Friday, August 16, 2013

Aiding and Abetting.

This week the Deputy President opened the annual Law Society of Kenya Conference in Mombasa, elected representatives were implicated in the poaching of elephants in Kenya's National Parks and Game Reserves, and Members of the National Assembly introduced their first Constitutional Amendment Bill to delete their offices from Article 260 (in the definition of "State Officers.")

While the Deputy President attempted to persuade a hotel full of lawyers that the Jubilee government's commitment to devolution is "non-negotiable", he failed to address the massive white elephant in the room: with the over-swift transfer of functions from the National Government to the counties, at the rather loud insistence of governors and senators, the odds of devolution catastrophically failing have become very short indeed. This might seem like the eternal pessimist finding the dark cloud in each and every silver lining, but the increasing rate of pachyderm decimation in Kenya's parks and reserves is directly linked to the sheer lunacy of enabling institutions that shouldn't, really, be enabled.

While Game Reserves and National Parks are under the jurisdiction of the National Government's specialised agencies, operations will take place at the county level. If there is any intelligence to be obtained, one can be sure that the county government will play a crucial role because of its intimate knowledge of the local terrain. But when the elected representatives at local level are part of the poaching industry, where else does the National Government imagine this information will come from? Before President Uhuru Kenyatta was railroaded into the way-ahead-of-time transfer of functions, he should have listened even to the spectacularly incompetent Transitional Authority, which advised against the full transfer of functions, favouring a phased approach that would ensure that counties handled what they could at each stage. As did the Commission on Revenue Allocation, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission and the Public Service Commission. That he did not might be held in evidence against the Jubilee administration as proof that their hearts are really set in sabotaging devolution before it takes off properly.

But it is the National Assembly's pig-headed refusal to read the mood of the nation that makes the devolution plans of the Jubilee government so dangerous. The members of the National Assembly are determined to raise their pay come hell or high water. The business of government is of secondary interest in their mad rush for the National Treasury's cashiers' counters. One would expect that the Senate, endowed with the power to protect devolution, to play its proper role. But like their colleagues in the National Assembly, the Senate has its hands full trying to persuade Kenyans variously that it is the "upper" house and that the Constitution must be amended to "clarify" its proper role in the law-making business of the Parliament of Kenya. Then there is the little-publicised tug-of-war over the national flag between the National Assembly and the Senate. The Assembly argues that governors are jacked-up councillors who shouldn't fly the national flag; the Senate says they are county presidents who must. Both are wrong and by the time they realise that flags - FLAGS! - don't mean shit in the matter of devolution, county governments will have managed to fuck up so spectacularly Kenyans will only be too happy to get rid of the whole thing, lock, stock and barrel.

Every time we read about elephants or rhinos being killed, or witness every dodgy interception of ivory and rhino horns at JKIA or the Port of Mombasa, we must bear in mind that the destruction of the wildlife that guarantees jobs and foreign exchange is being undertaken because devolution is failing, and the national Government is aiding and abetting that failure.

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