By Job Oduor via Gordon Teti via Jukwaa
A closer look at the draft constitution crafted by the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) in Naivasha reveals a document that will forever impact Rift Valley Province in profound ways.
This was a document whose major tenets were spearheaded by a new found friendship of strange bedfellows, one an angry and vengeful Agriculture Minister, William Ruto, and another, a calculating and ambitious Finance Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, producing a ‘compromise blueprint’ that needs to be examined.
In the resulting deal, one side totally compromised on principles and aspirations held by their constituents, while elites from the other side got all they have long desired since the pre-independence period without breaking a sweat.
It is quite probable that most Rift Valley residents, disillusioned by recent events in government, have lost focus on examining the proposed draft constitution.
It’s also possible that Ruto has capitalized on the rifts created by the handling of Mau, PEV and efforts against corruption, to claim role of sole defender of Rift Valley interests, as a political bargaining chip which he appears to be using for his own personal interest rather than his community’s.
ODM walked into this devolution debate quite divided and without joint purpose and the result is that the earlier proposed 2nd-tier of regional government will be no more. Rift Valley Province (as an administrative unit) or region (as a devolution unit) and it’s sense of unity will be no more as soon as the draft passes.
The era of small and weak counties has arrived as there shall be no more Rift Valley region or province – as will be the case with all previously existing provinces, or regions proposed in either the Bomas draft or CoE draft.
With just a stroke, the Naivasha deal sliced and diced (in divide-and-rule fashion), the cosmopolitan province into many small, distinct and weak counties only reporting to the strong national government.
Nobody can question the long-held desire of Rift Valley residents to have a majimbo (quasi-federal) system which guarantees self-governance at local level with oversight of local resources including land and which is capable of providing checks and balances to the exercise of power at the national level.
Rift Valleyâ€™s forefathers in KADU including Jean Marie Seroney, Taita Toweet, and Daniel Moi, ensured this demand was entrenched in the Lancaster Constitution talks in London before independence.
However, after independence, President Jomo Kenyatta refused to allocate funds to the regional governments, and abolished them altogether in 1964, with disastrous consequences in the Rift Valley.
How did Kenyatta navigate and tame possible backlash from that unilateral assault on the constitution?
Kenyatta’s handlers were calculating enough to lure Moi into a political pact. As Kenyatta dismantled the constitutionally created Jimbos, an interesting but significant political development – the formation of a new political alliance – was happening in the background.
Moi secretly negotiated a background deal with Kenyatta and essentially plotted an internal coup in KADU with express plans to form an alliance with KANU.
Moi’s compromise card was facilitating the smooth dropping of the majimbo system, strongly favoured by his Rift Valley constituents, especially the Kipsigis and Nandi. In exchange, Moi was promised personal promotion up the political ladder.
Essentially it was an exchange of community aspirations for one individual’s personal gain. A similar deal may be cooking today.
From the pact, Moi led a walkout from KADU into Kenyattaâ€™s KANU, which signaled the end of the pro-majimbo party. The majimbo debate was slowly defeated and halted from then on.
That was the beginning of Rift Valley resources (especially land) being plundered at will from the center with peopleâ€™s voices at the grassroots totally drowned out. Jean Marie Seroneyâ€™s fears were being confirmed.
It is this background that motivated Rift Valley residents to begin another protracted campaign to restore the principle of devolution back into the constitution.
In 2005, Rift Valley residents rejected the Wako draft constitution precisely because it was a blueprint perpetuating a continuation of the same post-independence ideology against devolution started by Kenyatta in 1963.
As early as independence, it was clear that Kenyatta’s cronies of elites were strongly against a three-tier devolution with national, regional and county governments. Their position currently manifesting through views held by Central Province MPs, has not changed today.
Kenya has now been presented with another great opportunity to write a new constitution.
Rift Valley was recently represented at the Naivasha PSC negotiations by Agriculture Minister Hon. William Ruto and Chepalungu MP Hon. Isaac Ruto among others. Representing the Central elites was Uhuru Kenyatta, Jeremiah Kioni and others, even tagging along Uhuru’s cousin Beth Mugo as a very interested observer.
Let us look at what they came up with for devolution.
From the Committee of Experts (COE) revised draft constitution which contained a national government, 8 regional governments, and 47 county governments, the PSC started by first REMOVING THE 8 â€˜JIMBOsâ€™ (regional governments) as proposed by the PNU coalition of parties.
That was a swift act quite reminiscent of Jomo Kenyatta’s 1964 action.
The elimination of the regional tier WILL DENY the small and weak counties an essential forum for co-ordination, and protection from undermining by the strong national government.
This means, without regions, and without administrative provinces, Rift Valley, either as a governance or administrative unit will be no more. There shall only be a national government and county governments (two tiers) entrenched in the constitution.
If you closely reflect what this means for instance at the South Rift, it means that majority of the Kipsigis will be sliced and diced into three counties, with some having their voices drowned out in Narok County, some dominated in Nakuru County, and the remaining having their say in Kericho district. The divide-and-rule dictum becomes apparent. The removal of a sense of communal unity becomes real.
On top of that, these county governments like Kericho will be weak and exposed to undermining by the national government at Nairobi because there will be no regional government to shield them.
The Ruto-Kenyatta driven PSC also retained in their proposed draft, administrators like DCs, Dos and Chiefs who will still ensure that the national government remains effectively in charge of local governance within the already weak counties. Thus locals will have undermined say over local governance and resources.
If William Ruto wants to soon face his constituents with this arrangement he helped Kenyatta’s PSC allies chart, selling it as devolution, that would be the biggest fairy tale ever told.
Essentially, by removing the regional tier, which protects county governments, and retaining administrators, meaningful devolution has been killed yet again.
Any curious and keen observer will note that these â€˜devolutionâ€™ proposals are essentially the same ones forwarded by the Wako draft constitution that were rejected in 2005.
In killing real devolution, the PSC also did something significant. The all-important independent Commission on Revenue Allocation with the mandate of determining the basis of sharing revenue from national resources was struck out, and its role retained by Treasury in Nairobi.
That was the clearest statement from the PSC that there were basically no real defenders for devolution in that Naivasha get-together.
Treasury is part of the National government and it is not expected to fairly and justly divide resources between the various levels of government. Thus instead of a national resource allocating mechanism, the powerful President, and whoever he/she appoints Finance Minister, will retain the powers to distribute resources to counties. In any way you want to look at it, this does not pass for change.
This is definitely not what Rift Valley has been clamoring for and it would be unbelievable to any lay Rift Valley resident that Senior Rift Valley leaders were sitting in these PSC deliberations that came up with these proposals.
That is until folks remember the history of Moi, Kenyatta and Majimbo.
History has repeated itself and Rift Valley peoples’ aspirations have been thrown out the window in exchange for personal promises for a single individual.
Now that we have seen that the resource allocation mechanism has been retained at the Treasury, letâ€™s see the formula the PSC suggested for disbursing resources from Treasury â€“ just as a guideline.
Basically, PSC has allowed political patronage to be the basis for future resource allocations. Treasury has historically used political patronage to allocate resources inequitably, so this has been retained. Future wielders of Presidential power will wield the power over resource allocation.
In the draft, the PSC suggested that the 47 county governments receive only 15 per cent of the revenue collected by the national government, based on the last audited public accounts approved by Parliament.
That means, if this draft constitution comes into effect in 2013, the available audited accounts may be those of 2009/10, on the basis of which the 47 counties will receive a paltry Sh85 billion out of a potential expenditure of Sh1,000 billion.
Now divide Sh 85 billion by 47 counties and each government, for instance the populous one in Kericho, gets only Sh 1.8 billion per year. As the cash is sent to county governments, the strong national government will simultaneously relieve itself many development obligations and payment of salaries of public servants in the county. That is where the cunning PSC team hopes to hoodwink masses.
In typical PNU cunningness, PSC capped the resource allocation to counties in the Constitution to the figure 15% irrespective of any mitigating circumstances.
This is yet another clever ploy by PNU to put a CONSTITUTIONAL CAP, shielding taxpayer money inside the Treasury, with very little going to the periphery.
Again in PNU style, to hoodwink poor regions (during the referendum) that their areas are being given consideration, the crafty PSC drafters proposed that marginalised regions will receive a grant of 0.5 per cent of the revenues, which amounts to a paltry Sh2.8 billion, to cover infrastructure projects in â€˜health, water, roads, electricity and other necessary servicesâ€™.
This was loftily said to be motivated by the desire to ostensibly â€˜bring them to as nearly equal a state to the rest of the country as possibleâ€™.
Now, let’s be serious, how will this tiny amount of money spread over a third of the counties (16 counties, several in the Rift Valley) reverse a legacy of deprivation and neglect?
Splitting Sh 2.8 billion between 16 counties in arid and semi-arid regions means each county gets just an extra Sh 175 million per year.
The PSC knows these are just gimmicks.
The PSC also went ahead, as driven by the PNU Coalition, to devour the Senate, which is supposed to be a legislative body that protects regions against marginalization.
After killing the regions, the so-called senate was deliberately incapacitated and rendered toothless, by the PSC, and is now akin to the forum for authorities in the infamous Kilifi Draft whose proposals were completely rejected in 2005. Are the people of Rift valley aware of this?
To illustrate how divided Rift Valleyâ€™s voice was while entering this debate, it is noteworthy that Chepalungu MP, Isaac Ruto, favored a parliamentary system while Agriculture MP,William Ruto, proposed a pure presidential system.
Someone must have been bidding on behalf of external forces and sure, the pure presidential system carried the day.
But how is the pure presidential system likely to impact Rift Valley residents in case Rift Valley doesnâ€™t produce a President for a long time?
If a parliamentary system was adopted, as Isaac Ruto suggested, Rift Valley MPs would definitely have a formidable voice of representation and parliamentary voting bloc that would guarantee safeguards against marginalization, unfair resource allocations and under-development.
However, under the pure presidential system proposed by William Ruto, Rift Valley will have to depend on the whims and mercy of that powerful President. Nobody can guarantee who the President is going to be in 2012, 2017, 2023 etc.
In our country bedevilled by corruption, ethnicity, political patronage and impunity, the proposed pure presidential system offers a perfect platform for the elected President to morph into another imperial ruler favouring select regions.
This leaves Rift Valley and all other regions in a precarious situation, simply depending on goodwill and hopes that a ‘favourable’ Presidency comes by. Unfortunately, that possibility cannot be guaranteed at all times.
Ever Province in Kenya has tasted what a hostile Presidency can be like, when political expediency overrides parliamentary decisions, with the executive invariably disregarding recommendations, resolutions and/or directives of the House, with little or no sanction.
REPRESENTATION IN PARLIAMENT
Despite false arguments being forwarded by PNU MPs, the truth of the matter is that Central Kenya did benefit from adequate representation over the years since independence, compared to other regions. The appalling inequality between Central and Rift Valley is testimony enough.
Poverty index is higher in Rift Valley (more than 55%) and lowest in Central (at only 31 per cent). We cannot marginalise parts of our country including Rift Valley (parts of which are arid) and then go ahead to claim that they do not deserve more representation.
During the Naivasha constitution debate, Central Province MPs in the PSC led by Uhuru Kenyatta and Jeremiah Kioni, insisted on redrawing constituencies in the constitution because they claim areas occupied by GEMA, are under-represented in the House.
They falsely claim that Rift Valley and North Eastern provinces are â€œover-representedâ€ because of former President Moiâ€™s influence.
With sure help from William Ruto, Ababu Namwamba and Isaac Ruto in the PSC, the Central MPs (ignoring the professional job being done by the Independent Boundaries Commission) have thus “fixed” this “anomaly” by creating a relatively sizeable number of new constituencies in Central, Nairobi, Upper Eastern, and parts of Rift Valley occupied by GEMA.
Of the 80 new constituencies created, all regions benefited from a few more extra seats, but the GEMA region is slated to get the lionâ€™s share of extra seats, cunningly distributed across four regions (Nairobi, Central, Upper Eastern and parts of Rift Valley they occupy).
For certain, their relative parliamentary strength will only be felt in future if the draft remains as proposed. A lot of CDF funds will also be directly heading onto these new GEMA constituencies thus allocating direct resources to their people.
It is baffling that Rift Valley MPs did not question the fallacious argument about Central Kenya being â€˜under-representedâ€™.
Based on 2005 population projections by ECK, and the recently concluded Census, Centralâ€™s population has in fact been shrinking.
Indeed, Central Kenya has relatively lower average population per constituency/MP at 139,000 than all the other provinces except North Eastern.
For every one constituency in Central, there is an average of 139,000 people, while in Rift Valley, for every constituency, there is an average of 171,000 people. Which province is therefore under-represented in reality?
Another important thing that affects representation in Rift Valley is geographic size of constituencies. When we look at the average geographical size of constituencies, Centralâ€™s is only 456 square kilometres, compared 3,700 sq. km for Rift Valley.
Thus an MP in Central Kenya travels only 456 square kilometres (in good roads) to meet 139,000 constituents while his counterpart in Rift Valley covers 3,700 (of rough terrain) to meet 171,000 constituents. Based on this size alone, the constituency in Rift Valley deserves to be split.
Indeed, people in Rift Valley had a chance in Naivasha, to demand a ceiling on the geographical size of their constituencies but they simply did not.
William Ruto, Isaac Ruto and other Rift Valley MPs should explain what they were doing at the PSC resulting in this blatant disenfranchisement and further marginalization of their own people.
Has William Ruto ever considered this – Moi was guaranteed and rewarded his promotion by Kenyatta when he stiffled Rift Valley’s constitutional aspirations like Majimbo precisely because he had no prior brush with Kenyatta’s community. Compared to Moi in 1960s, is Ruto standing in a similar position today?