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February 20, 2019

The Mt Kenya debate we should be having

Ngunjiri Wambugu
Ngunjiri Wambugu

After the funeral service for the late Kenneth Matiba, President Kenyatta made it public that he is quite unhappy with people who spend all their time discussing 2022 succession politics rather than working on their current mandates. I will not belabour this point. I have shouted about it until I am hoarse. So I will focus on what I see as the ‘work’ that those of us elected in Mt Kenya should be doing instead of premature presidential campaigns.

As a Mt Kenya MP I have a local mandate, and a national mandate. My local mandate is what I am implementing in Nyeri Town. My national mandate is based on what benefits the interests of the political region we call ‘Mt Kenya’. I am doing my part locally. Nationally I see my mandate as ‘righting’ two current ‘wrongs’.

One, as a region Mt Kenya is suffering unfair political representation in Parliament. For example Ruiru voted for Simon King’ara with 108,000 votes. Balambala voted for Abdi Shurie with 9,000 votes. In Parliament each MP has one vote on anything we are discussing. In its simplest form, this means that each vote in Balambala constituency is equal to approximately 13 votes in Ruiru as far as the business of oversight over the national government, making of laws, and representation in Parliament, is concerned.

But we are a democratic country where each vote should be as nearly equal to the other as possible. That is clearly not the case in the scenario above. Incidentally, this discrepancy affects many Mt Kenya constituencies, where the average vote-count is 100,000 and above per constituency.

This must be compared with other regions, especially in the Northeastern part of Kenya, where constituencies have an average of 40,000 voters. We cannot have a situation where on any issue being debated in Parliament 200,000 voters in Mt Kenya have only two votes while 200,000 voters in another region have five. This is unjust.

Secondly, Mt Kenya suffers unequal resource distribution. For example, Kiambu county received Sh9 billion in devolved funds this year. Turkana county received Sh9 billion and another Sh3 billion from the Equalisation Fund. However, Turkana has approximately one million people while Kiambu has approximately 2.5 million people. On constituencies, Ruiru, with a population of more than 200,000 people, received Sh86 million from the CDF this year. The same amount Balambala constituency received with a population of 90,000 people.

During the 2017-22 political term we have an opportunity to do something about these very obvious inequalities as a region. Kenya will carry out the national census to determine our population, and where it is concentrated. Kenya will also undertake the constituency boundary review to determine whether constituency boundaries need to be reviewed to ensure equal representation of citizens in Parliament.

As a Mt Kenya leader, there is no more important discussion today than how we will ensure that our numbers are accurately recorded, and that our constituencies are equitably represented in relation to others from elsewhere in the country.

Ours as Mt Kenya MPs is to make the argument that MPs represent people, not territory, and that resources are distributed to benefit people, not space —even as we will also agree that some areas need to be boosted. At a fundamental level, we must state firmly that the fight against historical socioeconomic and political marginalisation in some parts of Kenya will not be conducted by contemporary marginalisation of other parts of the country.

This is the most important Mt Kenya debate today. The one about who will be President in 2022 only makes sense after we sort out the issues raised above. If we do not fix these issues before 2022, then it will not matter who is President in 2022 as far as the ordinary Kenyan from the Mt Kenya region is concerned.

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