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REVENUE ALLOCATION STALEMATE

Uhuru’s legacy won't be Big Four but succession plan

The primary aim of the revenue standoff is to kill the handshake

In Summary

• The President must know the coronavirus has up-ended everything and therefore, what happens henceforth is all about who succeeds him.

• Put differently, without the handshake and Raila, the President cannot accomplish anything legislatively or otherwise.

President Uhuru Kenyatta.
President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Image: PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta announced on December 12, 2017,  that he will dedicate his time, energy and resources in his second term to achieve the Big Four agenda.

At the time, the country was divided down the middle, with a significant portion talking seriously about secession.

Things were so tense and at a standstill that nobody knew exactly what was going to happen. This situation changed, however,  with the now-historic handshake between Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga on March 9, 2018.

 

Put differently, without the handshake and Raila, the President cannot accomplish anything legislatively or otherwise.

The purging of Deputy President William Ruto's loyalists, for example, could not have happened without Raila's support of Uhuru.

Nothing contentious is every going to be tackled successfully without the ODM leader's blessing.

The latest example is the ongoing battle to approve a resource distribution formula that is at an impasse.

Article 217 of the Constitution provides that the Senate shall determine, once every five years, the basis for allocating among the counties the share of national revenue.

This review is to be done by the Commission on Revenue Allocation, whose recommendations are to be adopted or modified by the Senate.

The Senate then sends its approved resolution to the National Assembly, which may pass, modify, or reject it.

We are now into the third iteration of this review process and what was supposed to be a smooth process to meet the objectives of Article 217 has suddenly become a political hunting ground for 2022 political kills.

The primary target here is to kill the handshake via the county revenue-sharing formula, but there is more.

 

On the one hand, you have the 'one-vote, one-shilling' proponents, who are mostly from the Mt Kenya region that wants a formula favouring high population counties like theirs.

This would be at the expense of the sparsely populated counties, which also happen to be home to marginalised communities. Lurking is a longing to return to bad old days of Mt Kenya domination.

On the other hand, you have opponents of the new formula from all these counties that stand to lose money if it is adopted. They are joined by some men and women from counties that would gain but who oppose the formula in solidarity with them.

As a result, we have had a stalemate that has lasted weeks and seven times the Senate has tried but failed to have the formula passed.

The stalemate puts Raila and Deputy President William Ruto in a precarious positions: Oppose the Uhuru-supported revenue formula and kiss the Mt Kenya votes goodbye or support the formula and say goodbye to the marginalised communities and counties.

Neither wants this and so, like King Solomon, Raila put out a statement that takes care of both — supporting the CRA formula, while assuring the marginalised communities they will be fine under the formula.

In his statement, Raila said the CRA recommendation is built on “lessons from a comprehensive review of the second basis, a comparative analysis of financing transfer systems from other countries, and extensive consultations with the national government, county governments, public finance experts and the public in an independent and non-partisan manner.”

In other words, all due consideration has been given to all there is, and due process has taken hold as it should in a democratic process.

To now start whining or hoping to clobber Raila, and not Uhuru or Ruto for supporting this formula, which as all three do, is to be dishonest and disingenuous.

However, dishonest  and disingenuous is the middle name for many politicians.

The President must know that the coronavirus has up-ended everything and, therefore, what happens henceforth is all about who succeeds him.

Managing the succession game is something Uhuru must tackle head-on and manage successfully, ditto post-coronavirus recovery.

This is what will define Uhuru’s legacy, not implementation of the Big Four agenda. There will be time for that in the next government.

Samuel Omwenga is a legal analyst and political commentator