Development: Kenya Should Make its Devolved System Work!

About five years ago, Kenya enacted a new constitution through a referendum process! Under that  law, Kenya moved from a centralized unitary system of government under the defunct old constitution to a unitary, devolved  system of government! The two-tier unitary system of government has a national government and county governments which are actually economic units. The system was intended to ensure equitable distribution of national resources, address past injustices, eliminate inequalities and address cases of disparities caused by systematic marginalization due to  tribalism and prejudices! Previously, elected governments favoured certain areas for development and resource allocation. The areas so favoured were those viewed by the ruling class as politically correct! As a result of that poor governance system that was neither transparent nor ever held accountable, certain regions were marginalized for decades. Corruption and impunity flourished! There was total absence of checks and balances! Many Kenyan tribes that were marginalized from political leadership and economic empowerment built up resentments, a situation that kept worsening with years as politicians never read the signs on the wall and correct the situation. Then came the general and presidential elections of 2007 that led to a disputed election outcome. The dispute became a major conflict that sparked the country into violence in which there was ethnic cleansing and massacres of those viewed to be supporters of those who declared to have won the elections. Then revenge ethnic cleansing followed, and the country was literally ablaze! There was chaos in major cities and towns. Property was destroyed and people were displaced and became internally displaced persons (IDPs) who sough shelter in police stations and churches. A church was set ablaze in Eldoret with refugees of the violence inside. They all perished! The security forces seemed overwhelmed. Later the IDps were sheltered in makeshift polythene tents with no sanitation, water, food and medicine. Then mediation efforts were initiated locally and through the international community and the UN. The USA and the UK played a major role in piling pressure on the rival politicians to come to the negotiation table under the mediation of the former UN secretary-general, Koffi Annan! The mediation yielded positive results that ended the chaos!

The new constitution Kenya enacted in 2010 was meant to ensure that no chaos akin to the one 0f 2007-2008 ever takes place again. It was intended to ensure justice and fairness in distribution of resources, public appointments, employment in the public sector and empowerment in public institutions. The law was also intended to address past injustices by allocating extra resources to areas that had been marginalized therebefore in a bid to make such areas catch up with the areas that were previously favoured developmentwise. That is where the counties came in as economic units that would receive resources from the national government and ensure development and empowerment at the grassroots. In a nut-shell, the system was intended to bring services closer to the people, ensure faster development, equitable empowerment, sustainable peace and unity in diversity!

What many Kenyans tend to forget is the fact that Kenya has a unitary system of government. It has no federal units as the counties are not autonomous units. The legal system is still unitary. There is the Kenyan law that applies in every place in the republic. The counties are empowered under the law to carry out their mandate in their jurisdiction efficiently, fairly, justly, judiciously, incorruptibly and both transparently and accountably. The national government, on the other hand, is mandated to formulate policy for all the public sector systems and institutions. The county governments must then implement the policies in liaison with the national cabinet secretaries and principal secretaries. That of course means that the two levels of government must always work in perfect harmony if Kenya has to ensure it meets its development agenda. The devolved system of government was also intended to ensure faster development, to enable Kenya rise to the first world status. It was also meant to bring an end to the culture of both tribalism and corruption. It was chiefly intended to ensure unity in diversity and sustainable peace, two factors that are vital for development and national stability!


The national government’s mandate is both local (countrywide within the counties) and international in matters of foreign affairs, diplomacy and international and regional relations! That is why there must be perfect harmony between the national government and respective county governments in matters within such counties! The national government has a vital responsibility, duty, obligation and mandate to ensure prudent coordination as it is the nerve centre of the country’s political, legislative, judicial,  executive, operational, financial and governance structure. It must take a bigger supervisory role in ensuring perfect coordination and harmony in all the counties vis-a-vis the national government’s and the country’s development and governance agenda!

Of late, there have been complaints that counties are inefficient and corrupt and are unable to run the health and other devolved systems in the counties. We all know that all county governors are university graduates with a wide range of executive and management experience, knowledge, know-how, acumen and skills. They are among the most intelligent and educated technocrats in Kenya. In fact, it is a condition that to be electable as a county governor, a man or woman must have a university degree from a recognized(accredited)  university! The only other candidature that has a similar condition is that of the President and deputy-president! That means that it is in fact  people who are among the most intelligent and most educated who are  in charge of Kenya’s governance structure, people who understand society and the world best. The president, his deputy and the county governors have thus a responsibility to steer clear of controversy and steer the country to greater heights of development. The governors on their part should initiate and implement grass-root projects and programmes that can make the greatest positive difference for development and for the people in their jurisdictions. The president and his deputy have a responsibility to ensure smart policy formulation and harmonized smart development across the country. They must ensure, in our view, that the people stay united, the rule of law prevails and peace thrives and prevails everywhere in the republic. They also have a clear mandate to sell the country internationally both positively and effectively and also provide security internally and oversee a foolproof national defence system.

One thing that we mentioned elsewhere about the devolved system of government is the fact that Kenyans will need to work harder and smarter consistently to be able to make the country develop faster and more sustainably. That way they will also be able to pay more (not higher) taxes to support the system. If Kenyans do not work harder and smarter and indeed longer daily than they used to do, then it may prove an uphill task indeed for the country to meet its obligations. Another important thing to mention is that the people must be honestly dedicated and committed to working hard, smart and honestly, obey the law willingly and on principle always, pay their taxes, and be ready to hold those who engage in corruption, embezzlement of public funds and in excesses and in abuse of power and privilege both politically accountable and legally responsible. In as far as the people expect much from the county and national governments, more is expected of them as they are the ones who will determine whether the system works or collapses. They should always go an extra mile to do things better and more efficiently! Most importantly, they should always make excuses for peace and deliberately give it an opportunity and chance to take root and thrive everywhere!

Modern Kenya has a devolved system of government that is intended to ensure equity, equality, equitability, justice, fairness and indeed faster development. The system has of late been facing some challenges leading to complaints from the public. In our view, those are just teething challenges which are clearly surmountable. Kenyans should not let go of the system. They should work always harder, smarter and longer every day to ensure they are more and more successful and hence make the country richer, better, and greater in every way for all. All Kenyans must thus portray a positive mentality to the system and support it wholeheartedly but vigilantly to make it work. The journey to greater economic heights should continue! Peace and harmony must prevail always. The people must keep empowering themselves, empowering others, supporting the government and upholding peace and the rule of law. The government, too, must carry its mandate fairly, justly, judiciously, transparently and accountably! That is what will constitute the country’s success!

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