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Northern counties must use devolution to catch up

OPINION
By Billow Khalid | September 18th 2021

As drought continues to ravage northern Kenya, pockets of areas practice dryland farming using irrigation. [Ali Abdi,Standard]

The five Northern Frontier counties have suffered marginalisation since time immemorial. Isiolo, Marsabit, Garissa, Wajir and Mandera counties consist of about 37.7 per cent of Kenya’s land mass.

Yet, since the times of Maj-General Edward Northey, the first British colonial governor in 1920, the colonialists referred to it contemptuously as merely a “district”, not even a county or region, “Northern Frontier District- NFD”.

The colonial administration managed NFD region with a heavy segregative footprint. By the time British exited Kenya in 1963, NFD was neglected, ignored economically and politically and certainly the country’s poorest with no infrastructure.

Then Kenyans started asking: What kind of country are we living in, what exactly do we need to do to thrive; what is the formula for Kenya’s greatness?

To answer these questions, the 2010 Constitution was born through heroic struggles. The 2010 Constitution is the first “guardrails” of Kenya’s prosperity. Devolution is a constitutional creation to address numerous national challenges.

Until 2010, regional developmental efforts were top-down approach courtesy of the capital, Nairobi. Today, it’s a constitutional right for all counties to get their shareable revenues and in an equitable manner.

The 2010 Constitution is supposed to bring about a new “can-do, get done, everyone pull together, whatever it takes, the problem is us, the solution is us” attitude in Kenya.

Northern counties have the means to overcome past accumulative effects of learned helplessness and hopelessness. The constitutional devolution has provided resources in billions of shillings, the laws and the guardian rails of norms, to ensure NFC catches up with rest.

With excellent governance, the six regional economic blocks can spur economic growth and achieve sustainable development. These blocks can maximise national income, reduce inter-counties disparities and increase domestic migration from urban to rural areas.

Today, Kenyans have fertile grounds for optimism. It is time for the Northern Frontier counties and others to stop endless lamentations about geography and history for their poverty and mal-administration. The country has adequate experiences and maturity to run its affairs competently.

A strategic consultant

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