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Friday, August 18, 2017

Negotiated democracy in counties: A pun or a curse

The drafters of our new constitution, without a doubt, probably wanted the best system of governance for our country. In fact our governance system under the constitution shows there has been every intention to create the best methods of checks and balances. Many aspects of a negotiated democracy can be seen in the relevant Articles that talks about governance.

For example the Article 12 of the constitution talks about how to manage public finance and has created the office of the Auditor General. This office is to create checks and balances.

According to the Swiss political scientists Klaus Armingeon, there are three types of negotiated democracies. The first one is consociational democracy which is practiced where no particular social economic group can form a majority. Like in many of our counties with diverse ethnic groups compete for political power but need support from other like-minded groups to form a government.

The second type of negotiated democracy is corporatism. In these method entities like the trade unions, employer’s organisations and government together develop a goal to enhance social economic development. The third form is called a regime of veto players. Here a common example is the democracy practiced in the United States where other than the three arms of government other constitutional offices are created to ensure a proper system of checks and balances. Our constitution has created such institutions like the Commission on Administration of Justice, the Controller of Budget, Auditor General and many others.

While the Kenyan system seems to incorporate the first and the third form of negotiated democracy, this has mainly been confined to national government and the effect of particularly the regime of veto players can hardly be seen in the counties. In many of our counties consociational democracy is very common. However, there are no corresponding checks and balances that can guarantee the rights of minorities and for example people with disabilities.

The only method of redress is through the courts which for many people are above their means. Also some form of negotiated democracy is intended to lock out certain ethnic groups. A good example is when several minority groups together form a majority, they turn a dominant group into a minority. A case in example is Marsabit county where the Gabra, Rendille, Burji and some Somali clans formed an alliance to lock out the dominant Borana tribe. In Mandera the coalition between the Gari and the Murule clans of the larger Somali tribe formed a coalition to lock out Degodia clan. In Tana River, a similar form of negotiated democracy locked out the Pokomo which previously dominated the political landscape of this county.

Therefore negotiated democracy that comes through consociational means  in some Kenyan counties is not a pun but a curse particular when it involves ethnic groups forming alliances with intentions to lock out other communities. This has resulted in conflict that has destabilised some counties.

Recently hundreds of people were killed in Mandera county due inter clan fighting, whereas there is tension between different tribes in Moyale. We also know what happened in Tana River immediately after the elections. Other counties that face similar challenges include, Wajir, Garrisa and Isiolo, where a coalition of some communities is now perceived to have locked out other ethnic groups within the county.

The way forward is for the senate to introduce legislation that can ensure that even within the counties the systems of checks and balances are not left to the county assembly alone since in an event of negotiated democracy, the executive and the assembly members could collude to lock out some communities.




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