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NASA leader Raila Odinga’s new push for inclusion questionable

By Korir Sing’oei | November 15th 2017

A key plank of Raila Odinga’s speech at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC last week was his assertion that, the drive behind his (or by and large NASA/NRM’s) latest campaign is to end exclusion in Kenya.

Can Raila Odinga, a billionaire, former Prime Minister, Member of Parliament for several years and son of Kenya’s first vice president, in all candour truly claim that existing mechanisms are insufficient?

David Lake and Donald Rothschild in their highly acclaimed study, The International Spread of Ethnic Conflict Fear, Diffusion, and Escalation (1998) identify four main options for enhancing inclusion in divided societies: 1) demonstration of respect for all groups and their cultures; 2) formal or informal power sharing; 3) elections according to rules that ensure either power sharing or the minimal representation of all ethnic groups in national politics; and 4) federalism or regional autonomy. Arguably, all the above strategies have been applied within the Kenyan context to varying degrees of success.

The steps taken

Fundamentally, the Constitution is in itself, an instrument for inclusion: the human rights regime recognises entitlements of historically excluded and marginalised groups; while devolution is designed to cure inequality in the long term by decentralising representation (where over 1,450 MCAs have been elected) and service delivery to 47 subnational units.

Furthermore, public sector management is designed to adopt inclusive recruitment approaches at both national and county levels. Indeed, the Public Service Commission (and its counterpart, the County Service Boards) is required to ensure proportionate representation of all ethnic communities including the youth.

The Public Service (Values and Principles) Act, in appreciation of historically skewed recruitment, enjoins the Public Service Commission to disregard competition in order to ensure recruitment of persons from “an ethnic group [that] is disproportionately represented in the public service or in a public institution.”

On the other hand, the main political formations, NASA and Jubilee, also have as their focus, the goal of enhancing inclusion. In fact, any serious examination of these parties’ policy intentions on social inclusion will reveal no significant variance between them.

Both NASA and Jubilee proposed to attack social exclusion through targeted pragmatic approaches through strengthening of devolution as well as inter-governmental collaboration between the two levels of government.

The ODM manifesto 2013-2017 professed that ODM will “promote diversity and inclusion of all Kenya people and communities and counties through zero tolerance to negative ethnicity and ensuring equity in access to resources and productive opportunities, positions and instruments of power“.

The NASA manifesto, 2017 emphasises nation-building on the foundation of national reconciliation and resolution of historical injustices, but does not provide specific underpinnings to guide delivery of these imperatives.

Jubilee’s social inclusion menu, whose scaling up was proposed by its 2017 manifesto, is not less impressive. Over the past five years, Government reports indicate that Sh42.8 billion has been awarded to youth, women and persons with disabilities through the 30 per cent Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO).

Expansion of social safety net targeting orphans and vulnerable children, older persons and persons with severe disabilities has increased to 700,000 in 5 years, up from about 250,000 beneficiaries.  

Communal grievances

In terms of specific redress for communal grievances, the Government has since recognised the Nubians and Makonde and Asians as Kenyan citizens, and granted Nubians 288 acres of land in Kibra.

Moreover, there is no empirical evidence that access to social services and infrastructure during Mr Kenyatta’s first term was in any way discriminatory of some regions. While statistics on ethnic shares of social service access are limited, sectoral examples can be cited in support of the proposition that President Kenyatta’s government has indeed pursued a more inclusive developmental approach. For instance, the 1.2 million homes connected to electricity over the last 5 years has no doubt benefitted every corner of the country.

Certainly, over this period, the number of new connectivity in Siaya County doubled those in Muranga. Similarly, the regional spread of over 3,000km of new tarmac roads, demonstrates that deliberate attempts have been made to ensure that many more Kenyans benefit from improved road network.

To Mr Odinga, exclusion is just his latest catchphrase. That he understands a great deal about the struggle for naked political power having fought for it on the ballot and in the streets is indisputable. However, his credentials in the struggle against social-economic marginalisation remain highly doubtful.


Dr Sing’Oei is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a Legal Advisor, Executive office of the Deputy President

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