Devolution was introduced to promote democratic and accountable exercise of power, foster national unity by recognising diversity and give powers of self-governance to the people.
It was to enhance participation of the people in exercise of powers of the State and in making decisions affecting them, to recognise the right of communities to manage their own affairs and further their development.
It was to protect and promote interests and rights of minorities and marginalised communities, promote social and economic development and provision of proximate, easily accessible services throughout Kenya.
It was to ensure equitable sharing of national and local resources, facilitate decentralisation of State organs, their functions and services, from the capital. It was to enhance checks and balances and separation of powers.
Most of these objectives are continually being met, perhaps by default. The dream of bringing government services closer to people was achieved immediately devolved governments were established. Huduma centres have supplemented devolution.
Devolution brought resources and representation through county assemblies closer to people. County assemblies are helping foster national unity through diversity and gender representation.
In fact, this is the only level where the gender principle “that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender,” was achieved immediately. The Constitution expressly provides that, “not more than two-thirds of the members of any county assembly or county executive committee shall be of the same gender.”
Sadly, this does not apply to Senate or National Assembly because implementation of the principle depends on legislation that Parliament has not yet enacted since 2010. Therefore, the commitment by President William Ruto during his inauguration to work with Parliament to ensure implementation of the gender principle is much welcome and we hope as Parliament works on the “elective” aspect of the gender principle, the President will lead the way by ensuring all “appointive” positions at his disposal comply with this gender principle.
The three principles of devolved government are good work in progress; a) county governments shall be based on democratic principles and separation of powers; (b) county governments shall have reliable sources of revenue to enable them govern and deliver services effectively; and (c) no more than two-thirds of the members of representative bodies in each county government shall be of the same gender.
Although previously county governments have complained that disbursements of the 15 per cent of national revenue were delayed, these resources when finally disbursed, have made significant differences in Kenyans’ lives.
We hope the new government will keep its commitments for timely and enhanced disbursements to counties. Devolved governments have made presidential and other elections less of a do or die affair. Previously, all power, resources and largesse were centralised in the presidency.
This meant elected leaders especially the President wielded immense powers for management and distribution of resources, development opportunities and political/public appointments.
Prior to 2010 Constitution, elections were battlegrounds for national resources, development opportunities and appointments. The devolved governments along with devolution of resources, development opportunities and appointments and the creation of various funds such as the equalisation fund not only decentralised resources and opportunities, but created 47 possibilities to access resources and opportunities.
The governor and Member of County Assembly (MCA) are the most important representatives in our democracy and delivery of services and access to resources at county level is what concerns most Kenyans.
The elections for governor and MCA have become more interesting for Kenyans and that is why we voted peacefully and went home to wait for results and once we got our governors and MCAs there was less tension.
It appears like the political elite have more at stake now in the presidential elections; although, who manages 85 per cent of national resources and ensures their equitable sharing and distribution matters very much, because if we don’t get fairness and equity at the national level even the 15 per cent for the counties may be at risk.
This is why we must remain vigilant because the real work, after elections, has just begun and we thank God for our transformative Constitution.
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