CENTRE GRABBING POWER

Senate must halt state's foul games using Parliament

County governments have been starved of financial resources deliberately.

In Summary

• The national governments have been using the National Assembly to pass laws to claw back devolved functions.

• The national government has used its administrative actions, its refusal to let go of devolved functions to create the narrative of corruption in counties with the full intent of killing devolution.

A general view of parliament chambers during a past session.
A general view of parliament chambers during a past session.
Image: FILE

The 1963 conference in London agreed on a Majimbo-based Constitution that created a bicameral legislature and strong regional governments.

This Constitution had strong elements of political decentralisation that would address the teething problems confronting the emergent independent state and the fears of the minorities.

However, Jomo Kenyatta and his core group who wanted centralised power and authority, accepted it grudgingly, vowing to amend it once in power.

 
 

It fundamentally altered the structure of power both at the centre and in localities. At the national level was the House of Representatives and the Senate instead of a single legislature of the colonial era.

Besides a Regional Assembly was established at the regional levels with a responsibility to make laws either unilaterally or in conjunction with the Central Government over certain matters

 

Kanu, the party that formed the government had a majority of members in both Houses. Kanu was for a unitary government and, as Jomo Kenyatta would later confess, they had to agree on the Majimbo because they did not want a delay in attaining independence. But they felt that the Constitution was a colonial imposition on a reluctant Kenya.

Kanu argued that the Majimbo system was too expensive to implement in terms of money and personnel, apparently the Kanu government did not like the provisions in the Constitution which provided for the sharing of resources between the centre and the regions.

Kanu was also uneasy about the provision in the Constitution which decentralised the role of the Public Service Commission in employment, deployment and management of personnel matters.

They viewed these provisions as devices that would prevent the Central Government from having the only and final say over matters pertaining to economic management.

The Majimbo Constitution was perceived by Kanu as a conspiracy between the colonial authorities and the so-called minority ethnic groups to unnecessarily empower the latter at the expense of Kanu, and the ethnic groups backing Kanu, both politically and in matters of protection of individual and property rights.

 

The Kenyatta regime spent the first year in office calculating and scheming about how to kill the Majimbo Constitution and the system that was associated with it in order to be able to reconstruct the state in a manner that would allow him to control all its key institutions by proxy.

 

Kanu pressured Kadu to dissolve and merge with Kanu. This action gave Kanu controlling numbers in Parliament.

Kanu used its number in the Lower House (today’s National Assembly) to amend the Constitution, leading to the scrapping of the Upper House (Senate) and subsequently regional governments by starving them of resources.

Not only had the Kanu government scarcely undertaken any substantive devolution of administrative functions and attendant budget and personnel resources to subnational agencies by the time of Kadu's dissolution, but Kanu also soon even usurped functions — such as social service delivery — that the colonial government had allocated to local authorities.

 

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Government of Kenya argued about its superior service delivery capacity — reflected in the aspirations of the development blueprint, 'Sessional Paper Number 10 of 1965 on African Socialism and Its Application to Planning in Kenya' ( today’s VISION 2030). This led inevitably to the various constitutional amendments that created an almighty ‘imperial presidency’.

This development provided Kanu with the numbers it required to change the Constitution and dismantle the Majimbo Constitution.

The period between 1965 and 1966 saw a number of constitutional changes intended to abolish the Majimbo Constitution and replace it with a Republican one.

In order to perpetuate its power, Kanu found it necessary to have firm control of all organs of the Government and eliminate all avenues of independent action by all persons holding constitutional offices.

This was achieved by making in the Constitution that consolidated power in the presidency, the repository of executive power.

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 was imposed upon political elite by ordinary people in order to address historical problems that came about due to the destruction of institutions and services independent of the central government.

Today politicians across the board are clamouring to amend the Constitution (just like Kanu) to regain the power they lost to the people.

Further, the current vicious power struggle between the National Assembly is similar to that of Kanu/Jomo Kenyatta Group using the Lower House to scrap the Upper House.

County governments have been starved of financial resources deliberately as part of this wider scheme to recentralise powers.

The national governments have been using the National Assembly to pass laws to claw back devolved functions.

Further, the national government has used its administrative actions, its refusal to let go of devolved functions to create the narrative of corruption in counties with the full intent of killing devolution.

Unfortunately, the Council of Governors has shown extremely weak political leadership is fighting off these national government machinations.


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