“We have over the years deluded ourselves that there exists a Kenyan who does not have a political affiliation and that we should entrust our elections on that Kenyan”
Two weeks ago, the Okoa Kenya fraternity met at the Bomas of Kenya to launch the Bill being proposed to amend the Constitution. Since this is about the people, the committee of experts considered those matters that were affecting the public most in deciding the issues that needed to be addressed.
The committee found that Kenyans were most concerned with the gapping inequalities and grievous inequities in their society. So egregious are these inequalities and inequities that Kenya is commiserated internationally as one of the most unequal countries in the world.
The committee then considered those areas where these improprieties were most likely to be calamitous. It took into account that the present government would have such a conflict of interest in proposing reform that the public could not expect an honest and altruistic solution to their problems. These are devolution, land, ethnicity and elections.
Devolution serves many purposes, the most taunted being the need to take resources to the grassroots. But devolution also serves to create equality in the allocation of resources. The disparities in Kenya between one county and another are outrageous that life expectancy in one county is double that of another county. At Okoa Kenya, we think this is a life and death matter, quite literally.
We propose that the allocation of functions and funds to county governments must be increased to 45 per cent if the benefits of devolution are to be realised. And considering that even within counties people can still be marginalised, we have proposed that ward development funds be created so that every Kenyan gets to have their most parochial concerns attended to.
Within this consideration has also come the issue of the Constituency Development Fund. Listening to many people express their views on the fund, it turns out that despite the sometimes lack of proper accountability and excesses of the fund’s committees and the members of National Assembly at the counties, the fund is dear to Kenyans. As the National Government has promised parliamentarians that it shall co-operate in the regularisation of the fund, we have proposed it as a method of devolving national government functions and funds as will be negotiated between the two institutions.
In regard to land, the Constitution was written to enable reform but the turf wars between the National Government and the National Land Commission has frustrated this. So we have proposed to make it clear that Kenyans have never trusted government with their land and they still do not. The National Land Commission is the sole authority in the administration of land. The government’s role is only in the formulation of land policies.
The next inequality and inequity regards ethnicity in public jobs. The Constitution has restated that fair competition and merit should be the basis of appointments and promotions. But the Constitution has also recognised the need to have equity between ethnic communities. Unfortunately, it is clear that the inequities in public service appointment will not be cured by goodwill. The Committee has thought it fair to put a maximum percentage for all and has settled on 15 per cent based on current realities and the projections into the future. These percentages are applicable not just overall, but also to every department of State organs, and national government agencies and departments. For the avoidance of doubt, the provisions are not imposed on county governments.
The provisions are applicable at all levels of employment, meaning an ethnic community cannot have its 15 per cent at the highest echelons while condemning others to lower cadres. The provisions are also applicable to private companies that are contracted by the national government because public money must serve public policy.
The last area is elections. There are four main areas of concern. The first is the composition of the electoral commission. We have over the years deluded ourselves that there exists a Kenyan who does not have a political affiliation and that we should entrust our elections on that Kenyan. We at Okoa Kenya think we should just drop the charade and recognisethat we all have “sides” and it’s not a bad thing.
We propose that political parties nominate commissioners whose affiliations are well known and leave them to agree on the fairest way to conduct elections.
The second area of concern is on registration of voters. The committee was concerned about the obvious disparities of registration of voters between different areas of Kenya. We have proposed that IDs be issued to every Kenyan within 60 days of application. If there is delay, it must be explained.
It is also proposed that there be a registration kit at every polling station and that electoral commission must ensure that at least 80 per cent of the eligible voting population is registered.
The last two concerns are about voting and tallying. First, all voters have biometrics. So there shouldn’t exist other separate registers on the fraudulent excuse that there are voters with no biometrics. Second, after voters are registered using their biometrics, there is no reason why they should vote without being identified in the same way.
Then there is the issue of tallying of votes. After votes are counted and certified by the presiding officer, there seems to be very little regard to that count thereafter. Those results are tallied at the constituency, the county and again in Nairobi.
In many instances, these results are changed. The Bill seeks to preserve the integrity of the polling station results and to make them conclusive and unalterable. If they have to be changed, let it be after a judicial process.
Mwangi is an advocate of the High Court and chairman of the Okoa Kenya committee of experts.