On 27th of August 2010, the Constitution that we have today was promulgated and this undoubtedly presented a new dawn and era in Kenya. Finally, all the struggles and initiatives directed towards the phasing out of the punctured Lancaster Constitution bore fruit after enduring political frustrations that were engineered by retired president, Daniel Toroitich arap Moi. With the ushering in of a new Constitution that is homegrown, this actualized the birth of the second republic with renewed hope and optimism of moving the nation forward towards the realization of the Kenyan Dream that was envisaged by our independence heroes and heroines.
Therefore, as a consequence, on the 27th of August each year we commemorate this historical event to see where we are and where we are heading to. Five years down the line, we have been able to make significant progress as a nation in general. This progress has been occasioned by devolution that has set up a mechanism through which resources are able to be accessed by the citizenry from the capital city, major urban areas, townships right to the grass-root level.
From my own point of view, devolution is the greatest aspect that is enshrined in our constitution. It paved way for the subsequent establishment of the county governments which have made us to believe that we the locals and indigenous people can help spur development with the resources that are available. Precisely, devolution has enabled the growth and development of infrastructure which is fundamental for the overall economic take-off of any given economy. This can be witnessed in a number of counties in the nation.
It is through devolution that residents of Wajir County have been able to see and have tarmac roads for the first time since independence. This is just an example of the various benefits realized through the operationalization of devolution. As a Kenyan who believes in developing Kenya by Kenyans, I am proud of the county governments that have held investment conferences and cultural festivals. These investment fora serve as channels through which the respective counties broadcast not only to Kenyans but also the whole world on the available investment opportunities. The cultural events that have become an annual feature serve and act as impetus towards the promotion of domestic tourism which should be highly promoted.
Primarily, devolution seeks to promote development in the three basic facets of a state that is political, social and economic. Politically, centres of political power are now perceived to be closer to the people through the establishment of County Assemblies. Socially and economically, devolution ought to ensure that basic infrastructure, basic services and social amenities are made available to the people. However, devolution has also brought forth a myriad of challenges that have been hillocks towards progress.
Many Kenyans opine that the devolution of health services was a faux pas which to some extent is arbitrarily true. Since the inception of the county governments strikes and industrial stand-offs by the health workers have been the norm as they have been protesting about delays in their salaries and unfair treatment by the county governments. But what is the genesis of all these strikes by the health workers? Certainly, it is the delay by the central government to disburse the funds meant for devolution that gives rise to these stand-offs. Why does the central government led by leaders who purport to push for generational change and new way of doing things stick to the old system of executing tasks? The president and his entire team need to walk the talk and weed out the existential bureaucracy that has always made it difficult to disburse funds from the National Treasury. Efficiency needs to be the spirit in the second republic to ensure that the funds allocated for county governments are released in time to avoid various sectors and operations of the county governments from being crippled.
Devolution of corruption and the general misappropriation of finances is now a teething problem. This has been orchestrated by the Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) who to me do not befit the stature of being called as honorable members. They epitomize the ruling elite who are driven by the hunger to be rich and wealthy through the wrongful use of power bestowed on them. It has been challenging for a number of Governors to run their respective county governments due to the malice exhibited and negative energy oozed by the MCAs. Dancing to the MCAs’ tune and drumbeats has not been an option for the Governors and they have done this by financially sweet-talking these MCAs.
We need to the raise the bar for a person to vie as Member of the County Assembly to reduce the level of ignorance that they have depicted. One thing that amuses me and amazes me negatively is the lack of understanding of the Standing Orders by these “honorable” members. Electing an educated leader is important to avoid such cases.
Continuous and endless wrangling between the National Assembly and the Senate has also characterized the second republic. At the time of drafting the current supreme law, it was envisioned that the Senate would be superior to the National Assembly but the reverse is what happened after it was realized that waiting for the inception of the Senate after the March 2013 elections would dampen the process of implementing the Constitution. What I dislike about the National Assembly are the political sideshows, games and gimmicks that come into play when matters of national importance are up for debate and discussion. Take for instance in December last year when we had a debate on the Security Amendment Bill which led to physical confrontations. I would also wish to castigate the Speaker of the National Assembly who has more than once proved to be partial and not chosen to remain neutral in some debates. History confines him to play second fiddle to the ‘Solomonic’ wisdom that his predecessor, Hon. Kenneth Marende had. At least the Senate wipes off the tears as they engage maturely and soberly in their debates.
Calls for a referendum have been in the air for the better part of last year. The calls have emerged from three quotas; the Opposition especially CORD and Narc-Kenya, the Governors and the Senators. The Opposition has been pushing for a referendum in order to have more funds for the county governments and the devolution of several aspects of the security system. The Governors, through the pesa mashinani campaign, seek to have more finances channeled towards the county governments. The Senators also came up with the Legal and Constitutional Review committee led by Kipchumba Murkomen which has been tasked to spearhead the process of amending the Constitution to grant the Senate more powers over the National Assembly and this calls for a referendum.
The respect for the courts has also been a milestone albeit the defiance exhibited by some entities. The decision by CORD to respect the ruling of the Supreme Court on the presidential elections was a prodigious democratic step. Recently, the Executive has disrespected the courts as far as the 50-60% pay rise for the teachers is concerned. The Executive has no option other than to effect the ruling. It defeats logic that the Executive still runs to the courts even after the Industrial Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court have all ruled in favour of the teachers. This is so sick. We have seen judicial reforms especially when Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga began his tenure. But the reform embers seem to have waned along the way but at least there is a notable difference with regards to the reduction of corruption and incompetence in the judicial system.
The gains of the second republic have to be cherished and upheld. We however face an uphill task in eradicating governance evils of corruption and uncouth political leadership that has engulfed the system which remain a threat to our progress as a nation. These if not properly and effectively checked may otherwise create a political nebula in our second republic.