Kenya does not need even one more devolved unit

National Assembly speaker Moses Wetangula chairs the Parliamentary session after the recess at the Parliament plenary on June 6, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The National Dialogue team recently received a proposal from nine MPs seeking to have the number of counties increased to 58. Kuria East MP Marwa Kitayama has also drafted a Bill that seeks the creation of an additional five counties to add to the existing 47. Indeed, there have been calls from different quarters to have the number of counties increased. In the 10 years of devolution, its potential for development has been apparent to all.

This potential, however, is yet to be fully exploited. While it is understandable to improve service delivery to the people by reducing the distances they travel in search of them, recent calls for additional counties are not driven by any compelling need.

To increase the number of counties because some individuals believe they have been marginalised misses the point. Marginalisation is one of the vices that devolution sought to remedy and has made progress towards achieving.

Creation of additional counties to assuage warring tribes betrays a lack of cohesion and national healing that entrenches tribalism; a vice our founding fathers identified as a developmental impediment in 1963 when Kenya got independence. To a greater extent, devolution has improved service delivery and rendered infrastructural development to areas that had been left behind before.

With the development, however, also came devolved corruption. Annual Auditor General reports often reveal the magnitude of misuse of public funds in counties. Corruption, nepotism, mismanagement and wastage have repeatedly been decried.

These vices present a strong argument against the creation of additional counties. Moreover, the national government has, over the years, had challenges disbursing county funds. Only recently, counties nearly wound-up operations due to lack of money. Clearly, our economy cannot finance more counties.

Arguments have been advanced elsewhere that fewer counties would be the best option for devolution, not the creation of more. Existing counties should first acquit themselves before we think of getting more.