GOVERNANCE

Voter bribery has crippled devolution in Northeastern

In Summary

• Devolution in Northeastern counties is designed to address decades of political marginalisation and underdevelopment.

• This has, however, been undermined by voter bribery, dominant sub-clan money power, corruption, tribalism and nepotism.

“Leadership is a privilege to better the lives of others. It is not an opportunity to satisfy personal greed,” Former President Mwai Kibaki said. 

For decades, Kenyans have coveted and clamoured for a new system of governance out of dissatisfaction with the central government.

Many disliked the ethno-regional marginalisation, and failure to involve them in governance.

Devolution in Northeastern counties is designed to address decades of political marginalisation and underdevelopment. This has, however, been undermined by voter bribery, dominant sub-clan money power, corruption, tribalism and nepotism.

Many voters in the region are illiterate and poor. Those who call themselves “educated” use the poor to ascend to power and easily manipulate them through the tribal card every five years. 

Many of these voters programmed to be overzealous by ethnic conjured songs and are barely reasoning on issued or the candidates’ manifesto, if any.

Money is a key tool in politics, not because it’s needed for the campaign but for buying loyalty and offering kickbacks to fans and supporters.

Voters in the region need to realise that old ideas won’t offer any transformative and development agenda.  Politicians compete over who has more cars. Voters play hide and seek game with all candidates, welcoming every politician with songs and salutation.

Some of the governors have become small ‘gods’ in the new political dispensation. They have no interest of the voters at heart: They are selfish and self-centered politicians. All of sudden, they are stinking rich, building mansions, and driving guzzlers, and wives accorded public vehicles, bodyguards, and drivers — all on the shoulders of the taxpayers.

We cannot live in a country where the looters of yesteryears assume they have undergone a Pauline conversion because they are in opposition and oppose the government of the day
PLO Lumumba

These three counties of Madera, Garissa and Wajir got close to Sh150 billion according to the Commission of Revenue Authority's records. But corruption is rife. 

Procurement, finance and other sensitive and lucrative departments are given to loyalists and immediate family members, an avenue to loot and embezzle county coffers.  

Stalled projects, huge pending bills and shear zeal of determining project on how much they make and not the needs by constituents have characterised project planning. These in return have led to huge unemployment, poor economy, impunity and patronage in the counties. Billions can’t be accounted for and the inability by the county governments to pay local suppliers has had a multiplier effect on the local economy.

“Our country must morally re-arm. We cannot run a country where virtue is vice and vice is a virtue. We cannot live in a country where the looters of yesteryears assume they have undergone a Pauline conversion because they are in opposition and oppose the government of the day. Some of our richest men and women are to be found in politics and their creed is, thou shall reap what thou hath not sown.” PLO Lumumba once said. 

County assemblies that represent the people are accused of being in ‘bed’ with the executive for selfish interest. They turned to be contractors, busy building mansions and buying cars for the first time after getting contracts from the executive through proxies. Assembly of deals, they are accused.

As voter and resident of the north, I look forward in the day voters will get rid of the kind of tired and retired ideas that have over the years strangulated our political energies and entirely paralysed any forward political movement that would have inspired people’s voice.

Let’s adhere to the principles of devolution, and give powers of self-governance to the people and enhance their participation. We must recognise the rights of communities to manage their own affairs and resource allocation.

Abdullahi Alas is Journalist and policy analyst based in Mandera county

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