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Expert wants system put in place to resolve devolution disputes

Prof Yash Pal Ghai


KENYA: A constitutional expert wants a dispute resolution mechanism put in place to resolve the conflicts between the national and county governments.

“The system of sharing powers as it is in the Kenyan case always creates difficulties because each wants more for themselves. This in itself in not a bad thing as it is good to have competition. The important thing is to have a good system for resolving these conflicts,” said Prof Yash Pal Ghai, who was actively involved in constitutional reforms.

Speaking during a conference on devolution in Nairobi, Prof Ghai explained the drive for devolution was to limit the powers of the Executive by devolving some powers to counties and also open up opportunities for more people to be involved in governance.

“When we started working on the new constitution, we agreed to have a system in place that will distribute power to protect other communities and areas from discrimination over distribution of resources to ensure equity and fairness as well as give people an opportunity to participate in Governance,” said Ghai.

Head of Multi-level Government Imitative (MLGI) Derek Powell said there was need to exercise patience as devolution was not an overnight and quick-fix process but takes a long time to take a proper foundation.

“We must also be awake to the reality that not everything will happen immediately and we must therefore exercise patience. The other reality is that there are bound to be challenges especially with the restructuring of how the new governments are to work,” said Powell.

Prof Ghai noted that in the formulation of the 2010 constitution, they envisaged conflict between the two levels of government but they did not expect that it would be so viscious.

Lack of discipline

He blamed the inability to resolve the current crisis in the devolution process to the lack of discipline in the political parties saying that dispute resolution becomes much easier if adopted at the party level.

Kenya’s devolution structure borrowed heavily from the South African structure whose 20 years of experience with implementation may offer useful lessons to Kenya.