Objectives of Devolution

 

The primary objective of devolution is to delegate power, transfer resources, and provide for extensive representation down to the local level. Therefore, the greatest expectation in the hearts and minds of many Kenyans is to regularly participate in their own governance in order to deliver the promise of faster development and access to basic amenities and services.

To minorities and other marginalised groups in particular, devolution promises to deliver affirmative action, positive discrimination, and acceptable levels of representation and 'self' governance. In other words, recognise diversity wherever it exists.

The letter and spirit of such a devolution is designed to expand the social (and political) space for the people to directly determine, own and participate in their local affairs. "It has also been encouraged by the belief that fiscal decentralization encourages the flow of local information, and that it links citizens’ needs more closely to policies and programmes" (Kirira, 2011).

Through carefully thought out provisions, the constitution has attempted to address the potential pitfalls of devolution by outlining the rationale and spirit for Kenya's devolution which for the most part, aims to provide for the people's social-political and fiscal emancipation and to create a framework on which their alienable rights can be guaranteed and safeguarded. Excerpts from Chapter 11 - Devolved Government, Part 1—Objects and Principles of Devolved Government:

174. The objects of the devolution of government are— (a) to promote democratic and accountable exercise of power; (b) to foster national unity by recognising diversity; (c) to give powers of self-governance to the people and enhance the participation of the people in the exercise of the powers of the State and in making decisions affecting them; (d) to recognise the right of communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development; (e) to protect and promote the interests and rights of minorities and marginalised communities; (f) to promote social and economic development and the provision of proximate, easily accessible services throughout Kenya; (g) to ensure equitable sharing of national and local resources throughout Kenya; (h) to facilitate the decentralisation of State organs, their functions and services, from the capital of Kenya; and (i) to enhance checks and balances and the separation of powers.

Therefore in Kenya's case, this new form of decentralization seeks to cure past social injustices which had brought about sharp regional inequalities, widespread impunity and corruption, a widening gap between the rich and the poor, and the simmering social unrest seen in the last two decades and which reached boiling-point in and around the 2007 General Elections.

Indeed, the Constitution specifically requires the National Government to also take cue from the concept of devolution and, like County Governments, strive to reform its structures, systems, and processes to adequately decentralise itself throughout the country. Thus for example, its agencies and organs such as the Judiciary, constitutional Commissions, etc., must establish points of operation down at every corner of the Republic:

174. The objects of the devolution of government are— (e) to protect and promote the interests and rights of minorities and marginalised communities; (f) to promote social and economic development and the provision of proximate, easily accessible services throughout Kenya; (h) to facilitate the decentralisation of State organs, their functions and services, from the capital of Kenya; .......

6. (3)  A national State organ shall ensure reasonable access to its services in all parts of the Republic, so far as it is appropriate to do so having regard to the nature of the service.

"One should not live under the illusion that county governments have to run a function for it to be considered devolved. No level of government owns devolution more than the other." (Murkommen, 2014). He goes further to make the case that there is no distinction in importance between what is devolved and what isn't: "The argument that the county government functions are more important than those of national government to devolution is a fallacy, as they are not listed in their order of significance in the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution."

 

 

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