Mitigations (to the challenges facing devolution)

 

 

The foregoing notwithstanding, it is generally agreed that Kenya is a land of extensive natural inequalities that must be accommodated in this new dispensation. Hence it is imperative from the onset, to balance the needs of everyone to prevent the germination of new forms of social unrest and unhealthy competition. "....... that equals be treated equally and unequals appropriately unequally .......". In other words, devolution can only succeed if there are clearly defined reasons for its adoption accompanied by sound strategies in its implementation. "These considerations must be locked into the spatial mapping of devolution, whether the boundaries be natural (geographic) or contrived (based on culture, religion, ethnicity, language, history, race and socio-economic status) – exclusively or jointly so.

"Moreover, the framework of devolution needs to respond to existing inequalities, whether real or perceived, natural or contrived, through the failure to treat unequals appropriately unequally. Consequently, remedies must espouse elements of affirmative action or positive discrimination in the context of an equity approach that seeks to minimize inequality by uplifting the least privileged without stifling those already more advanced." (Nyanjom, 2011)

Thus devolution, and indeed the entire Constitution must somehow, despite our differences, unite us to the extent that we all enjoy a shared political experience. "The 2010 Constitution attempts to deal with the right to be different in an inclusive Kenya, i.e., how to tolerate difference whilst at the same time guaranteeing citizens’ rights" (Ouma, 2011).

Beyond the very best efforts of the drafters of the COK2010, even its most ardent supporters concede it is not a perfect document despite its broad attempts in Article 174 and elsewhere, to protect the individuality, uniqueness, and aspirations of all the groups that make up the state of Kenya. Indeed, our post-independence history is a long sorry tale of inequality and marginalization of many ethnic groups by the State; a situation that gave rise to the perception that equality was earned through bare-knuckle political contests, and that economic inclusion in national affairs was subject to the benevolence of government and those who controlled it!

As a result, and in the not too distant future, Kenyans are likely to be called upon to pass amendments to this sacred document in order to grow and develop optimum levels of devolution, decentralisation, and the sharing of resources as well as responsibilities, as they search for peaceful political outcomes. This will be a necessary exercise designed to dismantle the pecking order in national politics and economic hierarchies created under the old system of exclusivity and which are not only behind the widespread social disenfranchisement experienced today, they are what catalysed and gave preeminence to ethnicisation of the national psyche.

Simply put, Kenya's devolution both vertically and horizontally, will remain a work in progress for the next decade at the very least as the system undergoes some fine-tuning. In addition to civic education, a deft political hand by the ruling coalition is needed to counter any attempts to poison the mind of the citizen or the political climate, within the developing discussions on devolution.

Similarly, the formulae adopted in between 2010 - 2014 budget cycles to govern the sharing of national revenues are therefore expected to undergo significant review, tweaking, and refining as devolution takes root and more localised data becomes available. Hence, in order to deliver optimised levels of the fair allocation of devolved resources, national agencies such as the Commission on Revenue Allocation CRA, and the Senate as well as the Parliamentary Budget Office, must continuously benefit from regular access to clear and updated demographic data sets covering each of the new 47 Counties.

Types of data that should guide future budgets and resource allocations under devolution include household surveys, size of county economies and GDPs, county human resource capacity, fiscal prudence and budget implementation efforts, taxation levels, and so on.  

 

 

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