It's not right for a few communities to dominate the public service

Five of Kenya's close to 50 tribes dominate public institutions. [iStockphoto]

It's not right for a few communities to dominate the public service

The recent report by the National Assembly Committee on National Cohesion and Equal Opportunity that sheds light on ethnic disparities within public institutions is, indeed, a sad commentary on our collective perception of - and relationship with - national power.

In fact, its contents ought to form an important part of our longitudinal discourse on social nation building. It's the latest revelation of how a few communities have predominated staff membership - and creamed off job prospects for their tribes-people - at, among others, 14 public institutions, including Kenya Electricity Generating Company, Kenya Trade Network Agency, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenya National Highways Authority, Kenya Bureau of Standards, Anti-Counterfeit Authority, the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Teachers Service Commission (TSC), Communications Authority of Kenya (CA-K), the Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL), the Kenya Maritime Authority, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute and the Coast Development Authority.

Additionally, the report flags the lack of representation of persons with disabilities (PWDs) and youth and gender diversity within the State institutions. Just about five of Kenya's close to 50 tribes are "well represented" at the institutions under the report's focus, with some accounting for between 15 per cent and 35 per cent of staff membership.

And the report notes that none of the 14 institutions meets the constitutional requirement of a five per cent minimum threshold representation of PWDs. Only 12 out of the 14 met the two-thirds gender rule in terms of staff membership, with KenGen and the KNSL having the lowest representation of women at 74 per cent and 73.68 per cent, respectively. And only six out of the 14 were found to have offered equal opportunity employment to the youth, with the TSC having the highest representation of employees between the ages of 20 and 35 (at 37.47 per cent), while the NSSF had the lowest representation of the youth (at 7.8 per cent).

The committee recommends amendments to the National Cohesion and Integration Act as part of bridging the gap. It further recommends affirmative action for members of communities that inhabit historically marginalised areas through investment in education, infrastructure and improved communication, noting that effort towards addressing these concerns requires, not only compliance with existing regulations and constitutional stipulations, but also demonstrable commitment to inclusivity and equal opportunity for all.

Decisive action on the issues raised, the report notes, will consequently help yield a more inclusive and cohesive society, and ensure public institutions reflect our diversity.

Countries such as US, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa teach us that the strength of any people's societal founding is a reflection on their collective sense of - and slant on - justice. As Kenyans, the earlier we begin to accept and embrace our ethnic diversity - and learn to incentivise its good karma - the sooner we shall reap the formative dividends of its institutional representation and cohere into a real nation. 

-Mr Baraza is a writer and historian. [email protected]

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