Don't forget to root for devolution in upcoming talks

President William Ruto speaks during the thanksgiving service for Interior PS Raymod Omollo at Karachuonyo, Homa Bay County. [PCS]

It still remains a puzzle why opposition chief Raila Odinga stopped championing devolution after 2013.

In addition to broadly being a key player in the second liberation in the 1990s, Raila specifically canvassed for meaningful devolved power and resources.

In the end he did not get exactly what he wanted – eight powerful regions, but that is no reason to have thrown out the proverbial baby with the bathwater as he appears to have done.

The 47 counties can still be basis of a robust system of real sub-national self-government and service delivery. Supporting devolution is great politics.

Overwhelming majority of Kenyans want ever more functions and resources devolved. There is also no better way to showcase what a potential opposition administration could do.

Devolution is also a practical way of accelerating development. The 47 counties allow for different governments to localise their developmental interventions in ways sensitive to local conditions.

Finally, devolution comes with added bonus of sucking oxygen out of the constant politicking and zero-sum fights over theft of resources in Nairobi.

One of the underappreciated blunders of the opposition constellations that formed in 2013, 2017, and 2022 is their refusal to go all out to make devolution work.

Over the last 15 years, opposition counties have been some of the worst run. And this is not just because of being disfavoured by successive governments in Nairobi.

Opposition governors have been some of the most corrupt and complacent – with no consequences from their party leadership.

Their failures undoubtedly tainted the brand of opposition parties. It is political malpractice that a decade of devolution has yet to teach our party leaders that leadership at all levels, matters.

Politicians who change parties like they change clothes may not appreciate this fact, but political party brands matter.

The party or leadership that routinely fields jokers for public offices – from members of county assemblies to governors – is bound to lose some popular support.

Enough voters will sit back and evaluate the performance between Siaya and Makueni counties.

And that can be the difference between meeting turnout targets and swinging presidential elections.

It is also political malpractice the incumbent UDA has not capitalised on the opposition’s neglect of devolution.

If UDA wants to keep winning national elections, it is in their best interest to visibly champion devolution.

-The writer is an Associate Professor at Georgetown University