The treacherous journey of devolution

    President Uhuru Kenyatta & County Governors

    By Barrack Muli

    The story of devolution in Kenya is a tortuous tale of constitutional amendments that has been driven by a determined combination of different forces.

    The 47 new county governments are now in charge of overseeing functions including healthcare provision, pre-primary education and maintenance of local roads. These were responsibilities of the national government in the previous regimes.

    These functions have been well executed in most counties despite the unwelcome outcry of Kenyans.

    Resources and capabilities of devolved governments have however been leveraged in some counties, for instance Machakos and Kitui.

    Through this, the counties have been able to improve, effect and maintain infrastructure in good time and also settled some resource distribution promises made before devolution.

    The curious scenario is nonetheless the pace at which Kenyans want devolution to change their lives in an instant set-up.

    Large numbers of people have remained unreceptive and detached in matters concerning devolution.

    Devolution is however not an immediate affair. Combined forces of politicians, activists, academics, journalists and political commentators must understand this.

    The pronounced public agitation, by marches and demonstrations or even unceasing criticism from leaders does not sum up to any solid accomplishment.

    Kenyans must learn to appreciate the fact that devolution is a gradual involvement.

    It took 50 years for Kenyans to embrace devolution constitutionally.

    The success of devolution is held by the view that the Kenyan people deserve development, but the challenge lies in the over-ambitious character of Kenyans in matters of development.

    Counties face hefty institutional capacity challenges; an area that the ministry of devolution has been tasked with resolving through its mandate.

    For the first time in history, distributional grievances in historically marginalized regions can now be addressed. In Kitui for instance, residents in the longtime water torn areas of Endau Malalani and Mutomo have now access to water.

    Most parts in Kitui past marked by a road network that was perpetually neglected and crumbling; impassable and dangerous have now embraced a notable infrastructural improvement.

    The County has also embraced tremendous educational achievements since the inception of devolution.

    More children are going to school. For instance, enrolment in their ECDE Centres increased from 65,000 to 88, 106 learners and 857 standard eight pupils were selected to join National secondary schools this year as compared to last year’s paltry 270. Performance at KCSE also improved tremendously this year.

    The county government has also supported Youth Polytechnics to ensure youth acquire skills for the job market.

    Following their interventions at Mutito Polytechnic, student population rose from 26 to 66 students this year owing to improvement of learning facilities. Similarly, at Kyuso Polytechnic, enrolment rose from 50 in 2015 to over 100 in 2016.

    Despite the several achievements, lack of substantial audit and independent internal audits, weak revenue bases, unstandardized remuneration and transitional challenges are some of the obstructions to smooth running of decentralization in almost all counties in Kenya.

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