Wednesday, December 04, 2013

'Til the next go around...

The Governor of Machakos is showing up his other colleagues from Ukambani. he has managed, while the remaining two are embroilled in intrigues with their elected representatives at county and national level, to build a profile of a go-getting governor in touch with the needs of his people. Dr Alfred Mutua was universally reviled when he was the Government Spokesman. This seemed not slow him down one bit when he made his bid fr the Machakos Governor's seat. meanwhile, Dr Julius malombe of Kitui and Prof Kivutha Kibwana of Makueni seem stuck in the mud; they are yet to publicise a single county government victory. Instead, the media seems to portray their governments as besieged by the politics of the grassroots, unable to take a decision on thing or the other. Despite their relatively positve political profiles going into the 2013 general election, these two governors are starting to feel like the wrong fit for county government.

Nairobi is the centre of the political and financial universe. And Nairobi, like Makueni or Kitui, is riven with intrigue. Because it is the seat of the national government, the relationship between the Governor of Nairobi City and the President is a delicate one, made more so because today both come from opposite and opposing camps. Dr Evans Kidero is riding a political tiger and it is a matter of time whether he tames the tiger or he is thrown off its back and devoured. The governor has decided to pursue a two-pronged strategy, simultaneously keeping a low profile regarding his links with the President and the dysfunction in the CORD, and a higher one regarding the programmes being implemented in the Capital with or without the support of the national government.

Kiambu is a benighted county. It is whispered in some dark corners that it has the highest incident of murder in the country, coming only after Nairobi and Mombasa. It is also whispered that the murders are the preferred means for dissolving marital unions (it has one of the highest rates of widowhood in Kenya.) In the recent past the governor has failed to pass a county budget because of the unbridled greed of his assembly, and one of the political colossi of Kiambu died in mysterious circumstances. The governor has had to fight allegations of criminality for years. While he was elected with a wide margin, this seems not to have translated to a high opinion of his government or his programmes.

Devolution was always going to be tough to get off the ground in the period the Committee of Experts contemplated in the Constitution. It was bound to be opposed by many different players in the political and administrative arenas. Doing it in the middle of the transformation of the national government made it even tougher. For it to succeed right out the gate, it required that the first county governments were professionally organised. That was not to be. The Transitional Authority has proven to be inept at doing its job. And of the forty-seven governors, few can claim to be competently running the affairs of their governments. Some have managed to persuade their assemblies that they are placed in government to "eat" as explained by the budgets they have approved. Some have managed to wage war against their assemblies, their senators and other elected officials because of a fear that they may be challenged at the hustings at the next general election. Some have been overwhelmed by the challenges of governing remote, poorly developed and under-resourced counties.

Devolution is promoting a sort of Darwinism in county politics; good and bad governors are being identified and ruthlessly judged. Perhaps in 2017 there won't be enough money to buy a governor's mansion. The likes of Dr Mutua and Dr Kidero, despite intrigues of their own, demonstrate what can be done if one has the right strategy, the right people and the right political skills. The likes of Ken Lusaka, William Kabogo and Moses Akaranga are a harbinger of what will befall counties if they continue to sit idly by while their votes go to those with neither the skills not the interest in making things better. Devolution is not seriously under threat any more; but its successful implementation lies in the choices that voters make next go around.

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