The June 28, 2019 State of Devolution address made clear how devolution continues to transform Kenya. What has happened here is one of the greatest governance transformations anywhere in the world. As international partners, we have been proud to support it, and will continue to do so.
Standing among the fallen at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln spoke of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Devolution in Kenya will succeed if it is truly for the people, embedding local democracy not just every five years at election time, but every day.
The UK is supporting devolution initiatives that advance human rights, gender equality, and public participation in decision-making, and opportunities for youth and for people with disabilities.
Devolution for the people means using the power of government to create opportunity. Counties are starting to compete with one another to be the best place for investment and doing business, so those opportunities continue to grow.
Overseas benchmarking trips can serve a purpose. But devolution has given Kenya 47 local administrations that can learn from each other – a huge resource that county governments can make even more use of.
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Devolution for the people also means making sure people know how the taxes they pay are used, transparently and accountably.
And it means working together across regions, so that scarce resources are spent most efficiently. Not every county can afford to provide everything. But by creating regional blocs, they can offer what is needed to a wider range of people, each bringing its contribution to the table. We continue to support the regional blocs and the work they do together, and hope to see them grow stronger still.
Crucially, devolution that works for the people of Kenya means doing more to tackle corruption at the county level, in line with the national anti-corruption campaign led by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Leadership is a sacred trust, conferred by the people on those who govern them; and an honour for those elected to serve.
But it does not bring honour on an office when a leader goes to court seeking pre-emptively to block a corruption investigation. Or when a leader arrested and bailed for serious crimes stays in his office, rather than stepping aside.The presumption of innocence is vital. But no investigation can be fairly or thoroughly conducted if leaders stay in place, with the potential to hamper investigators or instruct their subordinates not to cooperate.
As I and fellow heads of mission have done before, I would therefore call again on those indicted or arrested for corruption or other serious crimes to step aside from office while investigations are pursued. That is the honourable thing for leaders to do, and the right thing to do for the people who elect them. If they are shown to be innocent, they should regain their offices without stain on their character.
The UK will keep supporting the campaign against corruption in Kenya in every way we can, so that Kenyans’ hard-earned taxes are spent for the benefit of the Kenyan people, in line with the trust they have placed in their leaders.
County governments offer Kenyans the chance to compare and contrast. Which will be the least corrupt, and the most efficient? Which will set the highest standards of transparency and accountability, showing the county’s citizens how every penny of their money is spent, and what difference it is making to their lives?
And counties that are less well run, or where corruption takes hold, will have nowhere to hide. No-one will be able to say that this is simply the way things are done, because the examples of the best-run counties will show that to be untrue. Wanainchi will, rightly, demand that their county Governments do better, and aim to be among the best. And the ones that are doing well will attract more investment, create more opportunity, and work better for their people.
The UK and our international partners will continue to support the fight against corruption in Kenya including at the county level.
And we remain committed to supporting devolution, with its great scope to further transform the lives of wanainchi across this great country.
Nic Hailey is British High Commissioner to Kenya