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Employment record in public bodies points to ethnic bigotry

By Billow Kerrow | October 9th 2016

Are Kenyans generally ethnic bigots? It would appear so. Not just in our voting patterns in General Elections or elections in our professional organisations. Or the blatant ethnic bigotry we saw recently when some governors raided a public university to have one of their own tribe in place. It does appear that the practice runs deep in all our institutions. The usual tribal inclinations that dominate our chat rooms and bars appear to manifest strongly in the management and leadership of our institutions.

The National Commission and Integration Commission (NCIC) published three damning reports this week that seem to paint a grim picture of a nation steeped deeply in tribalism. From reports published by the Public Service Commission (PSC) earlier, we knew that our national civil service and public universities were ethnic enclaves in recruitments, promotions and staff establishment. Years of political patronage and corruption had bred massive inequalities and imbalances in these institutions, resulting in deprivation of some minority communities. The top six largest tribes often dominated the service disproportionately.

NCIC report reveals that the problem has been replicated in counties, parastatals and independent commissions. They sought to find out whether these institutions complied with provisions of Section 7 of the National Cohesion and Integration Act which states that all public appointments shall seek to represent diversity of the people of Kenya and that no public entity shall have more than a third of its staff from the same ethnic community. In the case of county governments, the County Government Act requires at least a third of its entire staff should be from the ethnic groups not dominant in the county in order to protect the interests and rights of all citizens. Only 13 counties complied with the law in this regard. The rest of the counties packed their establishments with the dominant ethnic groups, locking out minorities. Overall, counties had 117,000 employees; nearly 23 per cent of them were from the Kikuyu tribe, a reflection of the national government with 211,000 employees with the same percentage being from Kikuyu tribe according to the 2014 PSC report.

In the State Corporations, the NCIC report reveals that the same six major tribes that dominate public services also control these institutions. The Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Kamba, Luo, Kisii and Luhya tribes make up 80 per cent of all the parastatals jobs, while the remaining 36 Kenyan tribes share out 20 per cent Although 129 out of the 185 corporations surveyed complied with the law on the one-third proportion, 65 per cent of these corporations drew majority of their employees from the Kikuyu tribe, which represented over 20 per cent of the employees. The Kikuyu also accounted for nearly 23 per cent of all employees in the independent constitutional commissions, which, largely complied with the one-third rule. Does it reflect their population ratio? Not at all! Kikuyu population as per the 2009 Census was 17 per cent; yet in all these institutions, they take over 20 per cent of all the jobs. The same is true for the other five major tribes mentioned above.

It’s all about who heads these institutions, and NCIC has established a direct correlation between the heads of these institutions and the ethnic representation. For instance, where a Luo heads an entity, majority of the employees would come from his tribe. It also creates inequality in income distribution. For instance, NCIC report on the commissions reveals that Kikuyus dominate where resources abound. For example in the Teachers Service Commission with a budget of Sh194 billion, 24 per cent of all employees were from the Kikuyu.

Parliament, the Presidency and the heads of these public institutions must take corrective measures to eliminate these irregularities which will lead to polarisation within our society, increased inequalities and social exclusion. NCIC must also act on bigoted institutional heads.

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