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com November 2010

On The New Constitution


Dr. Manyibe - On New Constitution
By Dr. Edward O. Manyibe


or many years, Kenyans have fought for a decentralized form of government. Today, Kenyans can proudly look back and say “we have made progress.” What is decentralization? Decentralization or devolvement involves the transfer of some responsibilities and decision-making power such as planning and resource allocation from the central government to other levels of governance (e.g., counties). As I write this article, the New Constitution provides for the creation of 47 semi-autonomous counties that would have the legal authority to design and implement their own development agenda. Several reasons informed the clamor for a decentralized system of government that Kenya has just embraced. First, previous dictatorial and authoritarian KANU regime compelled Kenyans to demand for more democratic space so that they can enjoy their freedoms. Second, the recognition that a devolved system would empower underrepresented groups such as people with disabilities, women, and local entrepreneurs (Jua Kali artisans) to actively participate in social, economic, and political processes was a great motivation. Third, Kenyans needed a system of government that would allow them to sit at the decision making table where they can identify their development priories and decide how to achieve them. Third, Kenyans wanted system of government that will hold both local and national leaders accountable. Under the former constitution, it was easy for leaders to blame the central government even on things that were within their jurisdiction. On the contrary, under the New Constitution local leaders will no longer pass the buck – they will be held accountable for their actions. Moreover, the New Constitution will enhance checks and balances and the separation of powers between regional and central government thus enhancing democracy in the country. Fourth, they needed a decentralized system because it creates conducive environments for competition and bargaining among different governments and groups. It is envisaged that under the current constitution, counties will compete for business, human talent, and tourists, among others. A healthy competition will lead to wealth maximization. To be

competitive, however, counties must develop their infrastructure (e.g., transport and communication networks), social services (e.g., health and education), technology, and security. Obviously, investors will shy away from counties that have high crime rates, corruption, or dilapidated infrastructure. Although celebrated as a good system of government, decentralization has its pitfalls. Evidence suggests that decentralization can facilitate the devolution of corruption. For instance, devolution can facilitate the transfer of corruption from Nairobi, the capital city, to county and constituency headquarters around the country. Most of us know that corruption flows to where money is. Credible sources such as the National Taxpayers Association (NTA), Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) and anecdotal evidence suggest that corruption in the use of CDF funds is both massive and epidemic. Some MPs, councilors, and CDF managers, individually or in collusion, often misappropriate CDF, HIV/AIDS, and bursary funds. This clearly demonstrates the potential of unscrupulous leaders to devolve corruption to the grassroots. In view of the aforementioned concerns, the following questions should be addressed: How can Kenyans ensure that devolution of government as envisaged in the New Constitution brings the kind of benefits that wananchi aspire for? How can Kenyans ensure that the Counties rapidly contribute to developmental goals of Kenya as a nation? Here are some of the things they can do: The key to the success of decentralization in Kenya lies in building the capacities of local communities. This should involve strategic planning, revenue diversification, technology improvements and accessibility, and research and development, among others. The intent of capacity building efforts is to develop capable leaders, effective management, and strong governance. The ultimate goal is to empower community members to be good custodians of resources. Fortunately, the new constitution emphasizes issues of leadership and in-

tegrity consequently giving Kenyans the opportunity to hold their leaders to the highest standards. Kenyans must be vigilant in enforcing anti corruption laws at all levels of government. The new KACC Director, Dr. Lumumba, for example, has a unique opportunity to rally Kenyans to ensure that counties and constituencies do not become the new centers of corruption. Anti-corruption infrastructure must therefore be build at all local levels to provide local community members avenues for reporting corruption cases. Most importantly, detecting, documenting, and reporting corruption cases to relevant authorities are a shared responsibility of all Kenyans. Decentralization can lead to desired outcomes by creating accountability at the local level, where it matters most, and giving power to local actors who are better able to define their own problems. This can be achieved through instituting legislation that clearly defines the role of devolved governments and bodies charged with providing oversight. Furthermore, the central government must address the three di-

decentralization empowers people to use their creativity to manage their affairs for self-determination and preservation.

mensions of decentralization: administrative, political and fiscal for our experiment of devolution to succeed. Local actors such as county representatives must be given autonomy to make decisions that respond to issues unique to their constituents. Marginalized groups such as people with disabilities, unemployed youth, girls, and poor families have to be identified and their needs addressed. Strategic interventions such as community rehabilitation programs and access to low interest loans should be put in place to ensure that members of marginalized groups participate fully in the development process of

their communities. My extensive studies of development processes around the globe reveal that decentralization efforts that that do not address concerns of the marginalized groups fail miserably. Strong partnerships among the public, private, and civil society sectors should be promoted. When all these sectors start working in concert duplication of services will be minimized, coordination among service providers in the local area will increase, checks and balances will be improved ultimately resulting in working toward common goals. Mutually agreed partnerships provide an avenue for ongoing communication and coordination among social change agents, government agencies, and private forprofit and nonprofit entities thus ensuring seamless implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of progress of each county. Each county should have clear strategic plans anchored in sound local and national policies. A sound strategic plan should be able to tell people where they are and where they are likely to be in the next five, ten, or fifty years if the plan is well executed. Kenya Vision 2030 which aims to transform Kenya into a newly industrialized country by the year 2030 provides a good starting point for each county to develop their respective strategies. Kenyans (We the People) must embrace and celebrate diversity for the New Constitution to bear fruit. Diversity of individuals or groups can be based on their religion, ethnicity, disability, socioeconomic status, culture, gender, and political affiliation. Collectively and individually, Kenyans should strive to understand, accept, and value all people and all that is of people. The 2007 post election violence should constantly remind us of the need for peaceful co-existence. I hope that each county will prohibit any type of discrimination at all levels. In conclusion, decentralization empowers people to use their creativity to manage their affairs for self-determination and preservation. My recent visit to Kenya and the conversations I have heard with friends and family members give me a lot of hope that Kenya is on the threshold of becoming an economic and political power. Kenyans are hard working. They hate poverty. They want to uplift each other to succeed. They are patriotic both to their country and local communities. Kenyans have a lot of hope in the New Kenya and, I believe, they will do everything to realize the Kenyan dream.
Dr. Manyibe is Professor at Langston University, Department of Rehabilitation Counseling and Disability Studies. Email: eomanyibe@lunet.edu

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