Devolution in 1963: The Seven Regional Assemblies at independence:


As we have noted, the independence Constitution provided for a devolved system of 7 regions, once again to protect minority interests by granting the regions autonomous authority. The outgoing colonial administration had strongly advised the political class to give devolution a priority: "There must clearly be a stable and competent central government, for without it there cannot be a Kenya nation. But more than this is clearly needed. If the rights of individuals are to be safeguarded, and if there is to be confidence that they will be, Kenya will need in addition other governing authorities with their own defined rights which do not derive from the central government, but are entrenched and written into the constitution; and the constitution must be one that cannot be so changed that the purposes agreed at the constitutional conference are frustrated." (Report of the Kenya Constitutional Conference, 1962).




Each of these regions had a legislative Assembly to make laws for the peoples of the regions. These Assemblies were thus designed to protect local interests of those who were afraid they could be dominated by the bigger tribes in national affairs. Indeed, the stage had been set for the provision of devolution by the time the constitutional conferences began in Lancaster in February of 1962. Once again, at the opening of the conference in February 1962, the Secretary reiterated the need for the protection of the minorities: "....... we can be sure that when the time of independence comes we shall be handing over authority in Kenya to a stable regime, free from oppression and from violence and free from racial  discrimination." (Report of the Kenya Constitutional Conference, 1962).

No less than the Secretary of State for the Colonies had set the tone and prepared the stage for the forthcoming negotiations at the Lancaster House: "What we must determine is the nature and composition of the central government, the nature, composition and powers of other governing authorities, ........" (Colonial Secretary, 1961). Devolution was promptly entrenched into the Constitution. Excerpts from Part 3 - Legislative Powers of Regional Assemblies:

102. Subject to the provisions of the Constitution, a Regional Assembly shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Region or of any part thereof with respect to any matter specified in Part I or Part II of Schedule 1 of this Constitution.

Executive power was vested in a Committee. Excerpts from Part 4 - Executive authority of Regions:

105. (1) The executive authority of a Region shall be vested in the Finance and Establishment committee of the Regional Assembly .......

Of course, that authority had limits, subject to the authority of the Central government for the two to operate in harmony or separately, and naturally, subject to national law:

106. (1) Subject to the provisions of ......., the executive authority of a Region shall, to the exclusion of the executive authority of the Government of Kenya, extend to matters spedcified in Schedule 1 of this Constitution.

(2) The executive authority of a Region shall be so exercised as: (a) not to impede or prejudice the exercise of the executive authority of the Government of Kenya; and (b) to ensure compliance with any provision made by or under an Act of Parliament applying to that Region.



Beyond making laws, the Regions were expected to setup fully-fledged public service administrative bureaucracies to exercise executive power in the implementation of policy at the local level, and to deal with internal staff matters. Policy implementation was performed by various committees, chief among whom was the Finance and Establishment Committee. Devolved responsibilities were also spelt out:

113. (2) Every Regional Assembly shall establish a committee to deal with Finance and Establishments (including staff matters) and shall establish one or more other committees (as it from time to time thinks fit) to deal with the following matters, that is to say: (a) commerce and industry; (b) education; (c) land, agriculture and forests; local government and administration; public safety and public order; and works and communications.




In keeping with the tenets of devolution and equal representation, each Regional Assembly could determine the number of constituencies represented within the assembly; and thereby determine its very composition. Every Assembly had a President, a Vice-President and a Clerk. The various committees comprising the executive of every Regional government were headed by the President:

113. (3) Every Committee of a Regional Assembly shall consist of the person holding the office of President together with other persons chosen from among members of the Regional Assembly.

This means, the members of the committees performed both legislative and executive functions. All Committees, other than the Finance and Establishments Committee had a Chairman:

(4) Every committee of a Regional Assembly other than the Finance and Establishments committee shall comprise (in addition to the President) a Chairman and such number of ordinary members, ........

Committee members were elected by their peers. These committees were generally representative in keeping with devolution and equal representation of the various tribes within a Region:

(7) No member of a Regional Assembly (other than the President) shall be elected to be a member of more than two committees at any one time.

These Assemblies had members nominated by elected members to represent special interests, and whose numbers were determined by clear formula:

94. (1) the number of Specially Elected Members of a Regional Assembly shall be the number which results from dividing the number of seats of Elected Members of that Regional Assembly by eight ....... or the whole number next greater than that result.

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