Devolved Soft Power a Glimmer of Hope for Kenya

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Each day across Kenya, we are increasingly being served two things; hope for the future and great uncertainty.

Over the past three months, we have been treated to what has never happened in any African country.

From the nullified August elections to the Monday, November 20, 2017, ruling by the Supreme Court and continued contestations, our place as a maturing democracy in Africa may just be emerging.

Deep feelings of exclusion in some quarters, however, persist, leading to calls for secession in parts of the country.

Amidst this seeming doom and gloom, devolution may yet provide an answer.

Across the length and breadth of our land, County Governments have taken root, rekindling hope for marginalized Kenyans.

This is not to mean that the National Government will no longer be responsible for the people’s welfare.

While a huge chunk of the national budget is being forwarded to counties each financial year, limitless opportunities exist for the National Government to remain a strong partner in the battle against deliberate exclusion.

Since governors are at the helm of their counties, they are now largely the sole hope of their regions, with much hanging on their decisions.

As witnessed a few weeks ago when the governors of Nandi, Kisumu and Kericho counties came together to preach peace, Kenyans can find a reason to coexist where devolved governments are the center of attraction.

Where the National Government prioritized hard to power through the military and related interventions, citizens are discovering that counties can be an indomitable force for soft power.

Were the governors to extend their soft power to economic interests, shared challenges could well lead to shared responsibilities and benefits.

A direct dividend from this trajectory would be the empowerment of our grassroots, resulting in effective management of our growing youth bulge through agriculture at the county and manufacturing at the national levels.

Already, some counties in the usually dry regions north of Kenya now produce foods and irrigate their farms.

We have also seen road networks and other social amenities penetrating these areas, an act so alien since independence in 1963.

Other counties are forming economic blocs to host conferences and make joint decisions to help the governed.

Ensuring a county has a good governor, therefore, is probably where the real fight should be in coming years.

In the face of geographical boundaries and related conflicts, only the most imaginative of our current lot will move our people forward.

One way will be for counties to make deliberate efforts to engage professionals in areas of long-term policy formulation.

Because of the need to impress the voter by being seen to be working fast, however, there is a big risk of long-term planning being given a wide berth.

Critically, the National Government must increase revenue allocation to counties to oil local development efforts.

In areas where devolved functions have not been fully surrendered, funds must follow the unbundling of functions, according to Constitutional timelines.

The writer is the Executive Director, County Governance Watch. (

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