Devolved units have failed Kenyans by becoming dens of rampant corruption and tribalism


Council of Governors led by  Anne Waiguru (Chairperson), Ahmed Abdullahi, Fernandes Barasa, Mutahi Kahiga, Muthomi Njuki and Andrew Mwadime when the COG appeared before the Senate Finance Committee at County Hall in Nairobi on April 23, 2024. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Ever since Auditor General Nancy Gathangu released the 2022/2023 financial report, there have arisen questions on the shame of counties whose employees come from one ethnic group. Why is it that employment rights have turned into an evil thing where the devolved system of governance has become a preserve of the dominant ethnic groups in counties?

Drafters of the 2010 Constitution expected a positive contribution; solving the issue of tribalism after the introduction of multi-party democracy in the 1990s. Nationalism was more pronounced then under a centralised system of governance. Today, citizens have become less patriotic to the nation, whereby upheavals such as rampant corruption and nepotism have also been devolved as a negative development at the grassroots level of Kenyan society.

Historically, even before Kenya’s independence in 1963, the British colonial rule had introduced a 'divide and rule' policy whereby ethnic boundaries in East Africa were deliberately divided; Somali (Kenya/Somalia) Teso (Kenya/Uganda) Taveta (Kenya/Tanganyika), but worse still, within Kenya, districts were created in accordance to tribal chieftains; Kisii, Embu, Meru, Nandi Taita-Taveta, Keiyo – Marakwet and Pokot districts respectively. 

The Somali Community in Kenya cannot even intermarry as negative clannism rules in the former North Eastern Province. Also, voting patterns in Kisii and Nyamira counties today depend on how large one’s clan is. Ten years down the lane, devolution has been mismanaged – yet in itself, if implemented correctly, devolution is a noble progressive and inspiring system to heed. Fortunately, or unfortunately, ethnic bias in the recruitment of workforces in all counties is a crisis bedeviling our nation. These recent biased recruitments violate the County Government Act of 2012, which ensures 30 per cent of workers do not come from the dominant ethnic community in the county.

At the same time the National Cohesion and Integration Act of 2008, stipulates that no public establishment should employ more than one-third (1/3) of its staff from one ethnic group.

Therefore, the law is clear and that provisions in every county should not be the preserve of the dominant ethnic group – should not exceed 70 per cent in employment – ensuring that there is a balance and fairness to all living within the particular county.

In an ideal, free and open democracy, county and national politics should be based on issues and matters of economy.

Mr Martin Kurgat is a lecturer at the School of Information Sciences, Moi University, Eldoret