Devolution Under the New Constitution
Administrative. Political. Fiscal.
The spirit and letter of Kenya's new system of devolution goes beyond previous token decentralization of government in which sub-national administrative Districts, local councils, the weak District Focus for Rural Development initiative of the 80s, and other programs, generally failed in delivering any tangible devolution benefits to the vast majority of the people.
The Constitution of Kenya 2010 provides for a total of 47 political and administrative Counties (listed in the First Schedule of the New Constitution), under a limited devolved system of government. These County boundaries are to a large extent, what were known as Districts, circa 1993.
This devolution is three-pronged: Administrative, Political and Fiscal.
Administratively, the County executive government will originate and implement local priorities;
Politically, every County will have a cabal of elected officials to allow for strong political representation in both the local and national levels in County Assemblies and in an expanded bicameral legislature, respectively;
And Fiscally, to independently administer budgets and to raise resources locally.
Every County is expected to establish a government bureaucracy made up of an executive and a legislative arm: The county executive committee will be in-charge of formulating and implementing local policies and those (delegated) from the national government in conjunction with a restructured Provincial Administration.
The county assembly will exercise oversight on the executive committee besides making local laws.
The 27th of August 2010, shall for ever remain an important date in the history of Kenya. On that day, the people of Kenya adopted a new Constitution - the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 to replace the Old Constitution of independence from colonial rule in 1963. The process of writing the New Constitution took the better part of one decade, through sustained civic and political pressure and negotiations, catalysed by decades of dictatorships by minority elites and a narrow political space, that resulted in wide regional inequalities and disparities.
The adoption of the New Constitution followed a national referendum held on the 4th of August in the same year. This Constitution brought with it many significant changes in how the people of Kenya wanted to be governed.
Central to these changes was, without a doubt, the concept of devolution that goes beyond mere decentralisation of government services. In it, the people of Kenya not only demanded a form of self-governance at the local level, they also put in place a process of equitable sharing of resources.
The rationale for the present devolution is hardly different from that at independence. Back then in 1962 at the Lancaster House negotiations, sharp regional inequalities in the Kenya colony that narrowed the political space for smaller tribes led them to form a united support under the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) party, for demands for regionalism lest they be dominated by larger tribes in the soon-to-be independent State.
Most agree that the dynamics and realities of today are such that the likelihood of any one tribe(s) dominating the social-political landscape in Kenya is now next to nil. Nonetheless, the Constitution of Kenya 2010 safeguards that unlikely eventuality through devolution and other forms of enhanced levels of representation in national politics and power for all groups, making it a well-negotiated, progressive, and an active peace-building document when fully implemented.