By Ronny Ayumba
In his address to Kenyans on the Jamuhuri Day of 2017, President Kenyatta outlined the key areas of interest for his second term, in what he referred to as the BIG FOUR; food security, affordable housing, affordable healthcare and manufacturing.The big four plan will build on the foundation laid during Jubilee’s first term in sectors such as transport, electricity distribution, education and ICT.
As he seeks to achieve quality service to his citizens and a formidable legacy for himself, President Kenyatta shall rely on his key lieutenants in government and the partnership with the private sector. The role of his cabinet is therefore well cut out and as such, he showed shrewd proficiency in naming his new cabinet with only the proven and industrious making it to his new appointments list. One ministry that will be at the centre stage and that the President will rely on massively to the success of his second term is the Devolution Ministry. It is inevitable that the national roll-out strategy for the Big Four prioritizes devolved governments and seeks their commitments to support it. In essence, the big four must be felt and appreciated well beyond Nairobi, from Turkana to Kwale, Kajiado to Mt. Elgon and Migori to Mandera.
The newly appointed CS in that docket therefore find himself as a dependable player in this team, perhaps just right after the deputy president. CS Eugene Wamalwa who proved his merit and loyalty serving as CS Water and Irrigation must therefore take this appointment by the horns and bring his A game. He must operate at his all-time best.
Through him, President Kenyatta will expect a formidable working relationship to be developed between the national government and our devolved units of county governments. It is imperative to appreciate that the constitutionally stipulated devolved functions, which include agriculture, county health services, county planning and housing, and energy regulation, unescapably place counties as the prime arenas for the calculable implementation of the Big Four pillars.
CS Wamalwa must therefore be the umbilical cord that shall unite the mother national government to its fetus, the county government. Being known as a cool, calm and collected figure, you can certainly bank on him to bring truce to the shouting match between CoG and GoK that we witnessed in our first five years of devolution. In addition, he will have to set up a national Big Four implementation blueprint to clearly outline the general national goals and outcomes of this project, with a supplementary breakdown of county-specific goals, outcomes, objectives and deliverables.
With the President targeting up to one million acre land under irrigation by the end of his five year term, CS Wamalwa finds himself on already familiar territory. Having already laid the foundation of the same during his time as Water and Irrigation CS, he now must spearhead its completion. Already, he had set up the Ksh. 104 Billion Nzioa Irrigation project in partnership with the Turkish government, plus another Ksh. 500million irrigation project at the Sang’alo Institute in Bungoma. This and many others add to his groundbreaking of the Galana-Kulalu.
Conceivably, it is his handling of the Galana-Kulalu Irrigation project that showed his acumen as a performer. At a time when the country is grappling with ballooning wage bill and inflated costs of projects, he moved in to slash the budget for this project to Sh7.2 billion down from Sh14 billion earlier estimated. He will be expected to extend his austerity measures to other projects involved with his ministry especially those with county governments which have numerous cases of cost inflation.
In the area of affordable housing that the big four seeks to achieve, his role in ensuring clean water for households and schools cannot go unnoticed .He initiated a project to make the country water sufficient by initiating the building of more than a-million-farm ponds in the next five years known as Billion Dollar Business alliance (BDBA), a government and private sector initiative. He also spearheaded theroll out of a Sh15 billion water programme targeting clean water supply for 9,000 public schools.
With the political nature of public service in our country, he will be required to blend his performance as a CS with dexterous political moves. It will be highly likely that his office will be targeted by the critics as it is the nerve centre of the cabinet. Having achieved the balance as Water and Irrigation CS, he will have to do it even better as Devolution CS.
It remains to be seen what tactics and strategy he will apply in what might as well be his most crucial five years in public service. All in all he shall be a key player in shaping the Uhuru Kenyatta legacy and succession.
The writer is a student leader at The University of Nairobi.