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Governors must maintain peace in the counties

COMMENTARY
By - Mohamed Abdi | September 18th 2013

By Mohamed Abdi

Inter-ethnic conflicts have characterised our societal relations since time immemorial, where communities tussled over natural resources to guarantee survival and emancipation.

With the advent of devolution, recent conflicts are taking a worrisome trend where communities within the county and beyond are fighting as a result of the outcome of the just-concluded elections.

Devolution in essence is the delegation of authority, duty, power and resources by the national government to the county governments, recognising the right of communities to manage their own affairs, facilitated by a maxim of equitable sharing of national and local resources, to alleviate poverty and promote social and economic development in the country.

The devolution agenda is meant to cure actual or perceived inequalities arising from past marginalisation and distribution of resources. With this Constitution, citizens have a right to elect their representatives freely who are then charged with the responsibility of bringing services closer the people.

The previous dispensation made general elections a zero sum affair where communities jostled for power with a hefty largesse to the victor community in the now infamous culture of “it’s our time to eat”.

This culture continues to permeate our political orientation, long after the establishment of county government structures that are meant to mitigate the very same.

The last elections ushered in winners and claimed losers; that is just how democracy works.  To this end, the counties of Wajir and Mandera have witnessed inter-clan fighting between the Murule and Garreh clans in Wajir, where the latter clan overpowered the former, leaving a trail of destruction and managing to internally displace a sizeable population.

In Mandera County, the infighting is between the dominant Garre clan against the less numerical Degodia clan, with the former enjoying superiority due to their sheer numbers, having swept a majority of the elective seats.

Retaliatory attacks

This trend has since spilled over into other counties, where majority and minority tussle over power and resources. These conflicts are being fuelled by leaders, both elected and losers, with the latter aiming to destabilise those in government, albeit with retaliatory attacks from the former.

This see-saw kind of conflict can only end up destructing county efforts to focus on development efforts at best, and annihilating them at worst.

Governors have sufficient power and authority to reign in this madness and bring sanity to the management of county affairs. Security matters should be prioritised by county governments; knowing far too well that conflict of any kind can only further sink the population into poverty, yet peace and tranquillity is a major concomitant of economic prosperity.

Governors have a duty to unite all warring factions within their counties and exercise equity in resource allocation, fairness in access to placement opportunities, and extensive consultations in decision making processes.

They should avoid the archaic and barbaric politics of exclusion based on voting preferences, as this negates the very objectives of devolution. This should be done with respect to the rule of law to create a society that is orderly, just and at peace with itself.

Failure to do this means the counties are likely to slide into a Hobbesian society, named after Thomas Hobbes — a philosopher and political theorist, where life is a “war of each against all” characterised by cynicism, paranoia, tribalism, rancour, and rationalist purgation.

Instead, governors should take a cue from the President and his deputy, who since after the elections, have channelled part of their efforts to visiting and extending an olive branch to regions and communities that did not support their ticket.

This is in appreciation of the fact that the country is a mix of diverse cultures, and success of the economy depends on harnessing this diversity, by tapping synergies towards economic and social development of the citizenry.

Further, governors should style themselves as peace champions in words and actions by coalescing all actors to the negotiating table and reaffirming their commitment in charting the destiny of their people within the counties.

The recently devolved resources offer governors an opportunity to fulfil their commitment to the people.

Despite the security function being a preserve of the national government, collaboration efforts with the security agencies will install a semblance of peace and security in hitherto fluid sections of the county.

Hyenas benefit

A story is told of four hunters who set to the forest in search of the fattest animal to serve as a meal for villagers at a communal ceremony. Well, after some time they were successful in their mission. On the way back, two hunters conspired and eliminated the other two, with an intention of sharing the kill between themselves.

Along the way, the remaining two hunters turned on each other, with both dying in the process. At the end of the day, it was the hyenas that savoured two tasty morsels! Governors have a duty to work with all leaders in maintaining peace and ensuring that devolved resources benefit the people.

The writer is Chairman, Mandera Youth for Peace.

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