Excerpt : Africa Union just celebrated 50 years since its formation ‘to promote an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa’. Whilst it has enhanced solidarity and political and economic co-operation among the countries, many would argue there is little to celebrate about.
Africa Union just celebrated 50 years since its formation ‘to promote an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa’. Whilst it has enhanced solidarity and political and economic co-operation among the countries, many would argue there is little to celebrate about. Trade between African countries is below 10%, sub-Saharan Africa is still the poorest in the world and conflicts predicated on poor governance threaten many countries. It’s opinion on the international stage is largely irrelevant due to its socio-economic dependence on the East and West.
At home, Kenya is also celebrating 50 years since we got independence but share much of the fate that our brothers in Africa face today. Poverty levels hover around 50%, meaning half the population can hardly raise a square meal daily as hunger persists. Common preventable diseases still dissipate many of our youth despite some improvements in primary health care. And we remain ignorant although we made good strides in education. When others roam the planets in spacecrafts, we still import bicycles made by others. Worse, we still carry pangas to fight one another.
And 50 years later, we are starting on a new political dispensation and governance structure that places the nation at crossroads. Kenyans expressed themselves in the 2010 referendum that they want to change course from the political and economic development path they pursued the past 50 years and strongly voted for it. They want a full and effective participatory government in which the people will decide on their governance and development. Nairobi had failed the rural areas and its skyscrapers and beautiful homes belied the poverty and under-development prevalent in the rest of the country.
Let’s give devolution the chance to work and get this country out of stagnation by freeing the potential of the nation and its masses. If we hinder its take-off, we shall end up with a bad devolution - one that will lead to local autocracy, undermines national unity and inflames ethnic and cultural passions. A weak devolution will also lead to expensive duplication in public service, more bureaucracy and even less accountability.
A successful devolution will incentivise the regions to maximise their potential, grow the aggregate economy and bake a bigger cake. The equitable sharing of resources and the exercise of democratic power at county levels will eliminate socio-economic disparities and boost national unity. Service delivery will improve and accountability will be enhanced.
Well, we seem to be making half-hearted attempts to embrace devolution. The extinct provincial administrators still lords over the popularly elected governors as the national government clings on to the past. Some ministries still retain huge resources at Nairobi, inconsistent with their devolved functions. As insecurity ravages the country, the governor and his executive have little or no say on security matters; yet, the spirit of the Constitution is self-governance by the counties, making decisions that affect them.
The most important institution in the county, the county assembly, is on go slow across the country. They will make laws necessary for managing their counties; oversee the county executive by approving their plans, policies and budgets, and also carrying out oversight over their expenditures. They vet the senior county appointments, as well as represent their large wards. Yet, all this is largely ignored by institutions mandated by the Constitution to operationalize them.
The President can do more to engage these institutions to give effect fully to the letter and spirit of the Constitution so that the new political dispensation succeeds. Otherwise, we shall have little to celebrate years to come and history will judge us all harshly.