By Nyaruri Paul Okinyi
Kenya’s New Constitution marked a critical level in the nation’s history. This made the decentralization of political and economic power to counties to address the spatial inequities. Devolution is at the heart of the country and most Kenyans expect more from the system.
This brings us to the last summit that was held in Kisumu County. More than 4000 delegates attended the conference that brought together senators and MCAs from 47 County Assemblies and partners. The theme of the summit was “accelerating devolution; assessing the achievements and addressing the gaps in policy and legislation” and seeks to build on the gains of the first three legislative summits. Indeed this was a nice summit theme but those who watched and followed the conference proceedings can barely agree with me whether policies that accelerate devolution and achievements were discussed.
Further the summit was to identify the gas and challenges in legislation that slows down devolution and those challenges were to be addressed with relevant measures. Devolution faces some eminent challenges especially when it is about resource allocation in counties in respective counties. This has promoted greater division in clanism and ethnicism in county levels. Carefully seen when some MCAs allocate development funds. This is one of the major challenge that the summit was supposed to address.
Another challenge that faces devolution is dubious and ghost projects. Count assemblies allocate funds to projects which never exists at all. Where do these funds they allocate go? This is the question that most electorates ask.
These are some of the challenges that we as the public expected the summit to tackle direct but what we saw was MCAs asking the senate to grant them car grants and not loans. Does this really benefit the local Wananchi or does it surge his livelihood? There are so many gas that the summit was supposed to discuss and come up with solutions but it was a fail for the senators and members of county assemblies not to meet the expectations of the public.
The summit was also supposed to identify opportunities that can be tapped and harnessed to accelerate devolution and provide the space and platform for dialogue, learn and share experiences. Critically, this was to be a practical session where different counties were to discuss and share experiences amongst themselves. Elaborate on opportunities and find the way other counties can harness them. Look into counties weaknesses and help each county come up with a typical and practical way of addressing those weaknesses. Still this was a failure.
County governments came to as a result of devolving resources down from the national government to local people with the help of the MCAs. There is also a need to strengthen inter and intra-government relations for effective implementation of devolution. Devolution is a baby that Kenya may not wish to kill. Inter-governmental fights delays the progress of development to people. Therefore there is need to seek that national and county cohesion to enable timely development to people through swift disbursement of development funds.
Kisumu summit was the best platform to discuss a more decentralized government. A government that is decentralized makes more sense, given our country’s diversity and experience with political use from the central power. Of course there are the gains in Kenya has made through devolution but more needs to be done to ensure that devolution is fully utilized to its core mandate according to our New Constitution dispensation. Kenya’s constitution entrenches devolution as a way of better services delivery and efficiency of social service provision.
Politics of devotion explain the high intensity of expectations, hoes and desires of citizens but we should not use these conferences and summits on devolution to lose track and direction on discussion how devolution can change the lifestyle of the voter. Voters voted for MCAs and senators to represent them on devolution sittings both at the county assembly level and senate assembly level. There must be a need not to disappoint them. There are enormous opportunities and challenges on devolution waiting our country but the fact is how well the Counties prepared of the two are.
The Writer is a Communications Practitioner Based in Nairobi. He can be reached at email@example.com