Columnists

Residents can deliver a new Nairobi

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Nairobi City skyline. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • The constitutional call for public participation cannot be effectively realised unless counties recognise, engage with and take into account the useful contributions that resident associations play in governance.
  • The fact that in most estates in Nairobi, garbage collection is still undertaken privately shows the necessity of having organised resident associations.

I recently attended a workshop to develop a document with a colleague. During the break, we discussed about the effectiveness of their resident association.

The colleague argued that the association’s engagement was bordering on over-reach since no construction ever took place without the body objecting to its impact on the building and zoning regulations, aesthetics and environmental standards. This view may not be appreciative of the historical context within which the resident associations have emerged.

In the early 2000s, as I engaged in environmental advocacy, one of the critical issues was the performance of Nairobi City Council in service delivery.

The Council was accused of non-supply of water, disregard of building zoning standards, facilitating irregular allocations of public land and non-collection of garbage.

In response to these challenges, public interest environmental lawyering took place. There also emerged private garbage collection.

My colleague reminded about these developments. We were discussing an association which is part and parcel of the larger resident associations.

The larger process was concretised in year 2000 when the Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations (Kara)was established to coordinate advocacy. Since its establishment, Kara has been pushing for improved governance.

After discussing with the colleague, I came across a Kara research done in enhancing access to environmental justice in solid waste management.

The fact that Kara has been undertaking a comprehensive project to not just assess the performance of public bodies but also look at what citizens can do is extremely commendable.

Solid waste management is largely a devolved function. Counties are expected to put in place frameworks for the work to be done. Though within Nairobi County despite the passage of a law on waste management, the task since early 2000s is largely undertaken by residents in various estates.

The report captures developments in training of resident associations in resolution of disputes through use of alternative justice (AJS) means.

Article 159 of the Constitution anchors the place of AJS in the entire framework for dispute resolution. While the Judiciary has done a commendable job in developing a policy framework and operationalising use of AJS, its realisation requires engagement of more stakeholders.

Taking a keen interest in enhanced awareness and competence in adopting AJS in resolving disputes is not only useful but laudable.

While initial work of awareness has been done with the study reporting more than 70 percent awareness rate, the fact that 50 percent of those interviewed were dissatisfied with the way management committee handled disputes is a pointer to the work expected of resident associations in managing solid waste.

Despite the huge improvements within the Judiciary, the reality is that a majority of disputes are still resolved outside the courts. Consequently, efforts to support wide application of AJS to resolve challenges is useful.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION

It is important that the place of resident associations in governance be made more formal.

The constitutional call for public participation cannot be effectively realised unless counties recognise, engage with and take into account the useful contributions that resident associations play in governance.

The fact that in most estates in Nairobi, garbage collection is still undertaken privately shows the necessity of having organised resident associations not only to support public service delivery but also advocate for improvements in the performance of the county government.

It is also a call to greater recognition of and linkages with resident associations by the county government to ensure that the work that umbrella of resident associations does is seen as an important contribution to governance of the city.