August 2010 was a turning point in Kenya’s history. Kenyans voted for a new constiturion, ushering in devolution.
Kenya is a multi-ethnic state with 47,564,296 citizens. Seven years since the inception of the devolved system of government, we have witnessed progressive democratisation and expansion of the political space, especially for the historically marginalised communities in the asal counties.
Many have been employed and services brought closer to communities. Roads have been tarmacked and health facilities built. The first-ever Cesarean section in Mandera county was carried out in Takaba subcounty, in 2015. Boreholes have been drilled for Turkana residents who used to trek for days. Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana has won praise for setting up a local milk plant and mango-processing factory.
But has the life of the ordinary Kenyan improved as expected?
With the advent of devolution many Kenyans believed that their lives would change for the better.
But many of the governors entrusted with public resources, it would seem, are on a looting spree if the arrests over the last year are anything to go by. Eight more governors are on the radar of Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji.
The county leadership is accused of nepotism and favouring their cronies and proxy companies.
The Auditor General has on many occasions questioned the expenditures of many counties, often pointing out overpricing and failure to establish the value of outstanding works in monetary terms.
Public finance laws are flouted and figures manipulated to award tenders to companies associated with county executives.
A report by the UN Development Programme states that inequality among Kenyans has increased, with the country dropping five places from position 142 in 2017 to 147 in 2018
The 2019 Human Development Index indicates that at least 16 million Kenyans, 34 per cent of the 47.9 million citizens, live below the poverty line. This has a negative impact on the country’s socioeconomic stability.
Reports by the Central Bank of Kenya indicate that only 0.7 per cent of Kenyans with bank accounts have deposits of more than Sh1 million. CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge told a parliamentary committee that 99.3 per cent of bank accounts in Kenya have deposits of less than Sh1 million. Most Kenyans are languishing in poverty.
Unemployment, gender inequality, skills mismatch, lack of access to education and health are also highlighted as the main causes of inequality, often starting at birth.
Ahmed is a journalist and a governance Masters student at Africa Nazarene University
The opinion piece appeared on the Star newspaper on Friday last week.