As Aden Bare Duale, a take-no-prisoner politician who makes no apologies in defending the Jubilee government to the hilt, hurled a barrage of invectives at Bomet Governor Isaac Kiprono Rutto, Deputy President (DP) William Samoei Ruto merely observed from the sideline. Duale, Leader of Majority in National Assembly, was in his usual element. And when the DP stood to address the crowd already incensed by Duale’s outburst, he appeared to pick the cue from his protégé: He too rammed into the pro-referendum crusaders and the Opposition head-on. “Their agenda is not about the push for more money but politics aimed at destabilizing Jubilee’s drive to implement its manifesto …
They have a political agenda and they should just say that so that we can also roll up our sleeves and politick because we are also up to the task,” the DP thundered.
It would appear Duale and his boss referred to the same script, perhaps after a tryout. History, an international news magazine observed recently, has a dark sense of humour
– it lets us forget easily, effortlessly. We jump to a mistake from another, ominously. Yet we have no shame, no qualms about our memory lapse. We disregard history at our own peril; its wrath can be manic. As a student at Eldoret’s Moi University 25 years ago, Duale, and perhaps thousands of other undergraduates in State universities at the time, were fortuitous beneficiaries of the District Focus for Rural Development (DFRD), one of the many ill fated projects by the then President Daniel Arap Moi to close the chasm of inequality among districts. Duale was among a handful of students from hitherto boondocks northern Kenya to join the university at the time.
He must have been part of the student kindred that often lashed out at the government for political and economic crimes. Indeed, the 1980s and 1990s were years of revolt in Kenyan campuses. President Moi’s strong arm tactics drove students onto the streets, to demand more democratic space, fight tribalism and nepotism in public service, and clamour for better economic management of their country. A quarter Century later, Duale, the de facto third most powerful person in the political rung of this country, joins the rank of Jubilee Coalition hawks in haste to place a wedge between Kenyans and constitutional reforms, in particular the favorite Devolution Revolution. This detrimental cabal believes that Devolution – the flagship plank of the 2010 Constitution – is an affront to Jubilee Coalition; a threat to its grasp on power. It draws House Speaker Justin Bedan Njoka Muturi, and senators Onesimus Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet County) and Kithure Kindiki (Senate Leader of Majority).
Indeed, by their talk and deed, they appear to dampen Kenyans’ spirit for grassroots empowerment. They consider themselves – and act in that order – Jubilee’s last
line of defence and thus unconsciously injure the image of their own government even more. They have, by design or otherwise, formed the adverse Axis of Impunity.
Their stubbornness has neither ideology nor empirical standing; all they see is the apparition of the Opposition CORD in anything Devolution.
In fact they hardly cloak their serpentine hostility towards governors and pro-Referendum quarters. “Hii pesa sio ya mama yako bwana. Hii pesa si ya baba yako (Public funds don’t belong to your mother or father)” Duale told Rutto, the chair of the Council of Governors (CoG), although he later tried to explain this metaphorically.
Forty five-year old Duale rode to his powerful position principally due to the opportunistic realignment of the country’s tribal politics in the run-up to the last General Election and the strategic position of many Somalis from northern Kenya in important positions in government. He is now a critical player within the Jubilee power machine. He has both admirers and critics.
While majority of Kenyans underpin Devolution,the foursome’s unrelenting onslaught on governors is prominent. But it is not just Devolution the cabal is fighting.
Kenyans will recall the fight Murkomen, Muturi and Kindiki put up in an effort to destroy the Judiciary. It would appear they are so opposed to the values of the new Constitution that they are hell-bent to take the country back to the notorious Kanu era.
They are ready to seize Parliament to craft laws that render almost impotent the smooth operation of county governments. “The (National Assembly) has passed countless statutes and amendments that are blatantly unconstitutional. Most of these unconstitutional amendments are designed to undermine devolution and county governments,” senior counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi wrote in the Daily Nation last August. This clique – the untouchables – appears ignorant of the trend World over, where administrations are devising various ways to haul less privileged communities or people from jaws of underdevelopment.
Indeed, after the stillborn push for independence, Scotland is now readying itself for a wave of Devolution, a phrase coined in the year 1545 and which, according to
Merriam Webster Dictionary is the “surrender of powers to local authorities by a central government …the decentralization of power, authority and resources”. Inequality
As the next story shows, Devolution is critical because Kenya is a country of inequality. Some districts are apart in the level of development as light and day. For instance, only 6% of the residents of Garissa County – the area MP Duale represents in Parliament – have secondary level of education and above. In fact, 74% of the area residents lack formal education, according to a study by the Society for International Development in partnership with Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).
And in Elgeyo Marakwet County, represented in the Senate by the 35-year old Murkomen, only 18% of area residents have secondary level of education. Three in every five people rely on “unimproved water sources”, euphemistic for unsafe water, according to the study, Exploring Kenya’s Inequality: Pulling Apart or Pooling Apart? In contrast, only 12% of Kiambu County residents lack formal education; over 75% of the area population use clean safe water. Implicitly, Garissa and Marakwet are
among the least developed counties in the country. They are in dire need of vast resources, to propel them from state of neglect they currently suffer to development.
And this explains the clamour by governors’ to have 45% of the national budget go to counties – if Devolution has to deliver.
Thus, one would have expected Garissa and Marakwet leaders to be at the forefront in crusading Devolution. Hardly. “Kipchumba Murkomen has distinguished himself as a great orator on the Kenyan political scene but he has failed in his core duties of parliamentary work. Even though (he) happens to be the chairman of Devolved Government committee (in the Senate), which should be in the middle of devolution debate, he has failed to make a mark in the numerous woes between the counties and the national government over devolution,” the People Daily wrote last July. Yet it’s not just the silence that defines him; he is at his devastating best when loud. Murkomen has a penchant for trivializing weighty issues and he approaches the same with a teenager scorn and enthusiasm. Not long ago he proposed the amendment of the County Government Act no.7 2012 and Inter-government Relations Act no. 2 of 2012 to create the Council of Deputy Governors akin to that of governors. To a casual observer of events, this move is to help cultivate good relations among deputy governors. But in reality, the amendment is meant to water down the William Rutto-led CoG and perhaps have the Council of Deputy Governors act as a new centre of power in the frosty relations between county governments and the central government.
A year ago, Murkomen supported a Bill in Senate aimed at monitoring use of funds in counties, much to the chagrin of governors and county MPs. In fact they once forced him to cut short his speech at a public function when he attempted to explain the Government Ammendment Bill, which had been described as “destructive and unconstitutional” by the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution. “The Bill was brought to the senate because the use of money by county governments is uncoordinated. Its main aim is to set up the County Development Boards which will bring leaders of the counties together to discuss issues of development,” Murkomen said.
Interestingly, Kindiki, the Tharaka Nithi Senator, defied his grounding in law and enthusiastically offered support to the proposed law. “Those opposed to the boards should read the Act carefully and will find out that the board has no executive function. The boards are a must and they are like a train that has started and which cannot be stopped. Anyone who comes in front of it will be crashed … You who are saying you are too big to be questioned by the Senate committees; this is only the beginning.”
Kindiki’s defining characteristic is his rural demeanor and lack of sophistication, political or personal. Even when he espouses a valid cause, he comes out clumsy and does more harm than good.
The crusade by Kindiki and Murkomen forced Martha Karua, the NARC Kenya party leader to question, thus “how can you go and chair a governor in his house? If senators wanted to lead the counties they would have run for the governor’s seat”. This is impunity, she said. Despite his stature, Muturi, the House Speaker failed to sniff the illegitimacy in the Bill. “Muturi has a penchant for breaching the Constitution … He bestows – through unconstitutional amendments – powers, privileges and honours on MPs, senators and the national government all with the sole intention of undermining devolution,” says senior counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi.
The cabal (Muturi,Duale, Kithure, Murkomen) argues that county bosses are corrupt and perhaps mismanaging their ‘mini-governments”. Of course this isn’t farfetched. But it is the rot in the central government that drove Kenyans to demand Devolution. Indeed, the central government is very corrupt, evident in the mad scramble for multi-billion shillings construction tenders by politically-correct brokers.
But for whom does the cabal speak? “Despite the expressed consensus that devolution is the path to go, there are concerted efforts from certain quarters to undermine the whole thing … Last year, the Office of the President appointed county commissioners and deployed them to the counties in blatant breach of the Constitution. Indeed, the appointments were challenged in court, which ruled that they were unconstitutional and decreed that they cease to operate,” the Daily Nation said in an editorial a year ago. “Those in the central government, especially the team at OP, who are plotting to undermine devolution through devious machinations, including administrative fiats, are daydreaming and must be stopped right on their tracks.” And according to UDF leader Musalia Mudavadi, “elected leaders are working hard to kill devolution and the Executive has failed to advise the President on devolution”. Indeed, the Presidency’s zigzag approach to Devolution is confusing, in fact confounding. It has caused plenty of headscratching. In talk, President Uhuru Kenyatta appears to appreciate Devolution. But in actions, he has appointed provincial administrators (county commissioners)
to run a system that is almost parallel to county government. Uhuru also assented to the “unconstitutional” law that allows senators to chair county development boards.
“Uhuru cannot tell us that his hands were tied when he assented to the Bill. The law allows him to reject a Bill and allow the National Assembly to make amendments on contentious clauses … If senators come to counties to be bosses of the governors, which manifestos will they use in their development projects,’’ Mudavadi questioned.
Meru governor Peter Munya claims the Deputy President has been on whistle-stop campaign in Mt Kenya region and other Jubilee represented areas just to undermine
leaders who back referendum. “This is just a campaign to discredit governors supporting referendum.” Against this backdrop, the cabal’s af- front to the Constitution is a study in the Neanderthal nature of Kenya’s cannibalistic politics. Self-preservation appears to replace national interest. “It was expected that the political leadership resulting from March 2103 elections would be fully committed to the Constitution implementation and democratic values. This is proving elusive. There are worrying trends,” says Wainaina Ndung’u, the executive director of International Center for Policy and Conflict, an independent think-tank.