Challenges (facing the objectives of Devolution)



Back then in the early years after independence, the momentum for regional equality (as led by KADU), easily fizzled out under pressure from the ruling class: "Kenya’s original dalliance with devolution ..... had no sound grounding in the fundamental values of either its KADU proponents or the KANU government whose onus it became to implement it." (Nyanjom, 2011).

Although much of the blame that led to a single-party rule and a powerful presidency in Kenya is often blamed on the first President Kenyatta and his Kenya African National Union party KANU, it is unfair to wholly blame the center for the present inequalities in Kenya. The dissolution of KADU as we have noted, was a clear case in point where the regional/minority elite failed (nay, betrayed) their people when they chose to look the other way while government distorted policy and developmental interventions. In other words, the commonwealth of those elites and the centralist KANU that had formed the government were by the mid sixties, enjoying a cohabitation of two opposites that concurrently fed from each other.

Likewise today, it is an open secret, that there remains influential pockets of resistance to devolution especially among the ruling class and as such, its implementation will only happen if Kenya makes a clean break with the political dispensation gone-by and the sections of its elite who fed off it. Nyanjom makes the point for wariness on the part of the electorate in the face of this new danger: "Successful devolution requires an efficacious design for the context within which it is to be undertaken, especially in a situation such as Kenya’s where a core elite has mastered the art of self-reinvention with changing times." (Nyanjom, 2011).

In its examination of the challenge of maintaining fair and equitable allocation of resources in the framework of well-acknowledged inequalities that exist across the Counties, the International Budget Partnership IBP, makes the observation of the existence of extensive inaccuracies that define the resource allocation formulae adopted by the country in the early years of devolution under the COK2010. IBP's rationale is that at present there lacks detailed and itemised data on the extent of the real needs for resources, and true capacities to raise resources, etc., of each of the 47 sub-regions. Even if this data was available, due caution would need to be exercised on its use given that, "historical factors ....... may have privileged some areas and marginalized others." (IBP Kenya, 2013). 

2014 had its fair share of demands by a section of the political elite in demanding that the constitutional 15% minimum allocation of national revenue to devolved funds be raised to 45% without offering any empirical evidence (such as that suggested by IBP and other experts) to back their calls for a referendum. In fact, their demands have ridden on the widespread notion that the center is opposed to devolution. "The 15 per cent minimum included in our Constitution emanates from our history of political mistrust." (Murkommen, 2014).

The same elites and some Governors have also demanded the speeding up of the devolving of functions without regard for the preparedness of individual counties to perform the said functions. Having said that, prudence in (piecemeal) transfer of functions can easily be misunderstood by an ignorant population and is therefore likely to ignite dissatisfaction and complaints of discrimination amongst those counties that require more preparation to raise their capacity to manage the said functions.

Perhaps comprehensive civil education should be carried out to ensure everyone is reading from the same page in the Constitution. For example, civic education programs must take cognisance of the potential resistance that well-off areas may put forth if they happen to believe that some part of their 'rightful' share of a resource is being shared with or diverted to other regions unfairly.

This last point is likely to and is indeed already emerging as a double edged sword to the success of devolution. For example, some of the political elite from the County of Mombasa have on more than one occasion threatened to 'take over' the running of the Port of Mombasa claiming it is a local resource.




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