Regional Governments & Self Rule

Mt Kenya

Central Regions

Rarely has a topic turned out to be so emotive, divisive and controversial like the majimbo debate.A debate that should otherwise be very intellectually stimulating has been reduced to a weapon for political one-upmanship and for settling ethnic scores.Far too many people feel that majimbo is a red-herring for ethnic dichotomisation. Their fears are greatly justified by the ethnic pogroms that have always, unfailingly, followed calls for majimboism.This ugly history notwithstanding, the real majimbo should stand up. Maybe all of us, pro-majimboists, and anti-majimboists need to pause for a moment.Let me confess here. I have been a rabid majimbo-phobic. Today, I am a real convertee to the gospel of majimboism. It is much easier to work on the real fears of the phobics, as well on the mischievous designs of the centrics, than to throw away the baby with bath water.

For beneath the acrimony, majimbo is good for us, a ‘‘nice-to-have’’ and not a ‘‘must-have’’ for the sake of our country.I have many reasons for my stand, but two will suffice. Take the case of our government structures at the grassroots. It is simply a tower of Babel.You have a district agricultural officer who reports to Kilimo House, trying to work through a district commissioner who reports to Harambee House. If they are to have a project that requires irrigation, the water officer has to seek the authority-to-incur-expenditure (AIE) from Maji House

I haven’t even talked about the Public Works, Environment and Youth officers involved – just in case the project has a Kazi-Kwa-Vijana component.The local MP has no inkling about the civil servants who serve in his constituency, let alone being responsible for their performance. In case of new districts, all these departments have to build their offices independently.So pathetic and scattered  are the offices that in some districts, they are referred to as the “government slums”. I look forward to the day the jimbo governor moves in to restore order.

I look forward also to see the demystification of Nairobi. In South Africa, Parliament sits in Cape Town, the Executive in Pretoria, the Judiciary in Bloemfontein while the main business address is Johannesburg.By the same measure, I look forward to having tea at Parliament Buildings in Eldoret, and go for a case mention in the Judiciary headquarters in Kisumu. I can only imagine the glee with which sukuma wiki vendors will welcome the announcement that the office of the Prime Minister has been moved to Thika.

The second reason is sad, unfortunately. All over the country, illegal gangs are coming up by the day. They may be different in terms of modus operandi or region. However, a striking similarity among them is the way they rush in to duplicate (or is it substitute?) functions that are the preserve of the central government.From illegal taxes to providing ‘‘security’’, these gangs point out to the need for us to re-examine the centralised system of governance.The distance between the central government and the people has grown to the maximum limit. When Jomo Kenyatta became President, Kenya’s population was 9 million. Today we are 36 million, yet the same miserable central government structures still prevail. They are writhing in pain, over-burdened by this insurmountable yoke of responsibility.We have the option of continuing to hide our heads in the sand like the ostrich or to move with the times.

by Moses Kuria ( secretary-general, Centre for Strategic and International Studies)


2 thoughts on “Regional Governments & Self Rule

  1. Perhaps you are justifying a counterfactual that actually hardly exists in Kenya? But that is not necessarily a bad thing as it points to a severe need for an alternative governance structure that addresses the ills of centralization in a markedly changed (and changing) socio-political environment.

    It is true that a more decentralized system is well worth experimenting with, but I’m afraid it is not a guarantee for improved services,information and overall governance at the lower level. There is ample empirical evidence in support of that. It would make sense for Kenyan scholars and practitioners to study the different variants of decentralization (or devolution) that exist out there in order to synthesize some lessons that can guide them in moving such an agenda forward. A good agenda too.

  2. Hadassah, thank you for visiting.I think everyone is aware that once systemic issues are addressed that we will also have to address the moral handicaps (theft,greed etc)that have also played a part in increasing our problems. Within a devolved system leaders will not be able to rally and hide behind the community hiding their moral ineptitude and non performance.

    Also I think different variants of devolution as you say will be studied and twicked over time just like in any other devolved system. (Even within the American system we continue to see a healthy debate between federalists and states rights advocates on the limits and responsibilities of state power)Once devolved regions are in place the debate on regional constitutions will begin.Different regions should also have the right to work their own government as best as they see. We must stay away from prescribing a one size fits all type of system just like in the United States ,the Texas constitution and the California constitution are different but within the limits of the broader United States constitution.

    Regional governments in Kenya should also be given room to operate as they best see fit with maximum efficiency being the goal and not national control

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