Of Mzalendo

Mzalendo.com is without a doubt one of the most interesting, and at the same time one of the most taxing things that I have ever done. You’d not think so by looking at the home page but take it from me — there is a lot of plumbing under the hood.

Blood, sweat and a lot of tears have gone into Mzalendo.com to make it what it is today, and there is a lot more that we are still doing to make it a complete resource that you, the electorate, can use to make informed decisions when it comes to evaluating your leadership.

Mzalendo Site

I can’t offhand recall the exact date Kenyan Pundit and I first discussed the idea, but I do remember it was a substantial breakfast at Java House where ideas were evaluated and either tossed out or scribbled down.

The major obstacles were obtaining information about the parliamentary process — members, bills, motions, etc. The other was tying together everything using technology so as to present it easily to Kenyans, or indeed anyone who is interested.

I won’t make any bones about it. It has been, and continues to be quite the effort because we have to find time for our schedules to volunteer to do this. It is entirely a part time effort, mostly done at ungodly hours in the night and weekends.

Which brings me to the question we get fairly frequently: Why?

The simplest answer to this is simple — whining does not help. We have whined and whined and whined about the quality of our leadership for over 40 years. There is nothing you are going to say over drinks with your friends that has not been said before. There is no editorial or blog post or speech that will say anything that has not been said before. And after that what then?

Nothing. Nothing really changes.

Basically whining and ranting about our spectacularly inept leadership has become dangerously close to noise.

Since whining does nothing, we need to do something about it, rather than just talk. Put in some effort. And there are several ways to do this. Facilitate or conduct civic education, run for office, civic or parliamentary, audit the various levels of government, and so on.

Editing The Data

But enough with the whining. Everyone knows the problems.

Our way was to build a resource where everyone cold see who their representatives are and what they have done while they were in office so that people could see in black and white the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of their leaders.

We’re just about done with the first of the major efforts — putting together complete member profiles which should be done in about a week. It has taken a while because it is very difficult to get this data. When we started compiling it the parliament site had been offline for several months.

Coding

But regardless we have been online since February and went public about April.

By and large, Mzalendo.com has been fairly well received. Most people can appreciate the value of such a resource. We have received and implemented a number of ideas. Since everything, and I do mean everything, is in a database, we can manipulate and display it in almost endless ways.

Database

But as with all things, there are always detractors. Most of the attacks fall along these lines

- Despite saying it in black and white that we have no affiliations of any kind with political parties, accusations come in thick and fast about how we are aligned or are some sort of mouthpiece of LDP, NARC or KANU. The basis of these accusations? Your guess is as good as mine!

- Again, despite saying it time and time again that we are just volunteers and don’t command resources in terms of time and labour and therefore our data is incomplete, some people see mischief in this. As some sort of “plot” to hide the truth. And so some more allegations come. When challenged to help us fill in the missing information instead of just whining about it — silence.

- Still others pontificate from lofty shores across the seas about how such an initiative is futile because Kenyans have no access to the Internet. I find this as ridiculous as argument as not writing in English because not everyone can read English. While is true that not all Kenyans can go online, those that do have friends and family to whom they can share what they have learnt. Having people access the resource is not the aim of the game. Having them share what they have learnt is.

What I find especially interesting is that almost all of the complaining has come from Kenyans, or at any rate people that claim to be Kenyans.

About

Luckily, this is more than made up for by the fact that the bulk of our support correspondingly is from Kenyans, and I’d like to thank each and every one of you for your continued support and ideas.

In particular I’d like to thank (in no particular order) Afrofeminizta, Bankelele, Shiro, Alexcia, Guessaurus, my main man Rip and and one Mr X for their support before and behind the scenes. You guys rock!

We’re always looking for some extra help. Not sure how you can pitch in? Check this out. Or if you can think outside the box and come up with ideas? Write to us.

Remember — knowledge is power.

I highly encourage you to visit parliament at least once and see for yourself exactly how our MPs conduct themselves and articulate issues. It will be an eye opener. I guarantee you. Details for visiting can be found here so take up the gauntlet and find out how you are governed. After all, it is your right. Visit. Take note. Share.

AOB

Livestock and Fisheries Minister Joseph Munyao called a press conference last week to declare to Kenyans that he has only one ass. I kid you not

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36 Responses

  1. edwin says:

    Keep on the good work.
    i wonder how else i can
    chip in apart from spreading
    the word down here.
    cheers mate!

  2. Farmgal says:

    where did Edwin come from?? i was going to do a song and dance…
    lakini its all good at least i have somad half let me stop whining and go read the other half.

  3. Farmgal says:

    I cant believe that some people are actually calling it a waste of time..who’s time? I mean if it aint my time why complain? (shakes head) keep up the good work you guys. Will see if I can contrubute somehow though I very much doubt. Building a site is not easy, especially when you are doing it in your free time.
    kudos to you!

  4. kabinti says:

    As with anything great there are always naysayers. It’s encouraging to see how far you, KP and others have gone with mzalendo. You definitely have support from far and wide!

  5. “The greatest crisis in the world today is a crisis of leadership and the greatest crisis in leadership is a crisis of character.” – Dr. Howard Hendricks. Mzalendo, and before that – your and other like-minded blogs – provide a welcome opportunity for some, if not many of us, to enrich our thinking around some of the issues that face our country and generation today. Most of these issues center around leadership and character. My prayers and goodwill go with you each new day. As for the detractors, do take an encouraging leaf from Nehemiah the prophet in your dealing with them.

  6. Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!

  7. acolyte says:

    I think Mzalendo is a great project.I will admit that I have not been there as much as I should but now it is harder for me to claim ignorance about what is going on in the Kenyan political scene.I think it does a good job in helping to sweep away the ignorance that is characteristic of most Kenyans when it comes to politics.
    Good work and keep it up, no matter how thankless people may be there are some of us who appreciate what you and the rest are doing.

  8. Mama Mia says:

    A worthy effort – keep up the good work.
    As for your detractors, “any fool can criticise, condemn or complain, and most fools do.” – D Carnegie.

  9. Hear! Hear! Read the News!

    Forget the naysayers…. the internet medium is coming to most Kenyans as technology improves… The lower internet access charges, lower duties on computers & increased awareness of online sources ensures the success of dissemination of knowledge!

    Your blog (among others) are the new “underground” newspapers that bedevils repressive governments all over the world…

    Keep up the good work & I support Mzalendo.

    The Truth is Out There…

  10. M,

    I was getting worried that michuki got to you coz there was nothing from you for ages… Or I thought you were mourning the France’s loss BUT I see you were up to (all) good… so its all good…

    Just watched Pirates of the Carribean… You are the Jack Sparrow of the KBW…

    Till next time… ya pirate!

  11. M,

    How can we get Mzalendo’s existence published in the mainstream media (TV & Newspapers) coz that is what will create/drive folks to Mzalendo. When websites are mentioned in the Press, the hits increase substantially!

    Anyone who can help????

    Perhaps ScanGroup should help out… within their IPO!

    Anyway… I have you as a link on my blog… All readers/supporters please do the same!

  12. Ms K says:

    Mzalendo is an absolutely brilliant BRILLIANT idea and no number of detractors can take any shine away from it. You and Ory are setting a brilliant example for all Kenyans and I applaud you. Msiangalie nyuma.

    We need to hype it more, tell more people about it. Surely atleast ONE journalist will see the value in it!!

  13. Kibet says:

    I see a bright future in Mzalendo, tho’ Ms K & Vitu Vingi has a point on the publicity.

    But beyond our comments up in here, i figure you need more hands, feet and eyes to keep a watch on our kids at play both within and outside Parliament. That’s the challenge to all of us in Kenya’s blogosphere.

  14. Reader says:

    Thinker, you’re a doer.

  15. bankelele says:

    Keep it up. as it gains momentum, it will only get better

  16. hash says:

    M, what you and Kenyan Pundit are doing with Mzalendo is exactly the type of technology that will help change Africa for the better. More good information being available to everyone is the first step for change. Putting it in a format that the government can’t squash easily is even better (I hope you host it overseas). :)

    When talking to different tech guys in Kenya these last 2 weeks, I continually bring up Mzalendo as an example of what the web can be used for. The more people who know about Mzalendo, the better it is at doing it’s job. Cheers man, and keep up the good work.

  17. jogoo wa shamba says:

    @M- i was beginning to think that finally the Kanga squad struck,you’ve been away for so long. anyway i’ve just had a peek at mzalendo.com.i havent really dug into it (which i surely will) but what you have explained does it for now.permit me to say its an exceptional piece of work.i know its not easy to build a website especially when you do it in spare time. i guess all i can say is kudos to you and Kenyan Pundit.i believe a time will come when we’ll look back and say”This is where it all begun”.

    As for the detractors-wameze wembe!!

    Tragedy is …when a full cabinet minister talks about his rear endowment during a press conference.

  18. Chrenyan says:

    Those who say that it is not good because few Kenyans have ‘Net access, what about the few who do? .001 is better than .000. And Mzalendo is a long way better than .001.

    On how to help, ati you cannot take notes in the public gallery? These guys! Just so we don’t put pen to paper on how inept they are. It’s amazing the lengths they go to to protect themselves.

    In short, great job on Mzalendo. I was happy to see info on the Ministries, sometimes I cannot for the life of me remember which minister is now handling which ministry apart from Kimunya, Ngilu, Munyao…

  19. I says:

    M.. you and your collegues are on to something huge!!
    let the haters hate..

  20. Sarah says:

    M, you guys are doing an awesome job, I will definitely let all my peeps know. A jounrey of a thousand miles starts with one step. Thank you.

  21. Gish says:

    Great Job! Makes good groung for self education. thanks and Well in to you,Kpundit and crew

  22. egm says:

    I echo all the above as I say kudos to a job well done.

  23. eclipse says:

    visited the site………congrats to all behind it…..will do all i can to support it….had never bothered to check out the hansard..after i did it confirmed most MPs are just monkeys in suits

  24. Eclipse – don’t insult the monkeys! At least they know how many arses they have & will gladly show their arse but not mahe an ass or arse out them selves!

    When I listen to the quality debates in the House of Commons (UK) during the PM’s Q&A session & then compare to what I read about our Idiots… what a difference, what a shame!

    I can’t believe the “munyao ass” thing… Is this a joke???

  25. Wanjiru says:

    Its about time!!!!!!!!! Kudos!!!!!!!

  26. lau says:

    At last we have something to look channel our thoughts and team up in the fight for freedom. You guys are superb and as usual detractors, ‘husema usiku wanalala’. Tukopamoja.

  27. Shiroh says:

    Cheers guys.

  28. Raz says:

    Bravo! Good job people, well done.
    The biggest challenge would be to measure the effectiveness of contributions made by MPs. Is it possible to get a column rating work done by each Kenyan MP, “say on a three or may be six months period”? May be sSome kind of feed back by Kenyans on what they think about their members of parliament. Something about what the MPs promised they would do after being elected and they are yet to fulfill the promise.

  29. Jimmie says:

    Kudos for the good work you doing keep it up. Want to comment on the issue of misinformation peddled by Raila who happens to be a presidential hopeful. I do not know why he has to peddle lies with regards tothegrowth in the Stock Exchange in Kenya. Initially it was that Drug money was what was ruling at the exchange. Then just this week that its a clique of pro govt people who arethe ones buying companies at throw away prices. This is the worst form of misinformation from someone who intends to rule us. We have seen people from all walks of life stream and queue on the streets to buys shares when they are listed. Let him come out openly and state that what is bohering is the strength Transcentury has built. Who has stopped him and his cronies from forming their own and buying shares. Lets tackle issues and not peddle propaganga just forheadline. Media also letting down Kenyans featuring such stories at the expenses of better newsworthy features. Its not all about profits and selling papers guys

  30. JOHNIE SHUNG says:

    Tis real,

    Only wishing you couldtake over the media fraternity as is the main cause of all the leadership crisis we are in. If only they could remove spotlight from those demeanors, am sure they could spot leadership elsewhere coz its there. please search there!

  31. Wambuibgu says:

    Excellent! The best thing I have read from Kenya in recent months. As they say, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

  32. jane wairimu says:

    ATI HAMWEZI ENDA HOLIDAYS NYINYI WAAFRIKA SI MJARIBU ATA MAPRESIDENT MUONE KAMA WAZUNGU WATAWA ENTERTAIN KAMA WAGIRIAMA MTAPIGWA TEKE MKIITWA MANUGU KISHA NYINYI MUA KARIBISHE MKI WA ENTERTAIN KAMA MUNGU SABABU YA PESA HA HA HA HADI LINI SHAKA ZULU ATAPATA HEART ATTACK AKIWEKO SASA

  1. Friday July 21, 2006

    [...] Mzalendo news: First, if you haven’t done so please read Thinker’s brilliant piece on Mzalendo…sometimes we just get vexed about all the (unhelpful) pontificating. Second, it looks like I’ve managed to find a way to get my hands on the Parliament’s Order Papers…they do make for interesting reading so please check them out, I hope my access will be regular (eternal thanks to my super-duper hookup…50% of my time on mzalendo is spent on finagling information out of a very closed system). Finally, Mzalendo got wiki’d! [...]

  2. Friday September 8, 2006

    [...] M’s ruminations on Mzalendo [...]

  3. Friday May 30, 2008

    click here…

    Chances are your website is violating the law without you even being aware about it. Bulletproof your site, be law compliant, and sleep soundly only worrying about “normal” things…like how much profit your business will make…and not having to…

  4. Friday August 31, 2012

    [...] M’s ruminations on Mzalendo [...]

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