. It introduces a new civic order that demands for reconfiguration of the citizens’ relationships with the government. In fact, the Article 1, openly states that all sovereign power is vested to the people of Kenya. The exercise of this power occurs at the national and county levels either directly through citizen participation or indirectly through democratically elected representatives. It gives powers of self-governance to the citizens and enhances their participation in the exercise of the powers of the State in making decisions affecting them. This model of citizens participation resonates with global experience, which shows that building bottom-up participatory mechanisms is a key ingredient to effective decentralization.

Underpinning both the County Government Act (CGA, 2012) and Urban Areas & Cities Act (UACA, 2011) is the legitimate space granted for public participation in the governance and management affairs of the devolved units. CGA (2012) Part VIII (87, g) emphasizes the principle of recognition and promotion of the reciprocal roles of non-state actors’ participation. Section 91 further assigns the County Government a facilitation role that shall lead to establishment of citizens’ fora at County and decentralized units.

Local Urban Forums (LUFs)

Citizens, particularly those in urban areas, have employed various approaches to engage with the State. This has partly been occasioned by the failure of the counties to establish citizens for a as provided for in the CGA Act. Local Urban Forums (LUFs) were established with the support of the Civil Society Urban Development Platform (CSUDP) as platforms through which citizens and the state Engage, Dialogue, Negotiate and Learn for effective urban management and governance. They are now active in thirteen Counties with a formidable constituency of over 1400 CSOs. As provided for in UACA (2012), LUFs functionality has revolved around the following areas:

  1. Uphold the participation spirit as embraced in the Constitution of Kenya (2010);
  2. LUFs have been systematic in their engagement with the integrated urban development planning process to ensure delivery of balanced plans that promote equitable and just urban development.
  3. Participation in the preparation of budgets annually, for instance, preparation of citizens alternative budgets to guide the county in budget prioritization.
  4. Participation in the county strategic planning relating to delivery of service; 
  5. Seek and demand from the state regular disclosure of the state of affairs of the city or urban area, including its finances;
  6. LUFs has been at the forefront of organizing urban citizens for effective civic engagement Their ability to organize knowledgeable platforms and influence processes leading to development of various legislative instruments has over the years built confidence amongst various stakeholders. For instance, LUFs have positively influenced processes towards formulation of the National Urban Development Policy (NUDP), National Slum Upgrading and Prevention Policy (NSUPP), UACA, and counties subsidiary legislations. This has cemented LUFs position as functional platforms for achieving popular participation in shaping the local urban agenda.
  7. LUFs have advocated for the establishment of the urban boards / town committees to decentrailize urban management for better service delivery
  8. Seek information of decisions of the urban board, affecting their rights, property and reasonable expectations 9. Promote dialogue on key urban issues of common concern;
  9. Promote knowledge generation on matters urban.
  10. Serve the interest of the marginalized and vulnerable members of the urban community;