REFERENDUM DEBATE

Why Mt Kenya region is restive about BBI

If proper representation and fair distribution of resources are not addressed adequately, Mt Kenya will remain highly disadvantaged, even if a President is elected from the region.

In Summary

• Mt Kenya people and its diaspora are highly underrepresented in Parliament, compared to the population and the number of voters, whose total is six million.

• It thus creates a new form of marginalisation as resources never commensurate to the needs of the population.

President Uhuru Kenyatta addressES leaders from Central Kenya, Nairobi, Meru and Embu Counties when they called on him at State House, Nairobi on July 1
President Uhuru Kenyatta addressES leaders from Central Kenya, Nairobi, Meru and Embu Counties when they called on him at State House, Nairobi on July 1
Image: PSCU

Legislators drawn from Mt Kenya region and diaspora issued a statement on Thursday, in anticipation of the imminent release of the Building Bridges Initiative report.

BBI was as a result of the famous handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta, and former Premier Raila Odinga on March 9, 2018, arising from the fractious 2017 General Election, and the repeat presidential poll.

The leaders emphasized the need to foster cohesion and unity of purpose to create a conducive business environment. However, there have been concerns as to whether the views presented from the region have been fully incorporated in the report since they contain some irreducible minimums with regards to representation, resource allocation, and the structure of government.

 
 

To begin with, Mt Kenya people and its diaspora are highly underrepresented in Parliament, compared to the population and the number of voters, whose total is six million. For example, the region has 67 parliamentary seats with many constituencies having more than the national average of 67,162 voters.

My home constituency of Ruiru, for instance,  has 160,000 voters, and is the second-highest in the country after Starehe. Naivasha, on the other hand, has 145,049, while Kinangop has 109,241. This is to mean Ruiru, Naivasha and Kinangop should have at least two to three MPs for there to be equity in representation.

On the other hand, Mbalambala, Eldas and Turkana East constituencies have 20,145, 18,676 and 15,620 voters respectively, falling way below one-third of the national average. Further, a county such as Kiambu has 1,180,920 voters, Murang’a 587,126, while Turkana and Garrisa have 191,435 and 163,350 respectively.

Curiously when it comes to resource allocation, Kiambu received Sh9.357 billion in 2018-19, with a per capita of Sh5,764. Turkana received Sh10.77 billion with a corresponding per capita share of Sh12,591. This is to mean a person in Turkana receives nearly two and a half the amount of money a Kiambu resident gets annually.

Further, While, Murang’a has more than three times the number of voters as compared to Mandera county, it receives Sh6.629 billion while Mandera receives Sh10.142 billion. This is almost a Sh4 billion difference.

The argument is simple: Monies must be allocated proportionately to the number of the population and voters, because resources follow functions, or to put it more correctly, you put your money where your mouth is.

The same argument stands when it comes to the allocation of the National Government Constituency Development Fund, whereby no matter the population size, an average of Sh100 million is allocated per constituency. This is a perfect case of slowing down the horse for the donkey to catch up.

 
 

It thus creates a new form of marginalisation as resources never commensurate to the needs of the population. It also explains the high turnover of elected leaders in the Mt Kenya region as compared to other parts of the country. Elected leaders cannot sustain the demands of their electorate, leave alone the probability of direct interaction. Such a scenario waters down the principles of universal suffrage and the equality of the vote with regards to representation.

Moreover, a parliamentary system of government cannot, therefore, adequately meet this requirement, not unless this is done in a manner that MPs are elected through the party lists after Kenyans vote for their preferred political party.

Parliamentary seats would, therefore, be allocated based on the number of votes cast to a given party, while its leader automatically becomes the head of government. However, Mt Kenya region prefers a directly elected President in the spirit of one man, one vote, so that a sweeper and a pilot can each have an equal opportunity of expressing their democratic right.

If proper representation and fair distribution of resources are not addressed adequately,  Mt Kenya will remain highly disadvantaged, even if a President is elected from the region.

These are part of the contested issues that constitute 20 per cent of the current Constitution, and which Kenyans agreed to revisit. If we are to relook at the constitutional framework, it is important to consider such matters as they also affect other regions such as Western, Nyanza, the Rift Valley and parts of Coast.

Nevertheless, it is important for all of us to wait for the release of the BBI report,  to retreat, study it, and thereafter take a position. We must out of our patriotic duty safeguard the future of our beloved country to ensure the country doesn’t come to a standstill every five years. We must de-risk our politics.

The writer is a member of the Kenyan Senate representing persons with disabilities.

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@mwauraisaac1