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Kenyans feel the impact of progressive 2010 Constitution

BILLOW KERROW
By Billow Kerrow | August 30th 2015

Five years after its promulgation, our Constitution has had a tremendous impact on the socio-political life of Kenyans.

Although Parliament is yet to align all our statutes to it within the five-year transition, the legal and regulatory landscape has changed in many respects.

The application of the Constitution during this period has however exposed areas that need greater clarity, and realignments. Hence, the growing calls for amendments to fine-tune it. Regrettably, Kenyans don’t trust the political class and would rather they don’t fiddle around with it.

The greatest impact is on the political environment and our governance system that still requires to be internalised, both by the players, and the public. Although there is a bicameral parliament and a clear separation of powers in our presidential system, the political class still transacts business using the old script. Old habits die hard! The Executive too has had challenges embracing checks and balances, and practicing good governance. We still have roadside declarations, displays of the usual doses of executive impunity, intolerance for basic freedoms, corruption and disregard for the rule of law when it suits them.

Undoubtedly, the independence and robustness of the Judiciary is one of the key payoffs of the new law. It has issued unprecedented orders and rulings that have profoundly shaken both the Executive and the Legislature to the satisfaction of the ordinary Kenyan. In spite of its reported dalliance with graft in some instances, it has generally held out the hopes of Kenyans. Nonetheless, attempts to water down its imposing stature over other arms of government have steadily grown.

For most Kenyans though, devolution is the biggest political and economic payoff in the new law. In a recent Ipsos poll, over 80 per cent of all Kenyans fully support devolution. To a large extent, this government has rolled out devolution and the benefits are steadily becoming evident across the country. Challenges abound though, particularly the lack of good governance in many counties that has allowed corruption and mismanagement to thrive. In recent weeks, poor management in the counties has manifested itself largely in the delivery of health services. Key oversight institutions required to ensure checks and balances have had to tone down their role lest they be accused of stifling devolution.

Not surprisingly, the Ipsos poll also revealed that in North Eastern, only 57 per cent of the population support devolution, well below the 80 per cent average in other regions. I can think of a number of reasons for the dampened mood there. Foremost is the huge unmet expectation from devolution. The dilapidated main B9 trunk road linking Garissa, Wajir and Mandera has degenerated into a cattle track. Education in the region is in the doldrums, going from bad to worse. Security is nearly as bad as it was during the early emergency years of the Shifta war. Although all these roles are for the national government, residents’ expectations were that with devolution, their lot would be better nonetheless.

Of course there are other reasons too for the depressed view of devolution in this region, including poor and alleged inequitable distribution of resources, misplaced priorities and corruption, real or perceived.

As we turn the page, the Council of Governors needs to critically re-examine its performance and focus on enhancing service delivery. The national government too needs to fully embrace change, especially in areas of good governance, and end extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances.

– The writer is the Mandera County Senator

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