BY ABDIRAHMAN ALI HASSAN
Regardless of status, religion or tribe, Kenyans are guaranteed fair and equal treatment in the Bill of Rights under the current Constitution. Given the traditional politicisation of development and skewed budgetary allocations, the Bill of Rights is music to ears than a reality on the ground. It is no exaggeration that unity in diversity and equity are words easier uttered than practiced in the East African country.
Statistics on budgetary disbursements for the basic infrastructure to the arid and semi arid lands known by its acronym ASAL, is one living example of discrimination that contravenes the Constitution.
For years, the economic worth of pastoral areas has conveniently been downplayed for purposes of starving such places of development opportunities. Notwithstanding the economic viability of the ASAL regions, the areas are treated differently from the rest of the country in the allocation of State resources. The government of the day does not consider infrastructure a priority in policy documents when the contrary is the case in already developed regions.
North Eastern Province is one such place that has borne the brunt of neglect in the hands of successive governments including the colonialists, save for the piecemeal development initiatives by President Mwai Kibaki. In particular, Wajir South constituency, the third largest electoral unit in the country, bears visible scars of neglect and discrimination in the hands of successive governments.
Even the creation of Northern Kenya and Arid Lands Ministry by President Kibaki has not had much impact and desired trickle-down effect. Perhaps some of these initiatives in a country guided by tribalism and other parochial considerations are and were mere public relations exercises meant to hoodwink the underprivileged citizens.
For unexplained reasons, previous governments have not been keen on the development of the ASAL regions. The same can be said of the British Colonial government that left the status of Northern Frontier District in doubt at independence – sparking of a war for self determination.
At last, neglected areas under a unitary and wasteful system can see light at the end of the tunnel and have every reason to celebrate the yet-to-be-born Constitution whose objectives are noble and revolutionary.
The creation of County Governments in devolved political and economic systems is a sigh of relief to many. This is one such golden opportunity that the communities cannot let slip off their fingers. Local leaders in the counties will chart their economic and political destiny in the new political dispensation.
It is only logical for the neglected to come out in large numbers and overwhelmingly vote for the proposed Constitution that promises to address traditional imbalances and economic disparities akin to violation of fundamental rights.
On paper, a unitary State under one leader and one flag should be fair to all but in practice, leadership shamelessly celebrates inequalities in a democracy and violates fundamental rights. In light of the foregoing, victims of these injustices would not be guilty ofaccusing the government of complicity and impunity?
(The writer is the Member of Parliament for Wajir South. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)