One-man-one-shilling: A cry for equality and equity in allocation of resources for services

Democracy is about equality and equity, it’s about making people's voices count, about people’s participation in decisions that concern them or, it’s about being seen and heard, it’s about openness and accountability.

Abraham Lincoln amplified the notion of democracy being a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Firstly, the people must give legitimacy to the government, on the other hand, the government must identify with the aspirations and wishes of the people. Two, the government must be a product of the people and three, the government must act in the interest of the people. In this regard, the term people is a quantitative factor, not a qualitative one.

In our context, the Constitution in Article 81 (d) emphasises the principle of universal suffrage based on the aspiration for fair representation and equality of the vote. Equality of the vote is the pivot of democratic expression.

On delimitation of electoral units, Article 89(5) provides that “The boundaries of each constituency shall be such that the number of inhabitants in the constituency is, as nearly as possible, equal to the population quota, but the number of inhabitants of a constituency may be greater or lesser than the population quota in the manner specified in clause (6) to take account of geographical features and urban centres, community of interests, historical, economic and cultural ties, and means of communication.

Sub-article 6; of Article 89 allows the population of a constituency to be lesser by, or to greater by a margin of not more than forty percent for cities and sparsely populated areas and thirty percent for other areas. 

In reviewing the boundaries, the commission is obligated to consult all interested parties and to progressively work towards ensuring that the number of inhabitants of every constituency and ward, is as nearly as possible equal to the population quota. 

The population quota is the number obtained by dividing the number of inhabitants of Kenya by the number of constituencies or wards, as applicable into which Kenya is divided. Currently, we have 290 constituencies against a population of 54.3 million Kenyans according to the last census. Going by these figures, the population quota of a constituency is 187,241 persons, while the population quota of a ward for the 1450 wards is 37,448 persons. This essentially means that the Electoral and Boundaries Commission in reviewing the boundaries, must follow the dictates of the constitution and bring all constituencies and wards to as nearly as possible to comply with the population quota. The commission is at liberty to adjust boundaries and create new constituencies in accordance with the principle that the population in each constituency or ward, be as nearly equal as possible to the established population quota.

The population quota requirement is derived from the need to have citizens have an equal voice and influence in the choice of leaders and in the running of the affairs of the nation. It also counts in resource allocation.

Currently, the establishment of the 290 constituencies did not abide by the population quota resulting in huge disparities that offend the constitutional principles of equality and equity. A boundary review ought to have been carried out before the 2022 general election but was not. We must therefore move with dispatch to rectify this situation, lest we continue suffocating the voices of the inhabitants of the overpopulated constituencies, while conferring undue weight or influence to the underpopulated constituencies, thereby undermining the principle of universal suffrage or one man one vote.

Similarly, the distribution of resources for service delivery ought to principally take into account the population in resource allocation. After all, the resources are for serving the people. A higher population requires more funds for medicines and more health personnel.  Likewise, a higher population requires more classrooms and teachers. If resources for service delivery are shared without putting due wait to the population in the constituencies in the case of CDF, and in counties, it results in gross unfairness to the people in the constituencies and counties within a higher population thereby undermining services such as health and education.

Currently, underpopulated constituencies are able to give full bursaries to secondary and university students, while the overpopulated ones can barely manage a paltry Sh2,000 per needy student. This is an injustice to those adversely affected by the skewed allocation of resources. Failing to use capitation on resources for essential services such as health and education is discriminatory and in my view offends the Constitution. It directly undermines the health and education of those affected.

In recognition of the fact that some constituencies and counties have since independence has been marginalised in infrastructural development and have a deficit or absence of or adequate health facilities, schools, water and roads infrastructure, Article 204 of the constitution, provides for one-half percent of all revenue collected every year, to go into the equalisation fund (2). “to provide basic services including water, roads, health facilities, and electricity to marginalised areas to the extent necessary to bring the quality of those services in those areas to the level generally enjoyed by the rest of the nation, so far as possible.”

The revenue collected in the 2022/2023 financial year was Sh2.38 trillion of which half percent is Sh11.9 billion. This article has never been fully implemented and by the 2021/2022 financial year the equalization fund had a deficit of over Sh34 billion owed by the national government. This money is over and above other infrastructural allocations by the national government and county governments.

It is my view that skewed allocation which directly undermines essential services such as health and education in constituencies /counties that have high populations takes the nation backward in human development. Adherence to the constitution on the equalisation fund, coupled with accountability in use of public resources at all levels of government is the way forward to bring all corners of our country to as nearly equal as possible thus ushering in equalisation and equity.

It is important to note that the 2010 constitution is in itself a product of popular participation where a majority had the say in its birth yet it binds everyone including the minority who voted against its passage. Therefore, the constitution cannot be interpreted and implemented as an affirmative action for the minority at the exclusion of the majority. It’s a governance charter that, as a priority, interacts with the citizen at the individual level. It is not meant to create another level of marginalisation. We must appreciate that the most revolutionary affirmative action ever legislated in the history of Kenya is devolution.

However, whether we are able to grasp this concept as a nation and put the right people in office is a question of conjecture. Poor choices of leaders across the country has led to achieve much progress in equalisation of infrastructure or development over a decade after the promulgation of the constitution. We need to up our game in improving accountability at both the national and county levels in order to achieve results in equalisation before the 20-year shelf life of the equalisation clause. This task requires both leaders and citizens to accomplish.

The mantra of one-man-one-vote-one-shilling by the people of Mount Kenya is a cry for equality and equity in resource allocation for essential services as well as equality of the vote and respect for democratic principles. This inequality promotes injustice in resource allocation and delineation of constituency and ward boundaries across many other communities in the country.

Many regional meetings have been held around the country based on among other things, community of interest and culture.

While many of these have been met with a level of tolerance, the Limuru III meeting by Mount Kenya leaders has evoked fear and a good measure of resentment some from agents of beneficiaries of the very intentional divide and rule that exploits the mountain region to its detriment.

We must not be cowed by the nay-sayer and must continue to ignite public discourse on issues of public importance that affect the people of the mountain and indeed all Kenyans. The issue of boundary review and resource allocation cannot be wished away or as they say, be buried under the carpet. Let us have an informed debate guided by constitutional principles. We do not always have to agree, but we ought to be able to debate without name-calling and threats.

It is perfectly possible to exercise one's freedoms with civility and without trampling on the rights of others, as envisaged by our supreme law, the Constitution.