Tough road ahead to create more counties

Constitutional expert Bobby Mkangi during the 13th Commemoration of Katiba Day at Mazingira Institute. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The push for the creation of 11 new counties is gathering steam even as constitutional experts warn that Parliament will have to form an independent commission to look into the proposals on whether the country is ready for counties to be increased from the current 47 to 58.

Constitutional expert Bobby Mkangi told The Standard that Article 188 of the Constitution provides for the procedure of altering boundaries which cannot be done by simply adding them to the current ones.

Mkangi who served on the committee of experts led by the late Nzamba Kitonga that saw Kenya get a new constitution, said a national conversation must be carried out on whether the country needs extra counties.

He said an independent commission must be formed for the purpose of moving around the country and gathering views.

"After promulgation of the Constitution 2010, changes were to be effected through the procedure under article 188 in which boundaries of counties were to be altered only by a recommendation by an independent commission set up for that purpose by Parliament," said Mkangi.

He said the proposal to increase counties must get the support of the National Assembly and the Senate with at least two-thirds of all the members of both Houses of Parliament supporting it.

Mkangi said the decision to increase counties cannot be made at the whim of a few individuals and it should be noted that all Kenyans have an interest in the matter.

Fully constituted

The country does not also have an agency whose mandate is to create administrative boundaries since the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is yet to be fully constituted.

The IEBC is required to carry out a review of electoral boundaries every 10 to 12 years. Yesterday, lawmakers who represent constituencies that have been pushing for new counties, speaking to The Standard separately, said they will not let go, and their cause has to come through, they said.

Bomachoge Chache MP Alpha Miruka said the creation of new counties is not a burden to the taxpayer since the process will rely on the existing boundaries of current counties to create new ones. He gave an example of Kisii County which has nine constituencies as being ripe to be split into two.

Bomachoge Chache MP Alpha Miruka. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Miruka said Gucha County should be carved out of four constituencies with Kisii remaining with five. That will place the extra cost only on paying a new Governor, Senator and Woman Representative but services will have moved closer to the people, which is the essence of devolution.

Nyatike MP Tom Odege said the memorandum for new counties was timely and that it is time for Parliament to look at all regions that deserve to get new counties. Odege said areas like Marsabit and Homabay need to be split into two since they are vast which will move services closer to the people.

"We have seen the residents of Marsabit engaging in ethnic conflict which I believe can be sorted out if we split the county and create Moyale County. We also need a county for the Suba Community in Homabay besides looking at other regions that deserve new counties also," said Odege.

2010 Constitution

Nominated Senator Esther Okenyuri said the country was now ripe for a discussion about extra counties 13 years after the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution. She said the discussion was a healthy one so that Kenyans can ensure that deserving areas have their own counties.

Suba South MP Karoli Omondi said the initial idea was to have eight regions and 74 counties when discussions for the 2010 Constitution kicked off. "The current discussion is in order since there was a provision for reviewing the constitution after 10 years which has already elapsed," said Omondi.

Endebess MP Robert Pukose whose constituency of Endebess in Trans Nzoia is on the foothills of Mt Elgon, said the creation of Mount Elgon County should include hiving off parts of Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties.

He said that would enable the area residents to receive services more efficiently in an area which takes care of their interests. Pukose said he would fully support the idea in parliament.

Mwingi Central MP Gideon Mulyungi said that Kitui County was vast and that the people of Mwingi deserved to have their county. Mulyungi fully supports the creation of an independent commission to spearhead the creation of new counties in places where they are required across the country.

Mwingi Central MP Gideon Mulyungi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Tiaty MP William Kamket said the creation of new counties will allow the people of East Pokot to be in charge of their affairs and that he will be lobbying other legislators to support the idea through a Bill both in the Senate and National Assembly.

Teso South MP Mary Emase believes the idea was long overdue. She said areas like her Teso backyard in Busia County were left out during the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution on the pretext that Teso was not part of the districts that existed in 1992.

At least 26 MPs led by Additional Counties Caucus Chairman and Kuria East MP Marwa Kitayama, last week said the country needs Kuria, Teso, Mount Elgon counties, East Pokot, Mwingi, Gucha, Suba, Ijara, Nakuru West counties and Wajir South and Nyambene.

The legislators said they presented a memorandum to the National Dialogue Committee secretariat arguing that the Committee of Experts provisionally adopted districts as per the 1992 existing ones, 47 then, emphasizing their role as lawfully recognised administrative units under the District and Provinces Act.

"We believe the provision for the creation of the 47 counties did not mean that more counties cannot be created...," said Kitayama.

The push for 11 new counties comes at a time when MPs have approved a report of the Budget and Appropriation Committee proposing Sh7.9 billion allocation to the IEBC with the proposal if adopted leading to the country having 58 counties.

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