SPECIAL STATUS

Nairobi too important to be devolved

We could adopt the structure of Washington, DC, the US capital.

In Summary
  • With the current crisis, we must ask ourselves, are we ready to continue playing Russian Roulette with the fate of our nation’s capital?
  • Nairobi is the seat of power and administration in Kenya and so its status should not be the same as that of the other counties.

A goatherd had sought to bring back a stray goat to his flock. He whistled and sounded his horn in vain; the straggler paid no attention to the summons. At last the goatherd threw a stone, and breaking its horn, begged the goat not to tell his master. The goat replied, “Why, you silly fellow, the horn will speak though I be silent.”

We sometimes pretend to hide stuff that cannot be hidden like the crisis that we have seen Nairobi walking into over the last seven years. Over the years there have been calls to revert Nairobi county to the control of the national government. Those of this view have argued that Nairobi is too important to be left to a county government alone.

And the crisis the capital is experiencing now after the charging of Governor Mike Sonko and with no deputy to step in has underscored how important Nairobi is to Kenya.

In the seven years of devolution Nairobi has failed to offer essential services and has been plunged into chaos as the county executive and ward representatives fight.

With the current crisis, we must ask ourselves, are we ready to continue playing Russian Roulette with the fate of our nation’s capital? Nairobi is the seat of power and administration in Kenya and so its status should not be the same as that of the other counties.

In addition, as the home of the United Nations and other major diplomatic instalments, Nairobi needs stability. Uncertainty of its leadership cannot be allowed to go into question at any one moment.

Other than this, it has been difficult to allocate adequate resources to Nairobi while using the same formula with other counties.

Across the world, capitals such as Stockholm and London are governed differently from other cities in Sweden and the United Kingdom. So is Mexico City, which has a different governance and administrative model compared to the rest of the country.

It is especially important to note that the Building Bridges Initiative task force recommends that Nairobi be accorded special status as the capital city. This allows the national government the means to provide the services and facilitation necessary to maintaining it as a capital city and as a diplomatic hub.

The report, which is based on the views of Kenyans, also notes that at the same time, such a special status should not impede the rights of the Kenyan people to representation at the ward and parliamentary levels.

This means that the residents would be enjoy political representation in Parliament and the county assembly, and the capital city leadership and management would be managed by the national government.

We would allow the president to appoint someone as the manager of the city reporting directly to the president but also accountable to Parliament. This would mean amending the Constitution to remove Nairobi from the list of counties as currently listed to allow it to be given this unique status.

We could, for instance, adopt the structure of Washington, DC, which is the United States capital. While the city has a mayor and a council that deals with the executive duties of running the city, the federal government also has a stake in ensuring that Washington, DC is running smoothly.

Across the world, capitals such as Stockholm and London are governed differently from other cities in Sweden and the United Kingdom. So is Mexico City, which has a different governance and administrative model compared to the rest of the country.

Nairobi’s situation is not unique. Canada has proposed its capital city be run as a federal district.

Nairobi, like other national capitals, is linked to the State as a whole and is the first city that one thinks of when they think of Kenya. Nairobi, therefore, needs to be protected but should also be able to exert control and project unity.

We must thus move as a matter of urgency to ensure that we save Nairobi from unsustainable leadership. This will help Nairobi remain a key economic and diplomatic hub not only for Kenya but the region as well.