, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 18 – When legislators went into the ninth Parliament, most were probably eager to get the newly-reviewed high perks.
But Muriuki Karue had a different goal. The Ol Kalau MP was back to follow-up a project he had started in the eighth Parliament.
Ol Kalau is in Nyandarua district, a fertile area but lacking in infrastructure. Compelled by the poverty index of the area despite the massive potential, Mr Karue was determined to see to it that the area and every other part of the country could at least enjoy the very basic facilities such as roads, bridges, school and markets.
In 1999, he successfully moved a Motion to compel the government to allocate at least five percent of the tax collection to developing the grassroots. This was his second Private Member’s Motion after successfully moving another one in 1998 that required the government to allocate 24 percent of the Fuel Levy Fund to roads maintenance in the districts.
However, this latest attempt was not going to be an easy journey. The KANU regime failed to take up the Motion despite being passed by the House. Come 2001 Mr Karue would follow up his proposal with a Bill that compelled the government to yield to the wishes of Parliament. Two years later, the Bill his efforts bore fruit when two and a half percent of tax collection was passed on to constituency development.
“I did not object to this because I argued that it was better to have the law then push for amendment to raise the percentage to the original five percent,” says the evidently jovial Mr Karue.
The government is yet to raise the allocation share but the difference the fund has had in the grassroots is evident.
In this year’s budget Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta went a step further and allocated specific monies through the line ministries for specific projects in the constituencies taking the CDF idea a notch higher.
We caught up with Mr Karue who is now running his private businesses after losing his seat in the 2007 elections.
Q. Ten years down the line looking at what the fund has been able to do after the idea what do you feel about your idea?
A. I feel very proud. I feel happy to see that the idea I had of devolving resources to the grassroots was correct. I am even more proud to see that now the government is embracing the idea of making the constituency as the center of development.
There are some parts of this country where I can’t help but wonder how people used to survive without CDF. They are building the first primary school in a whole division. When I think about some of these things I really feel very proud; If CDF lives then I feel I am living.
Q. What was your original idea?
A. I know people will never be equal but devolution will bring them to a level that they will get nearly equal opportunities. The difference between the developed countries and us is that the person you call poor in Britain has a certain minimum level of facilities. This does not mean that the government will in any way negate the responsibility of looking at the Macro system of the country.
Q. Ten years down the line what would you want to see happen to the fund?
A. I would like CDF to be increased to my original dream of five percent. Secondly, I am hoping we shall be through with the basic infrastructure like schools and then start looking at the income generating activities probably by marketing specific produce and locally manufactured commodities from the grassroots.
Q. After losing your seat in 2007 did it feel like you worked so hard for something that you never had the chance to serve in for long enough?
A. Yeah I would have wished to continue and see probably another five years but these things happen so let us respect the wish of the people. I wish, God willing, the fund will take shape and bring change in the country. The important thing is to ensure that institutions are in place.
Q. What do you find awkward?
A. It is disappointing to see an MP saying he does not want a specific project started by his predecessor. If the project came from the Wananchi then it should be allowed to continue and this is not even allowed in the law.
Q. Do you have ambitions of going back to Parliament?
A. Well…when that time comes maybe I will go that way but as per now I am busy doing my own things. But I am sure opportunities to lead will come. You don’t have to be an MP to lead.
Muriuki Karue is a trained Civil Engineer and has interests in both building and Information Technology sectors. He is married and has four children.