BUNGE LA MWANANCHI-KENYA PEOPLE`S ASSEMBLY
“Setting the Agenda for the Nation from under a bougainvillea tree”
In a park, Jee Van Jee gardens, in the heart of Nairobi, members of Bunge la Mwananchi, which means “the people’s parliament” in Swahili, meet routinely/almost religiously every day. Four benches placed in the cool shade of bougainvillea trees form the physical base and indeed the cradle of the parliament, or Bunge, as it is more colloquially known. Each day, heated debates about topical issues concerning Kenyan politics and the occasional scandal take place.
The daily gatherings –Kikao/Assembly of people, are public debating forums, open to all ethnic, genders, occupations, and party affiliations. The movement can be traced to and reconnected to pre-colonial resistance movements, colonial liberation movements and post colonial struggle movements but more specifically the sittings in Jee Van Jee gardens started in early 1990s, during the clamor for multi-party politics. After the repeal of section 2(A) of the constitution in 1990, the one party era was brought to an end and multi-party politics was ushered into Kenya. The new found freedom and space gave birth to Bunge La Mwananchi which basically was a peasantry formation of those who came to rest in the gardens after engaging in demonstrations against the despotic KANU/Moi regime then. From the onset the movement fought hard for inclusive Kenya and by virtue of this inclusivity, Bunge la Mwananchi transgresses many of the boundaries that routinely frame Kenyan politics.
The cradle of the movement is Jee Van Jee gardens, a prehistoric garden that was donated to the people of Nairobi by an Indian contractor, Alibai Mullah Jee Van Jee. The contractor hated oppression and although he was rich, he could not stand colonial oppression and saw that it was not right to discriminate Africans and other races by the colonial regime who even barred them from entering the city centre. So he gave the garden voluntarily and in defiance of the colonial policy of not allowing Africans into the city centre. We reconnect with the spirit of resistance to oppression whether by a Whiteman or a Blackman.
Bunge la Mwananchi is one of the most vocal grassroots organizations in Nairobi and across the country has managed to establish Peoples Assemblies across every major town in all 47 counties across the country and defines itself as a social movement. There is no formal membership required and the movement is made up of whoever chooses to be part of it. Nevertheless, there are an increasing number of people whose sustained presence and practice has permitted for them to be regarded as essential members, and it is from these people that a ceremonial ”leader” is always chosen every two years when the movement goes to the altar of the ballot to choose its leaders in accordance with the tenets of democracy.
Bunge la Mwananchi is a grand idea/ideology build on the theory of people’s power and self-organizing and also a prominent front for articulating grassroots people agenda by giving them voice and visibility. It has created spectra of grassroots people’s platforms for amplifying grassroots people’s power to decide on the struggles they engage in or issues they face so as to improve their living conditions.
The main goal of the movement is to transform the lives of the many ordinary poor Kenyans by redefining the agenda and body politic of the nation. This is achieved by making claim to article 1 of the constitution which states that; All sovereign authority belong to the people of Kenya….and through this constitutional provision the movement further makes claim to the Bill of rights …The Right to freedom of expression and the Right to freedom of Assembly to create discussion/debate platforms or spaces where Kenyans can come together regularly to dialogue around their “real life challenges”, investigate their interconnection to government or global policies and political accountability; and consolidate their power to push for change.
Bunge La Mwananchi has established presence, platform networks and goodwill among ordinary Kenyans in all the regions of Kenya especially in major towns. In the last general election held on 4th March 2013 the movement made serious foray managed to make spectacular presence in the political scene hitherto going against the grain or political waves in various regions by fielding members on fringe party tickets but emerging with commendable victory. We now have members of Parliament and several members of County Assemblies and our members who belong to professional cadres have also been absorbed into various county executive positions.
The movement has risen from humble beginnings but has made great strides but much is still ahead as we seek to radically transform the politics of the country. The leadership of the country over the last half a century is filled up with a menu of failed leadership and economic plundering of the nation. Political patronage fuelled by the twin evil of bribe and tribe has taken this great nation that is a powerhouse in East Africa to the dogs but we shall not sit and watch.
We seek to dismantle the tribe chieftain order that has been build by selfish and failed leadership and offer a new vibrant generation of leaders who have been grown on the seed beds of struggles for change and reforms. Leaders who shall lead not from the platform build for them by their father or grandfathers, tribal kinsmen or those who bribe their way into power because of ill gotten wealth but people who have a conviction of mind and heart to serve all Kenyans irrespective of party or tribe. We wish to spread the wings of democracy across every village in Kenya and break the chains of the tribal chieftain order so that Kenyans from all corners can enjoy and feel the fruits of a truly democratic society.
Mr. Kiptoo John
Bunge La Mwananchi
+254 704 540 144