Meru County is staring at political collapse. Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) have twice impeached Governor Kawira Mwangaza. They have accused her of misgovernance and nepotism. The accusations have partially been inspired by misogyny. Senior politicians in the county are on record for having opposed Kawira simply because she is a woman who “lacks respect.”
The resolution of the intra-elite conflict in Meru will have serious implications for the continued consolidation of devolution. The efficient secret of devolution is that it is supposed to facilitate self-governance at the grassroots. It is supposed to ensure that county governments’ policy priority approximate, as much as possible, those of the people they govern.
On the one hand, the vicious fight between the governor and the assembly is indicative of the fact that there is a lot at stake. This is a feature, not a bug of devolution. Kenyans of goodwill should always be suspicious when the governing class are uniformly chummy with each other. That often means collusion at our expense. However, even high-stakes intra-elite conflicts over their competing interests should be done within rules. The conflicts should always be waged with the understanding that the counties exist to serve the people, and not the personal interests of elected officials.
Yet is hard to legislate that our politicians behave properly. The electoral motive is not enough to instill sanity among elected officials. This is where political parties come in. The officials that have been organizing against Kawira, all of them serving in national offices, belong to the United Democratic Alliance (UDA). The county assembly is multiparty, thereby opening up the MCAs to mobilization along interests and not necessarily partisan lines.
Under the circumstances, Kenyans of goodwill should blame UDA for the failures of governance in Meru. UDA headquarters can read the riot act to the senator, MP, Cabinet secretary and other officials that are organizing to derail Kawira’s administration. They have tried twice, and failed. That should be enough.
Continuing in this ruinous path will cost the people of Meru dearly. If Kawira has misappropriated funds, they should table the evidence to law enforcement. They also have the means to shape the county budget and its implementation. Personals differences with the governor should not get in the way of the people’s business.
The writer is an associate professor at Georgetown University