DEVELOPMENT

Financing cities in the era of devolution should be a priority

There are so many funds locked up in "half measure" funds and institutions which could be rationalised into one major fund for funding cities and devolved governance

In Summary

• The Nyayo "philosophy" of "District Focus for Rural Development" had some good intentions but it was hopelessly implemented and ended up impoverishing the urban and the rural poor.

• Unfortunately, cities can neither be governed nor financed this way.  We are still sleeping under the slumber of District Focus for Rural Development by worshipping such contraptions as CDF

Nairobi City.
Nairobi City.
Image: FILE

In 1963, when Kenya became independent, we had only one city: Nairobi.

The colonial government bestowed the title of city to Nairobi after close to 50 years of political domination. And they did it for their own convenience. The very structure of the city and how services were distributed showed quite clearly that only the Whites, followed grudgingly by the Asians, were real citizens of this city.

In 2010, when Kenyans finally passed our own homegrown Constitution, we declared Kisumu, Mombasa and Nairobi as cities. But Nairobi was unique: It is a city-county. Kisumu and Mombasa are cities within counties with huge chunks of rural dwellers. 

 
 

It was not long before Nakuru and Eldoret were also recognised as cities in 2017 in a Cabinet sitting but with tremendous needs to add on the accoutrements of city governance under Devolution. 

These five conglomerations of urban life now cry for public attention because they have titles very difficult to justify by the manner in which they are governed. Nay, by the manner in which they access adequate or necessary financial resources to govern themselves and offer their citizens the services they need in this modern age. 

It will not surprise one if one was told that in the middle of Kisumu, and not far from the Aga Khan Hospital, some people have dug up pit latrines to defecate and get rid of human waste. It is even more shocking to know that the city market in the middle of Nairobi city has no known system of garbage collection. 

Tales of human woes are told in Kenyan cities, old and emerging. Yet the clamour to declare this or that urban collection of human beings as "cities" will continue. But are such conglomerations rightly governed as cities? What do they need to exist as cities properly so-called?

When all these entities were grouped together as "local authorities" under our independent governments, whether under Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Moi or Mwai Kibaki, they used to get some special funding from the central government generally as local governments. Just before the onset of devolution, this funding was called the Local Authorities Transfer Fund (Latif). 

With the onset of devolution, Latif was thrown out through the window and the services it used to fund were all suddenly orphaned!

The cities are now worse off than they were before.  If you ask me, this is one of the reasons for urban decay in Kenya, and it should not be taken lightly. But let us retrace our steps back a little and see where the rains really started beating us.

I will put it to you that the Nyayo "philosophy" of "District Focus for Rural Development" had some good intentions but it was hopelessly implemented and ended up impoverishing the urban and the rural poor.

 

The bureaucratic bourgeoisie running the state apparatus pocketed most of the money and left the people worshipping "harambees" as the only means of financing development.

 

Unfortunately, cities can neither be governed nor financed this way.  We are still sleeping under the slumber of District Focus for Rural Development by worshipping such contraptions as CDF and avoiding implementing a more rational devolved system of government that we have in our Constitution but we are denying full growth.

Shame on us Kenyan negros, the children of a lesser God!

CDF WAS JOHN THE BAPTIST AHEAD OF DEVOLUTION

Wind your steps backward. In 2003, when the CDF was conceived and born, I was the Minister for Planning and National Development and hence the first minister of CDF under that reformist Narc government presided over by one very well known gentleman called Mwai Kibaki.

CDF was never meant to be a permanent feature of financing development in Kenya. As it were, it was a John the Baptist straightening the paths for the arrival of Jesus Christ who is devolution. Shame in ye who deny the presence of Jesus Christ by refusing to decommission John the Baptist.

There are so many funds locked up in "half measure" funds and institutions which could be rationalised into one major fund for funding cities and devolved governance were we to decide to be sane and stop worshipping old idols for our own bureaucratic interests. Rural and urban roads are the functions of counties and cities: So why create some behemoths called "authorities" to run them?

Why can't these "authority" people go and work in the counties if they have those so-called special skills? Tell me Mr Central Government, why do you amass so many human beings under your nest when you don't really need to?

As the Nigerians say, a time has come when we Kenyans need to talk vernacular to each and one another about our system of government and how we need to finance it rationally. At the moment, it would be very safe to say that we risk having neither rhyme nor reason in the way we finance devolution and our cities, let alone our whole system of governance. 

CONSTITUTION REVIEW

As we prepare for the coming constitutional review, which is timely, let us engage dispassionate men and women, well-schooled and with appropriate knowledge and experience, to discuss the proposals being made thoroughly.

They should appreciate the fact that devolution will remain a central pillar of building a united, national, developmental and democratic Kenya. That principle is not negotiable. 

In that regard, I am happy that a group of young men and women working in our own national government are preparing to hold a conference in Nairobi in early October this year on "Financing Cities in Kenya.

" These guys have done their homework. They have impeccable evidence to objectively critique the current model of financing cities — and implicitly devolution — and how to do it better into the future if we are to build a united, national, developmental and democratic Kenya. On adherence to that principle, I shall not hold any prisoner.

By the way, the term "critique" means something very different from "criticiSe." Anybody can criticise anything, sometimes slovenly for flimsy reasons or just for the sake of debate. Like holding high school debates on such topics as "co-education they do discouragement the education of girls!" Even the English is bad: You don't even know where to begin. 

To critique is to go deep into reasoning so as to clearly save human beings from making important decisions on grounds that cannot hold now and into the future hindering us from making meaningful progress.

To critique is to dispassionately look at the facts and brutally reason together in an objective manner that convinces us that the decisions we make can hold the test of time given the objectives we have set for ourselves especially in the realm of scientific and socio-economic development. 

A conversation like this on "Financing Kenyan Cities in the Era of Devolution" is just about to take place in Nairobi in October. Watch this space.


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