The spirit of the March 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has quietened and steadied heated political temperatures.
But the debate on the new revenue sharing formula has exposed the deep undercurrents flowing beneath the political quiet waters of the handshake.
What has become apparent is that the Senate is proving its mettle. Despite the partisan nature of the discussions and passion that was seen, I am gratified with the emergence of young leaders like senators Kipchumba Murkomen, Johnson Sakaja, Mutula Kilonzo Jnr and other like-minded ones who are not fearful to face down the undemocratic forces that seem to have taken over the houses of Parliament in the last few months.
The revenue-sharing formula debate seems in a way to have gone beyond the issues of funds’ sharing and appears more to be a new realignment in the political landscape.
Since the handshake, it looked as though the political future had already been decided and the rest of the leaders were just spectators in how the politics was going to evolve. But alas! It appears the political class does not want to lose their democratic space.
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The drama in the Senate, other than the debate on revenue, is also an assuring case that Kenya will not slide back to dictatorship and Parliament should not be taken as a rubber stamp.
Irungu Kangata, the Majority Whip in the Senate, and Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe seem to live in the past. Their threats to senators for defying “the Government position” risks making them a laughing stock.
The Constitution mandates the CRA to design a revenue-sharing formula. The previous commission under the leadership of Micah Cheserem had tabled the revenue sharing formula twice and both times the senators passed the formula without much ado.
But why is the new revenue sharing formula facing so much resistance from senators, even from some senators whose counties are expected to gain? Could it be that the composition of the commission is to blame? Did Micah Cheserem’s team possess a more balanced national outlook or were they able to push back against forces hellbent at influencing the distribution of resources? Does the new revenue sharing formula favour any region? Does the debate in the Senate mirror this? Whose is the hidden hand in the stalemate?
These are critical questions that could lead us somewhere. Indeed, the answers to these questions could unlock the stalemate than another round of threats and other consensus-seeking moves.
The truth of the matter is that the CRA formula has lots of political influence. When Raila gave his blessings to this formula, it became quite clear this would be deemed as appeasing some regions.
Unfortunately, one man’s goose is another man’s gander. What favours one region will obviously disadvantage other regions. Ideally, a revenue-sharing formula is expected to ensure equity and fair distribution of resources. The new formula has neglected the cardinal rule of fairness. Not only has it failed to project equity but it also circumvented the Constitution which gives a guideline on what parameters to use in sharing county revenue.
The Constitution is very mindful of ensuring a balanced approach to giving funds to counties and in particular advocates for removing disparities. The arid and semi-arid regions of the country have been starved of government investment since independence.
By reducing sharable funds from 19 of the poorest counties, the CRA should have known better. But when ideologues within the CRA are influenced by some of the hawkish mandarins at the Treasury and now supported by party oligarchs like Murathe and Kangata, then the spirit of equity gets out through the window.
For Kenya to prosper and grow, every section of this great country must feel part of it. But going by the debate in the Senate and the attitude of institutions such as the CRA, the divide between 'developed' Kenya and the rest will grow wider.
This, in the long run, will only make the disparity between the have and have nots to grow.
Mr Guleid, former deputy governor of Isiolo County, is CEO of FCDC Secretariat. [email protected]