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Succession politics fuelling 'one man, one shilling' calls

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua is a proponent of the one-man one-vote one-shilling revenue formula. [PCS]

The ‘one man, one shilling, one vote’ campaign has seen a dramatic escalation recently. Couched as a metric of equitable public resource distribution, it has gained currency in a section of the country’s leadership.

But the campaign is repudiated by its ethnic underpinnings with jingoists demanding a greater share of the national cake for their people.

A historical perspective is needed. Prior to the 2010 Constitution, Kenya had a centralised government. The economy was managed from the centre.

The genesis of this was the Sessional Paper Number 1 of 1965 which, in effect, hijacked public resource distribution.

It emphasised the white highlands as areas of high development focus, pouring resources in these as a means of rapid economic development. Conversely, it led to the marginalisation of large swathes of the country.

The 2010 Constitution has made great strides in redressing the issue of skewed resource distribution and development. This is in four primary ways: Devolution, Equalisation Fund, National Government Constituency Development Fund and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

Devolution has ensured equitable sharing of national and local resources throughout Kenya. This is by spreading them across the country’s 47 counties.

The Equalisation Fund is a percentage of all the revenue collected by the national government each year.

It is for provision of basic services to marginalised areas to bring them to par with standards across the rest of the country.  

All constituencies, irrespective of population, receive the same fund for their CDF activities.

Questions arise: Why would leaders from areas that have, in the past, been recipients of more development than most parts of the country, front the ‘one man, one shilling, one vote’ agenda? What is it that makes leaders from parts of the country to feel more entitled to national resources than others?

Answers to these questions lie in succession politics where riding on popular discontent is par for the course.

It is true that these are hard times and that government policies designed to stave the country from economic collapse have caused no small amount of disaffection.

But it is also true that anyone positioning themselves as a champion of citizens against unpopular policies gains a huge constituency in a country where such positioning is a primary measure of one’s political worth.

No doubt, the ‘one man, one shilling, one vote’ sentiment is being used to mobilise ethnic support for a presidential candidate.

However, trying to resurrect the discredited brand of pre-2010 Constitution politics smacks of ethnic brinkmanship. Already, it has created disagreements which have not only fractured political friendships but now breed a culture of contempt.

A country that went to the last polls on the strength of national issues is now threatened by sectarian interests that ask, “what is in it for our people?” National unity is a sine qua non for economic development. The dichotomy of “for or against us” on the basis of sharing of national resources must be discouraged.

On a related note, former PM Raila Odinga’s métier as Kenya’s putative defender of the underdog is probably what informs his support of the ‘one man, one shilling, one vote’ mantra. Or perhaps a hedging of bets should his bid for AUC chairmanship fail.

Mr Khafafa is a public policy analyst

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