You are here  » Home   » Commentary

It's election time, spare a thought for the real minorities of Kenya

By John Boru Sosso Halake | Published Thu, April 20th 2017 at 14:24, Updated April 20th 2017 at 14:27 GMT +3

It’s election time again, spare a thought for the real minorities of Kenya

At the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, expectations were rife that the minority communities would finally begin to get redress for historical injustices that have amongst other things, limited opportunities for them.

One of the remedies that the constitutional experts prescribed was a devolved system of government where each of the 47 counties would be entitled to at least 15 per cent of national revenues, annually. For the first time in our country’s history there would be a greater say on how resources are to be used at the grass root levels.

To illustrate this point, today if there is a village that is in need of a bridge they can simply ask their local representative, who in this case is the member of county assembly (MCA), who in turn can raise the issue at the local government.

Previously when a community needed a bridge, the decision to construct or not to construct would be made in an office in Nairobi where the decision makers would most likely not know just how important such infrastructure is and hence not address these needs.

Today as we head towards the August 8 General Election we have seen a flooding of advertorials from county governments on progress made and so far.

Avoid fake news! Subscribe to the Standard SMS service and receive factual, verified breaking news as it happens. Text the word 'NEWS' to 22840

It is true that there have been some achievements but it should be noted that while there is progress, it is still too early to uncock the champagne and rest on our laurels for there are still grievances that real minorities of Kenya face. Equitable distribution of both human and capital resources at the county level is still skewed.

The real minority communities of Kenya are those that do not have a population size that is big enough to command representation in either the county or national government. I will use the example of the Burji, whose people are mostly found in Marsabit County and extending to the southern Ethiopia.

Today the Burji, despite being some of the biggest economic drivers of Marsabit County through their activities in cattle farming and trade, are neither represented in the Marsabit County Assembly nor in the National Assembly which is a double tragedy.

First, the lack of representation is the classic definition of tyranny; taxation without representation.

The traders and cattle farmers pay all manner of levies to both the county and national governments and natural justice demands that their interests be represented at both levels. Secondly, the lack of representation in the National Assembly contradicts the word “National”.

The Ogiek, El Molo, Boni, Bajuni and the Desanatch are other minority communities that suffer the same fate. The lack of representation often means that there is no legislator, at county or national government, who can fight for the rights of such people. It is therefore no surprise that Kenyans who belong to these nations are missing from State appointments and in the award of tenders or State commendation and honours despite well-intended laws such as that that reserves 30 per cent of tenders for women, youth and people with disabilities.

It is possible to put in place structures to protect such communities and a good example can be borrowed from neighbouring Ethiopia which is similar to Kenya with a bicameral assembly but the difference being that both houses have reserved seats for the minority communities by name, making their National Assembly truly national.

Kenyans should adopt a similar approach of widening representation as we all stand to benefit from a more diverse Parliament and Senate.

Diversity brings about economic and security gains. Silicon Valley, for instance, has been developed by immigrants. Locally it was local minorities such as the Burji who supported the Kenya African National Union (KANU) in the early 1960s and thwarted cessation efforts that had gained momentum at the time.

The terror groups and militia that occur now and then are a symptom of a lack of inclusivity which can be cured with better representation.
As political activity increases, let us not forget the minority communities of Kenya.

Mr Halake, a former PS, is the former chairman for the National Council for Persons with Disabilities