BY NGUNJIRI WAMBUGU
The ‘Pesa Mashinani’ referendum campaign is officially under way. Somehow the Council of Governors have managed to out-manoeuvre and out-message the Central Government to the point a growing number of Kenyans support more money being sent to the counties; despite all the drama we are witnessing on misuse of the funds the counties already have, by both MCAs and Governors.
It is an amazing feat in terms of strategic communications when one looks at it. Governors have managed to convince Kenya’s very sceptical public that they are better off trusting 47 untried individuals running disorganised potentially violent unproven county government structures, with nearly half of the Kenyan budget; rather than allowing the over 50-year-old Kenyan proven (though inefficient) central government bureaucracy to manage these funds.
But the Governors have a SMART message. It is Specific; (money to the counties); Measurable (45pc); Achievable (no one is saying it is not); Realistic (no one is saying it is not); and Timely (Kenyans want devolution to work and the Governors have told them it will, if they get more money).
The Central Government communications people on the other hand have no message. They are trying to use force, intimidation and bluster. In the process they build up the image of this big, unfeeling government mammoth willing to do anything to kill devolution; even fight its own people. They also do not seem to appreciate they are up against 47 men who operate like mini-presidents at grass-root level; without the responsibility that comes with the office. Add the arrogance exhibited by senior government supporters when engaging with the Governors, and one understands why Governors are winning the perception battle.
But it is not too late. The Central Government can easily change the political conversation from being about ‘Money’ to being about ‘Responsibility’. The President can admit, publicly, how happy he would be if County Governments were to actually take over 45pc of the responsibility of running Kenya. The Central Government can then present a simple diagram to Kenyans explaining what running 100pc of Kenya looks like; what the current division looks like; and what the split in responsibility would look like if County Governments were to take over 45pc of Kenya.
Once Kenyans understand that moving 45pc of Kenya’s budget is equivalent to moving 45pc responsibility for Kenya to County Governments (and MCAs!); this war will be much easier.
Last week my friend George Gathara castigated me for changing my position on the ICC; from dedicated support in 2011 to harsh critics in 2014. But if we are being honest we would all admit that if we knew then what we know now, most of us would never have supported this process right from the beginning.
For example in October 2012 ICC Prosecutor Bensouda, on live TV, admitted that she did not have sufficient evidence for her cases. This was 1½ years after her office had indicted six Kenyans for the 2007 PEV; 10 months after the same court had confirmed cases against Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Francis Muthaura and Joshua Sang and five months before Uhuru Kenyatta became President.
Today Bensouda would have us believe that the reason she does not have sufficient evidence is because Uhuru Kenyatta has used his office as President, to obstruct her work.
Again; on 7th March 2012 the American University College of Law War Crimes Research Office noted that ‘The ICC has recovered a key witness ahead of the trials of Uhuru Kenyatta, Francis Muthaura, William Ruto, and Joshua arap Sang. The witness initially declined to participate in the trial out of concern for his own welfare and safety under the ICC witness protection program. In response to those concerns, and the concerns of other witnesses, the ICC has increased security measures for witnesses in the protection program, provided better education for their children, and provided other forms of support for their families. Since last year the ICC has placed more than 12 witnesses under protection in countries outside of Kenya’.
Today Bensouda will not accept that these witnesses lied to her to get the benefits ICC was offering. She insists that they were compromised by the defence; without seeing the irony of what her own office was doing! She then wants them to stay on, but as hostile witnesses.
‘Hindsight is 20/20’. A wise man also changes his mind; especially when too many facts point to the ICC process; at least as far as the Kenyan cases are concerned, being a total façade; one based not on justice, natural or otherwise, but international politics. This is why we must all gang up and stop Fatou Bensouda, the lawyer for the victims in the Kenyatta case Fergal Gaynor, and NGO stakeholders, from blaming a man who has only been President for eighteen months out of a four year case; for that cases collapse. It is absurd, and unjust.
(Wambugu is the Director of Change Associates; a Political Communications Consultancy)