Keeping an Eye on the Kenyan Parliament

    by Ory Okolloh
    November 10, 2006

    Mark Glaser is away on vacation this week, but we’re happy to have Ory Okolloh filling in as a guest blogger. Okolloh writes the Kenyan Pundit blog and graduated with a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2005. She is currently based in South Africa working as the Legal and Corporate Affairs Manager for Enablis and as a consultant on telecommunications and citizen journalism in Africa. Glaser will return to the blog next Monday, Nov. 13.

    One of the things I’m most proud of as far as my accomplishments go is being the co-founder of Mzalendo. At a basic level Mzalendo intends to monitor what Kenyan Members of Parliament are doing for their constituents. The Kenyan government generally operates in a very opaque manner and it is very difficult to obtain access to public information both online and offline. While there are some government offices that are trying to remedy this (the Office of Public Communications is one example), most of the information provided is generic.

    One of the most notorious offenders, in my view, is the Kenyan Parliament, which is still without a website more than two years after the initial website was shut down after protests by some MPs who were embarassed about their CVs being published online. We have made the very same profiles available at Mzalendo…and in a classic case of you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, the parliament mirror site is still up at the developers website.


    In the meantime countries like Zambia , Rwanda and Tanzania demonstrate that there’s nothing to fear by being accessible to your electorate.

    Beyond providing some level of scrutiny on Kenyan MPs, we built Mzalendo to demonstrate that there is only so much bemoaning you can do about your representation. We have been doing so for dozens of years. There is nothing that has not been voiced, written in the press or blogged on the Internet that has not been said before, when it comes to how abymsal Kenyan politicians are. There comes a point after which talking ceases to serve a point, and we need concrete solutions to the issues of representation, or lack thereof, that face us.

    The idea of Mzalendo was hatched over a breakfast and several cups of coffee. We were not sure of the nitty-gritty of what exactly we wanted to do, but we definitely wanted to demonstrate that accountability stems from demand and that we as young skilled Kenyans have a responsibility to do our part (no matter how small) in terms of demanding accountability.


    One of the great things about Mzalendo is the fact that it was cheap to build (using open source software and WordPress) and is cheap to maintain…excluding the many many volunteer hours we put in to it ;-).

    The site is still very much in beta and we have big ambitions for it as the 2007 general elections in Kenya approach. We do face many obstacles including difficulty in sourcing information, lack of time/resources, poor Internet access in Kenya and limited reach, but we refused to be deterred…our current slogan is: “If We Build It, They Will Come!”

    Please check us out and give us your feedback.

    Tagged: africa guests weblog

    4 responses to “Keeping an Eye on the Kenyan Parliament”

    1. magadishu says:

      Mr. Howells said corruption weakened border controls
      Corruption in Kenya is increasing the UK’s exposure to drug trafficking and terrorism, Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells has warned.

      Dear Mr. Howell

      Thank you very much for your recent comments in Nairobi earlier today .As a Kenyan please allow me assure you that as Kenyans we do not care what you or the UK think about Kenya. In the past few years your government has been on an agenda aimed at tarnishing the image of Kenya for your own imperialistic reasons. let me assure you that Kenya does not need the uk or your patronizing attitude towards Africans in general.Time after time you point out on the threat of terror in Kenya yet your own government is yet to apologize for its reign of 75 years of terror in Kenya.

      You constantly talk of corruption but are yet to produce evidence against honorable Murungaru or take action against the london companies involved in corruption scandalls in kenya .Mr. Howell the realities of the world we live in today clearly show that we as Kenyans do not have to entertain the rubbish you and your government keep spewing against the Kenyan people .

      The solution in my mind is very clear if Kenya is exposing the UK to terror and drug traffickers then I suggest that you cut all ties with us so as to ensure your safety. Your exposure to terror by the way comes from your involvement in Iraq and your mistreatment of Muslim minorities in your own country .so please feel free to disassociate with Kenya and Kenyans .your departure has long been overdue and will not be missed .I can assure you that any assistance you have given kenya will be promptly replaced by others from the far east.Unlike the UK we in kenya are constantly making new friends

      In the meantime as we prepare for your departure. There is the small matter of billions of dollars owed to the freedom fighters(FROM ALL PARTS OF KENYA) that your government terrorized, compensation for the Maasai land your government stole and the completion of the payments to the samburu families injured by your army .Once you have settled these and other outstanding bills please dont let the door hit you on your way out.


      A Kenyan

    2. Grayson says:

      Of course we will check out the site. And support your online effort however we can, even though it’s a full-time job keeping online tabs on our own public figures here in Atlanta, Georgia!

    3. Paul says:

      I have a young friend passing through Kenya next week on a Banque Canadienne sponsored expedition to Kilimajaro. Also a little surprised by articles protraying Nairobi as a violent place.

      Impressed to find such a sight.

      Good luck !

    4. Alex says:

      Information is the key to any success. Armed with this kind of info maybe we will start making choices based on MERIT and not “Unajua nani ama whose kin you are”. Keep up the great work and if you need a volunteer please ask. I am sure we (young Kenyan proffessionals) can find some time to help.

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