40 Districts and Nairobi in 1963

 

 

Homogeneous. Unequal. Unsustainable

 

Content
Introduction

Why 40?

The Royal Boundaries Commission came up with 40 Districts in an effort to ensure that there was 'equal' representation in the Senate for the smaller tribes. Thus these boundaries were largely marked along tribal areas.

Were they Equals?

The result of tribal Districts meant that some had well in excess of half a million inhabitants while others could barely master seventy thousand people.

Did they Prosper?

Historians are divided on whether these boundaries made the people think of themselves as just tribes rather than one Nation. Some assert that these divisions have been exploited by the political elite resulting in the present disunity and tensions in the Country.

  

Introduction

 

As Kenya was getting ready for self-rule, several political events were taking place. One of these was the work by the Royal Boundaries Commission to delineate electoral boundaries for the people's representation in the coming bicameral Parliament. Meanwhile, the larger tribes in KANU appeared destined to run away with power subsequent to the coming elections. The smaller tribes had no choice but to come together and did so under the Kenya African Democratic Union, KADU, and other groups, to push for a representation formular that would ensure they would not be swallowed up by the bigger tribes in KANU come independence under one nation and government. 

 

 

Boundaries

 

The 40 boundaries subsequently defined in the 1963 Independence Constitution were largely based on ethnic boundaries confirmed by political positions taken at the Lancaster House conferences.

Before the colonialists came, the peoples of the land known today as Kenya, were made up of several dozen language groups, each homogeneous group living in one general area. The pastoralists/nomads such as the Maasai occupied expansive areas, but nevertheless were trading and interacting with other neighbouring groups. Sometimes, of course, there would be skirmishes and wars, as would be expected of such an ecosystem. The Royal Boundaries Commission believed that it was prudent to keep rival tribes within their own administrative and political boundaries for the sake of peace and belonging, and this is what led to legislating for the 40 Districts, which were long in use by the colonialists anyway.

 

Figure 1. The 40 Districts at Independence in 1963

 

 

In the years preceding independence, the fears of an unstable and unequal infant nation were in no way unfounded; they were real and widespread. Speaking during a visit to Kenya in 1961, the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Rt. Hon. Reginald Maudling, advised the political players thus: "The great danger I see is fear; fear of discrimination, fear of intimidation, fear of exploitation. I have seen enough to be convinced that there is truth underlying these fears. No country can prosper in these circumstances. What Kenya needs is confidence, calm and common sense, an end to inflammatory speeches, and above all, an end to intimidation and violence. I call solemnly upon the leaders of the political parties to do all in their power to bring this about. If they do not do so, they will be failing in their duty to Kenya ........" (Report of the Kenya Constitutional Conference, 1962).

With each District electing one Senator, the de-facto representation in the Senate at the time was really about tribes and nothing more. Proctor captures this well: "The effect of these changes was to make the Senate constituencies more homogeneous tribally and thus provide more nearly— although still not perfectly— for the representation of tribes as such in the upper chamber. In thirty-five of the fortyone constituencies, one tribe constituted an absolute majority of the population and in seventeen districts over 90 per cent were of the same tribe." (J.H Proctor, 1965).

The work of the Boundaries Commission did not stop with the creation of the 40 Districts and Nairobi. These Districts were also grouped into larger units known as Regions by 1963 and incorporated into the Constitution. Excerpts from Chapter 6 - Regions, Part 1 - Establishment of Regions:

91. Kenya shall be divided into the Nairobi Area and the following Regions whose respective boundaries shall ....... be those specified in Part II of Schedule 11 of this Constitution: (a) the Coast Region; (b) the Eastern Region; (c) the Central Region; (d) the Rift Valley Region; (e) the Nyanza Region; (f) the Western Region; and (g) the North-Eastern Region.

Unlike the Districts, the Regions were created based on larger boundaries of the people of Kenya as either Bantu, Nilotic, Cushitic, etc. The following tables give details of the Districts so affirmed for the 1963 independence elections using the language groups criteria adopted by the  Boundaries Commission.

 

Table 1.1: Districts in Central Region in 1963

 

District
Group

1

Fort Hall

 Bantu

2

Kiambu

 Bantu

3

Kirinyaga

 Bantu

4

Nyandarua

 Bantu

5

Nyeri

 Bantu

6

Thika

 Bantu

 

 

Table 1.2: Districts in Coast Region in 1963

 

 
District
Group

1

Kilifi

Bantu

2

Kwale

Bantu

3

Lamu

Bantu/Arab

4

Mombasa

Bantu/Arab

5

Taita

Bantu

6

Tana River

Cushites

 

 

Table 1.3: Districts in Eastern Region in 1963

 

 
District
Group

1

Embu

Bantu

2

Isiolo

Cushites

3

Kitui

Bantu

4

Machakos

Bantu

5

Marsabit

Cushitic

6

Meru

Bantu

 

 

Table 1.4: Districts of Nairobi Region

 

 
District
Group

1

Nairobi Extra-Regional Area

Cosmopolitan, with large numbers of African migrants/workers, Europeans and Asians

 

 

Table 1.5: Districts in North-Eastern Region in 1963

 

 
District
Group

1

Garissa

Cushites

2

Mandera

Cushites

3

Wajir

Cushites

 

 

Table 1.6: Districts in Nyanza in 1963

 

 
District
Group

1

Central Nyanza

Nilotics

2

Kisii

Bantu

3

South Nyanza

Nilotics

 

 

Table 1.7: Districts in Rift-Valley Region in 1963

 

 
District
Group

1

Baringo

Nilotics

2

Elgeyo Marakwet

Nilotics

3

Kajiado

Nilotics

4

Kericho

Nilotics

5

Laikipia

Nilotics

6

Nakuru

Nilotics

7

Nandi

Nilotics

8

Narok

Nilotics

9

Samburu

Nilotics

10

Trans Nzoia

Bantu

11

Turkana

Nilotics

12

Uasin Gishu

Nilotics

13

West Pokot

Nilotics

 

 

Table 1.8: Districts in Western Region in 1963

 

 
District
Group

1

Bungoma

Bantu

2

Busia

Bantu

3

Kakamega

Bantu

 


 

 

Demographics

 

At independence in 1963, Kenya's population stood at 8,633,700. The following tables give additional data on the relative populations and area of each of the 40 Districts and Nairobi, in addition to the District capital.

 

Table 2.1: Districts Demographics in Central Region in 1963

 

District
Population
Area (sq.km.)
Capital

Nyandarua

100,700

3,543

Nyandarua

Kirinyaga

158,600

1,437

Kerugoya

Nyeri

274,500

3,284

Thomson's Falls

Murang'a

369,800

2,476

Fort Hall

Kiambu

431,300

2,448

Kiambu

 

 

Table 2.2: Districts Demographics in Coast Region in 1963

 

District
Population
Area (sq.km.)
Capital

Lamu

23,000

6,506

Lamu

Tana River

42,700

38,695

Galole

Taita

90,200

16,959

Wundanyi

Kwale

157,800

8,257

Kwale

Mombasa

179,600

210

Mombasa

Kilifi

247,800

12,414

Kilifi

 

 

Table 2.3: Districts Demographics in Eastern Region in 1963

 

District
Population
Area (sq. km.)
Capital

Marsabit

37,500

72,732

Marsabit

Isiolo

54,600

25,605

Isiolo

Embu

134,700

2,714

Embu

Kitui

284,700

29,389

Kitui

Meru

473,800

9,922

Meru

Machakos

571,600

14,178

Machakos

 

 

Table 2.4: Districts Demographics of Nairobi Region in 1963

 

District
Population
Area (sq.km.)
Capital

Nairobi

343,500

684

Nairobi

 

 

Table 2.5: Districts Demographics in North-Eastern Region in 1963

 

District
Population
Area (sq.km.)
Capital

Mandera

75,500

26,470

Mandera

Garissa

80,600

43,931

Garissa

Wajir

112,800

56,501

Wajir

 

 

Table 2.6: Districts Demographics in Nyanza Region in 1963

 

District
Population
Area (sq.km.)
Capital

South Nyanza

481,600

5,714

 Homa-Bay*

Kisii

526,100

2,196

Kisii

Central Nyanza

626,400

4,615

 Kisumu*

 

 

Table 2.7: Districts Demographics in Rift-Valley Region in 1963

 

District
Population
Area (sq.km.)
Capital

Samburu

56,600

20,808

Maralal

West Pokot

59,000

5,076

Kapenguria

Laikipia

61,300

9,702

Nanyuki

Kajiado

68,400

20,963

Kajiado

Trans Nzoia

86,100

2,468

Kitale

Uasin Gishu

92,000

3,784

Eldoret

Narok

110,100

18,513

Narok

Baringo

150,400

10,627

Kabarnet

Turkana

159,300

60,824

Lodwar

Elgeyo/Marakwet

161,000

2,722

Tambach

Nandi

167,200

2,745

Kapsabet

Nakuru

227,900

7,024

Nakuru

Kericho

340,500

4,890

Kericho

 

 

Table 2.8: Districts Demographics in Western Region in 1963

 

District
Population
Area (sq.km.)
Capital

Busia

172,400

1,629

Busia

Bungoma

241,900

3,074

Bungoma

Kakamega

600,200

3,520

Kakamega

 

 

 


 

 

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).

 

Authority

 

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.


Functions

 

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.

 

Composition

 

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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References:

1. Proctor J H (1965), Duke University. The Role of the Senate in the Kenya Political System, Institute for Development Studies, University College Nairobi.

2. The Constitution of Kenya, aka Kenya Subsidiary Legislation, 1963. Government of Kenya.

3. Report of the Kenya Constitutional Conference, 1962. Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

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