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Devolution, two years and still counting

Let everyone sweep in front of his own door and the whole world will be clean” –Johann Wolfgang

On the 4th August 2010, Kenyans exercised their sovereign right by overwhelmingly adopting the new Constitution. This exercise marked the end of a long journey towards a new constitutional dispensation and entrenched devolved government by guaranteeing a minimum unconditional transfer to counties. Two years later, the implementation of devolved governance has not been a smooth process and it is evident that there are certain burgeoning issues that seem to pose a serious threat to devolution.Lack of comprehensive capacity building and uncoordinated public participation are just but a few examples of such issues.

So when people ask me if my expectations of devolution have been met because for them, they are discouraged and I must agree with their sentiments because their thinking was that after passing the law, everything would work on its own, but unfortunately, that is not how devolution has been designed. Well, looking back two years into devolution, I can confidently delve into my opinion on the devolved system of
governance.To a large extent, my expectations of the devolved system of governance have been met. First and foremost, the realisation of devolution itself was one of my expectations and the fact that we have a devolved system of governance gives me hope.

Secondly, I expected that devolution will revolutionalize the way Kenyans engage withgovernance issues, with service delivery and to some extent; we are beginning to realize that as a country. It is only a question of time and we will all be moving from strength to strength in terms of attaining this reality.

Lastly, my third expectation was that there would be more public engagement in that members of the public would seek more accountability and services. Unfortunately, this is yet to be realized to a large extent. It seems we, members of the public, still wait for non-state actors like civil society and other interest groups to speak for us, as opposed to us seeking, demanding even accountability and services as would be of citizens of any democratic state. However, all is not lost. I believe that the public can be empowered to engage by providing awareness to them and giving them requisite knowledge to understand and to engage with their leaders. For this to happen, the leaders also need to understand that they are there to serve and not to rule.

Therefore, as we mark the second year into devolution with pomp and color with the governors’ second annual devolution conference, I do not expect the county bosses to address something out of the ordinary. All the expectations of devolution are already in black and white. There are functions for them to deliver on; and there are budgetary, accountability and ethical standards that they are supposed to adhere to. My message to them is this; do not fail us. We need devolution to work, this country has positively changed because of devolution and we need them to make that change real. Therefore, let them deliver on their function, be accountable and engage the members of the public and, allow members of the public to ask hard questions and I think we will be a happy lot in this country.

I am a firm believer of the notion that faith without action is dead. Devolution has been designed with members of public in mind. Members of the public have to engage to actually realize their expectations, so one cannot just have an expectation and expect someone else to deliver on it. Have an expectation, follow on your expectation and deliver on it. Otherwise you cannot accuse a governor for not delivering when you have not participated in existing processes. Let everyone sweep in front of his own door and the whole Kenya will be clean.

(The views contained herein are personal sentiments of the author.)

Martha Wanjala Media Liaison Officer - The Institute for Social Accountability (TISA) martha.wanjala@tisa.or.ke

  • By Caleb
  • April 22, 2015
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