BY KIPCHUMBA MURKOMEN
The debate on the provisions of the recently amended County Government Act appears to be generating more heat than light.
While Governors agree with all amendments except the chairmanship of county development boards, Senators advance a completely opposing view.
It has become necessary to shed more light on this amended law and particularly that provision on county development boards. It is also important that Kenyans understand why Senators should chair the boards.
Why are county development boards important under the devolved structure?
First, the boards provide a forum for Kenyans to exercise their right to participate in the management of their affairs, including setting their development priorities in line with Articles 10 and 174 of the Constitution.
Devolution is not a preserve of an individual in the person of a Governor; it is a collective responsibility of all actors. Devolution gives the powers of self governance to the people.
The ultimate responsibility of ensuring that counties and county governments succeed rests with the people through their democratically elected leaders. The county development boards provide the vehicle through which these elected representatives give their input on development initiatives at county and national levels.
Secondly, development boards provide the opportunity for all elected leaders to represent various interests in the counties. It is only last year when elections were held and we seem to have forgotten that positions were shared among communities and interest groups under what some people called “negotiated democracy”.
Prior to March last year in some counties, communities agreed that one would ‘provide’ the Governor, the other produces the Senator or Women Representative. Examples that quickly come to mind include Trans Nzoia, Taita Taveta, Migori and Busia.
Even in ethnically homogenous society, there seemed to have been a conscious effort to address issues like regional balance. In some instances, political coalitions also agreed to balance leadership to avoid friction that could cost them the coveted seats.
How do you then ensure that these communities, political parties and interest groups feel their development needs are addressed in the absence of their representatives? Efforts must be done to ensure inclusivity, including making all communities feel they are part and parcel of their respective counties.
Thirdly, the development boards provide the forum for leaders to sort out any differences; thereby reducing cases of some elected leaders organising demonstration and protests against others like have been witnessed in some counties.