Powers of County Governor in new Kenya


Who is a Governor? According to a simple Oxford English dictionary, a governor is a person mandated to control part of a territory or rule a dominion. In the new Kenya, the definition of the title could not be any different. For once, the title would not be a preserve of one person, the Central Bank Governor.

A governor in colonial  Kenya  ruled on behalf of the royalty  whereas in the  US, governors  are elected  to exercise  authority  in the  states  within the  jurisdiction of that  nation.  Like the US, Kenya will be electing governors and Senators in the newly created counties. 

Counties, forty seven in  number,  under the  new Kenyan  Constitution  will be headed by  elected governors many years  after  the nationalists abolished a  decentralised system  in the  newly  independent  country. But the  big question is,  what  sort of person  would the  electorate  choose  as a  governor in the  new constitutional dispensation?

Since  the  governor  at the County level   will  be  the  chief executive of a unit,  the person elected  must be visionary  with managerial skills, resourceful  and above all, a humble  leader. Persons with such qualities are few in the country that has survived through dictatorship, intrigues and manipulation of sorts in a one party set up and now in a multi party system. 

Governors  and  Senators in  advanced democracies  are presidential materials  and  it is  safe to  reiterate  here  and now that  days  of activists ascending to  the  throne  will soon be history. A future  presidential  candidates  will  be  to a large extent  persons  who have served as   governors or   Senators  and  will be  judged  by track  performance  in those  units. 

Maybe with  time the  leadership of parties  will  see the  need for  accountable  leaders   and usher  in  checks  and balances  that also lack in the  parties   and the   National Assembly. For sometime now, leaders have been choosing candidates and constitutions  are treated  as mere  pieces of  paper. Political parties  are  the  epitome  of  authoritarian rule  as recently   manifested  in the loud and silent   opposition to the  enactment  of the  new constitution  that  promises  to tame  bullies  and authors of  impunity.

Under the  independent  constitution, the  Governor-General was the head of  State and Commander in Chief of the  Armed Forces  while  the  prime minister, performed  the  duties  of head of  government.  The State and the government were separate entities.  Semi autonomous regions under that constitution had parliaments and were ruled by regional presidents but those positions had to be   scrapped as soon as Kenya became a republic. Jomo Kenyatta assumed the position of head of Government and  Head of State  in a restructured  system.

Kenyans last heard of the title in 1964 when the Lancaster House Constitution was amended to ostensibly cement national unity. The Governor General, Malcolm Macdonald ceased to perform the functions of that office in independent Kenya.

The colony was ruled via the ruthless  provincial administration  headed by  commissioners and chiefs  since retained.   These colonial leftover bullies for 29 years presided over elections which for all intents and purposes were not free and fair.  Kenyans will not miss the services of the provincial administration.

It   is for the  foregoing reasons that  the people  said enough is enough  and  called for the abolition of the  provincial administration  and replacement of the  same  with  semi autonomous units headed by  an elected governor.

(The writer is a former cabinet minister and an official of major political parties  including the former  ruling  Kenya African National Union (KANU)  Email: kamothojj@gmail.com)

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