Report: Ethnicity exposed as most county jobs shared among dominant tribes

Nyeri County workers in a past protest over delayed allowances. [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]

Kenya: Bomet and Nyamira top the list of 30 counties that have failed to employ at least 30 per cent non-locals.

The revelations are contained in an ethnic audit report on all 47 counties done by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC). Section 65 of County Governments Act requires county governments to ensure at least 30 per cent of public positions are filled by people not from the dominant ethnic community in the county.

The contents of the report, dubbed ‘Ethnic and Diversity Audit of the County Public Service’, were on Friday shared with the National Assembly Committee on National Cohesion and Equal Opportunity, chaired by Johnson Sakaja.

Bomet and Nyamira counties have employed 97.9 per cent of Kalenjins and Kisiis respectively. Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto chairs the Council of Governors (CoG), a forum which brings together governors from all the 47 counties. Nyamira County on the other hand is led by Governor John Nyagarama, who sits in about three committees of the CoG.

Skewed and inequitable

Kirinyaga County follows, closely employing 97.8 per cent Kikuyus, Elgeyo Marakwet 97.6 per cent Kalenjins, Kisii 97.5 per cent Kisiis and Tharaka Nithi 95.7 per cent Tharakas. In total, 29 counties have breached the law on ethnic composition of their workforce.

“The findings of this report allude to the fact that employment in the county public service is not only inequitable but skewed towards the dominant groups in the county,” the report concludes.

On the positive side, 17 counties have complied with the law, with Embu, Narok and Nakuru counties topping the list of those who have embraced other ethnic groups other than the dominant ones in county jobs.

In the troubled Embu County, for instance, 55 per cent of jobs are taken up by the Embu with other communities sharing out 45 per cent. In Narok, Maasais have taken 55.4 per cent of the jobs while in Nakuru Kikuyus have taken 50 per cent.

Other counties which have complied with the law are Isiolo, Mandera, Migori, Lamu, Laikipia, Mombasa, Busia, Baringo, Marsabit, Nairobi, Taita Taveta, Garissa, Tana River and Trans Nzoia.

“This vindicates the fact that all counties can and should comply with the CGA provisions,” NCIC chairman Francis ole Kaparo told the committee.

Kilifi County tops the list of counties with many ethnic groups represented in their government. It has 35 ethnic groups represented, Mombasa and Nakuru 33, Mandera 27, Lamu and Tana River 26, Kwale, Laikipia, Bungoma and Narok 25 each.

Kirinyaga County has the fewest ethnic groups (9) represented in its government followed by Nandi (10), Nyeri (11), Bomet and Kakamega 12 each, West Pokot 13, Wajir 14 and Nyamira 15.

The county executive committees (CECs) in 16 counties were found to be mono-ethnic. These are cabinets of Nyeri, Turkana, Kericho, Meru, Elgeyo Marakwet, Tharaka Nithi, Nandi, Makueni, Kakamega, Nyandarua, Bomet, Nyamira, Garissa, Siaya, Kirinyaga and Wajir counties.

Mombasa and Nairobi counties have the highest ethnic representation in their cabinets with seven ethnic groups each.

“In contextualising these findings, the study took note of the disregarded role of the Governor’s office and the County Assemblies in ensuring that CECs are representative,” the report says.

The same trend is reflected in composition of County Public Service Boards. The study found that 21 CPSBs were comprised of people from the dominant ethnic groups in those counties. These include, among others, Bomet, Kisii, Turkana, Kisii, Nyeri, Kericho, Meru, Elgeyo Marakwet, Machakos, Kitui, Makueni, Nandi, Kakamega and Vihiga. Nairobi, Tana River, Marsabit and Nakuru however have the most representative CPSBs.

Section 65 of CGA promotes balanced ethnic composition in government. Article 174(b) of the Constitution provides that one of the objects of devolution is to foster national unity by recognising diversity. Section 7(1) of the National Cohesion and Integration Act, 2008, stipulates that all public establishments shall seek to represent the diversity of the people of Kenya in the employment of staff.

The report found that while most counties purported that inheritance of staff from defunct local authorities is a factor to their non-compliance with legal obligations of diversity, they continued to contravene the law in their new appointments.

“Thirty two counties increased the proportion of members from the dominant ethnic group in their new recruitments as compared to the general staff composition,” the report says.

Cultural obstacles

Some counties however commendably reduced the proportion of the majority ethnic group staff with the aim of complying with the law. Nairobi County, for instance, was commended for reducing the share of the highest ethnic group (the Kikuyu) from 52.3 per cent in the general staff to 37.7 per cent in the new appointments.

The study found out that naming of certain counties may shape pro-dominant groups’ perceptions to the disadvantage of other groups. This was the case with Samburu, Kisii, Tharaka Nithi, Nandi, Turkana, West Pokot, Taita Taveta, Embu and Meru counties among others.

“The study reveals that of these counties, seven accorded over 90 per cent of posts to the named groups,” it says.

Other reasons identified in the study to account for failure to uphold the law is communal misunderstanding of devolution, lack of independence of county service boards, social cultural obstacles, security fears and perceived ambiguity in the law. The study found that simple county policies such as flags seemed to emphasise “indigeneity” of certain groups within the county: “Some Kenyans feel that this may crystalise tribalism as other communities feel more disenfranchised.”

Stereotypes about certain counties also stopped people from flocking to those counties for work: “For example, Kisumu CPSB mentioned that most professionals’ interest to apply for jobs there may be reduced due to the perception that the county has a high prevalence of Malaria, high rates of HIV/AIDS infections and intolerable weather,” says the report.

Some counties claimed that Section 65 of the CGA was not clear about what it meant by dominant ethnicities. Some argued it was numeric dominance, others financial and others political dominance.

The NCIC in its report simply appreciated the “purported ambiguities” and said whichever way one may look at it, no single community should get more than 70 per cent of positions regardless of whether it is dominant or not.

The report recommends ban of use of local languages in county offices. It says from the way the cabinets and service boards are set in most counties, it may well be that they conduct their affairs in local languages.

“One factor of a non-conducive environment is the use of local language in the office. The Constitution provides that the two official languages in Kenya are English and Kiswahili. However, the corridors of county offices speak of a different story,” it says.

It also recommends that county public service boards undertake annual ethnic and diversity audits of their county public service and submit the report to the commission.

The report also recommends that Council of Governors, chairs of CPSB and Inter-Governmental Relations Agency should initiate an inter-county transfer system. It also calls on Salaries and Remuneration Commission to harmonise salaries across counties in order to enable those transfers.