In terms of revenue sharing, it is every county for itself and God for us all! The acrimoniously contested Revenue Sharing Bill exposed how myopic our leaders are. No patriotism, just personal, tribal and regional interests at best.
Of greater interest in this article is how voices from many corners of the country started calling their own to “rally behind the local flag” following the rancorous revenue sharing debates in the Senate. Consequently, political formations towards 2022 are being strategised on the basis of who runs faster to access the national cake. Clearly, the tone from the debate in the Senate was that some counties have always ended up with tail of the cow at the national eating table.
All arguments, particularly by political leaders who have retreated to their counties or tribes to champion against the injustice of the revenue sharing formula point to one reality. The centre, where resources are shared, is too strong for weaklings to bargain. The choruses of betrayal from several quarters show how desperate some regions have become.
Put another way, there is a history that some political conclaves expect support so that they too can access the high table where meat is served. To their dismay, however, they end up with a tail for soup and whisky to wave during entertainments. In their frustration, they have opened their eyes to the reality that they are actually on their own. The way forward, so they think, is to form local political parties that can bargain for broader access to the high table.
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Forming regional political parties is a backward way of thinking. If the centre is corrupt, too powerful or hostile, whatever it is, forming a regional political party is a sign of mental laziness. A strong centre will most likely buy off those regional political parties before, during or after the general elections.
Haven’t we seen it all before? Didn’t we elect independent candidates with a hope that they will sanitise parliamentary and national discourse? What became of them? Micro-level politics will not change political exploitation and oppression at the powerful centre. The elephant in the room is entrenched corruption that has permeated all systems of governance. How does fighting for “my people” solve a macro-level systemic challenge? If the electoral process is manipulated to the extent that we are never sure who actually wins an election, how will a regional political party be of use?
Revenue sharing can be corrected by the young generation that understands the importance of nationhood. It is really a shame to see some extremely eloquent upcoming politicians get swallowed by politics of ethnic greed.
Every time we think we have a promising star to right revenue wrongs committed in the past and present, their star is nipped at dawn. Now, when the young politicians who before elections looked promising speak on TV, you want to hide under the table.
They are a terrible let down to the country. We would have expected them to strengthen national cohesion, call for national policies and laws that encourage Kenyans to build a just and equitable society where resources belong to Kenyans, not regions. Regionalism and ethnicity will breed more few rich kingpins and millions of poor people.
We must stand up in solidarity to encourage young leaders to transcend their low level interests and ask the greedy centre hard questions. For instance, why should the BBI report that has already consumed so much public funds be thrown under the bus just because of power play between the big boys?
Aren’t there meaningful proposals in the BBI report that are actually good for revenue sharing? Still on the revenue sharing, why do some political leaders speak as if “our region” is not part of Kenya? Why should 35 per cent of the national revenue be shared among 47 counties while 65 per cent remains at the centre
The centre needs to be fixed through a renewed well-funded national civic education programme as well as through a candid dialogue led by those who seek to create a viable nation-state. Counties should be entitled to at least 50 per cent of the national revenue if at all we are going to speak the same language as Kenyans, from Turkana to Isebania, Mombasa to Malaba. For if the centre continues to eat the whole cow except for the tail and hooves for the people in the waiting room, we will continue to antagonise tribes and regions putting many lives at risk of poverty and even death.
Dr Mokua teaches Media and Communication studies