Archive | May, 2013

THE AFRICAN UNION AND THE TRAGEDY OF AFRICA’S LEADERSHIP

23 May

By: Javas Bigambo, Interthoughts Consulting

Javas: The AU needs deeper reflection on what direction it must take the African continent in the twenty first century.

Javas: The AU needs deeper reflection on what direction it must take the African continent in the twenty first century.


The narrative of Africa’s development is a trajectory replete with conflicts, wanton murder, struggle, determination, heroism, and flickers of democracy. No, writing about Africa is not entirely a sad story, but the polemical African narrative can never be complete without disruptive and annoying punctuations of conflict of all kinds. Tragically, recent history documents that Africa has played host to the world’s bloodiest conflicts since the Second World War.
The memories of Rwandan genocide, Somalia’s war of decades fought through generations, Sudan’s war story of antagonism, Uganda’s brutal hand of Joseph Kony, or, DRC’s conflicts that threaten to be the longest in global history, or as far North as Libya and Egypt, point to the tattered fabric of Africa’s social and political fabric. Agreeably, Africa is perpetually in turmoil.

Of all tragic causal roots, the sad fact is that conflicts in Africa have no ideological roots, or logical end-game plans or substantive goals. They are embers of egotistic manoeuvres of accomplished self-seekers who have an irredeemable longing for immortality through capitalistic un-celestial yearnings.

For, what would make conscientious humans to turn countries into hecatombs through untold bloodletting, rape and attendant decapitative exercises? It is because of such thoughtless pursuits by rogue regimes, feral military generals and power grabbers that institutions such as the AU exist in Africa. The failure of the AU to make sense of democratic governance in Africa can be no more romanticized. Looking back in retrospect, it is easy to ask:

1. Where was the AU and what did it do when Rwanda filled its rivers with human blood?
2. Where was the AU and what did it do when Libya sunk?
3. What has the AU done significantly to bring sanity to Somalia of the initial Sudan?

No, I am not saying that the AU has regrettably failed, but I wouldn’t know what else to say if I were to be honest. Africa’s conflict imbroglio is a quagmire of leadership and principles, where seemingly the former is a fact of old history while the latter is an apparition.

If not, is the nefarious culture of autocratic regimes in Africa a summer time for the AU? In the definitive analysis of it, the African Union should find the necessity to demystify itself, set itself on a new path through the bushes of present indifference to the African situation. This is because the AU seems to have its leaders in a union of mystery. Every third African on the street of any African state has scarcely any idea of what the AU actually does, it mission or vision, or even its present engagements.

This potentially points to a sad reality that if a referendum were to be conducted across Africa on the relevance of that assembly of African nations, more than half of the African dwellers would not vote in favour of the AU.
It is vital that the AU reworks its policies and changes its strategies without much delay. This can and should be done through strategic leadership at the helm, and further, the AU must refuse to be blind to atrocities and ills committed by African presidents. Regrettably, the AU has barely ever found any fault with an African leader, or even come up with remedies to Africa’s governance and economic challenges.

The AU should also give new blood of thought to IGAD, root for the expeditious maturity of the EAC, strengthen ECOWAS and give continental review to COMESA. There is also need to establish and foster intra-continental forums and platforms for peace-building and conflict mitigation. AU should also be humble enough to consider best practices from the EU.

Javas can be reached through: jbigambo@interthoughts.co.ke

MANAGING DEVOLUTION IN KENYA: CONSEQUENCES AND POLICY OPTIONS FOR KENYA’S APPROACHES TO GOVERNANCE

20 May

By: Javas Bigambo, Consultant at Interthoughts Consulting

Javas Bigambo has headed numerous policy and research initiatives on devolution, has written extensively on it and has trained teams and organizations on devolution across the 47 counties.

Javas Bigambo has headed numerous policy and research initiatives on devolution, has written extensively on it and has trained teams and organizations on devolution across various counties among the 47 counties.


Policy makers, analysts, pundits and politicians are going to spend the next decade trying to gander through Kenya’s approaches to devolution, and significantly so, with a yearning for a success story. This paper sets out some policy options for Kenya in the new era of two-tier system of governance.

From the outset, it is paramount to state that the apparent politicization of devolution from process to issues by the 11th parliament (National Assembly & Senate), tethered around ethereal yearnings for more pay is an indirect constriction on devolution. This white paper by Interthoughts Consulting lays bare the issues for the eye and the mind.

Devolution in Kenya, by it character, object and principles, envisioned to provide opportunity for greater citizen participation in local development and permits the government to respond quickly to local needs (leaders are close). No doubt, the Cardinal Principal of devolution is to distribute administrative, financial and political power to the local levels in order to augment the adeptness and efficacy of government.
Therefore devolution is just one of the techniques of creating a multi-level government. Multi-level governments encompass sharing of authority across levels of government for easier representation and distribution of resources. This is not a new phenomenon in Africa. More countries have constitutionally entrenched multi-level forms of government. These include
1. Uganda (1995)
2. Ethiopia (1994)
3. Nigeria (1999)
4. South Africa (1996)
5. Kenya (2010)

For South Africa, there is a fusion of strong central government and strong provincial government. SA’s final Constitution was embraced in1996 that provides for a quasi-federal as well as a local government with strong protection in Constitution. It therefore gave life to a Constitutional democracy with a three-tier system of government and an independent judiciary. The national, provincial and local levels of government all have legislative and executive authorities in their own spheres, and are defined in the Constitution as distinctive, interdependent and interrelated. Both national and provincial levels have advisory bodies drawn from South Africa’s traditional leaders.

South Africa’s Arms of Government
• The Executive
• Parliament – Consists of The National Assembly and The National Council of Provinces
• Independent Judiciary

On the other hand, Federal government (a three tier government) with a presidential system. This comes out with;
• The Federal Executive
• The Federal Legislature
• The Judiciary
• The State Government
• The Local Government

This is indicative of the direction that Africa’s intended direction, perchance to avert the dark tag of despotism. Of course devolution has created a balance of power and resources in Kenya, and is likely to offer a significant chance to people’s participation on governance eat all levels.
To have the full realization of this, I aver that it is prudent and urgent to have continuous civic and political education on the devolved system of government throughout the country for the next five years. One of the major challenges professionals like journalists and ordinary Kenyans continue to face since the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 is the in-depth understanding of principles, objects, issues and approaches to devolved government in Kenya.
There is scarcely any gainsaying of the fact that there is absolute necessity and urgency to have government-driven national efforts to help all stakeholders to fully fathom matters of devolution. Sustained and in-depth cross-country civic & political education on devolved system of government will afford locals and professionals to have:

 enhanced understanding of the principles of devolution and the enabling laws for the devolved system of government;
 an all-round understanding how devolved systems work elsewhere in Africa and in the world;
 Training of the selected trainers in fundamentals of a successful devolved system of government and the necessity of People’s Participation.
Such training programmes should be delivered using participatory approaches including brainstorming, group tasks and discussions, focused plenary discussions on devolution. The aim of strengthening the devolved governance must, in some sense, begin with the assertion that a specialised body of knowledge on devolution constitutes the core of the appropriate governance, and in fact journalists need a deeper understanding of the issues and principles is vital for media-based informative reporting on devolution.

Specific Outputs of Civic and Political Education on Devolution
1. Purposive training shall serve a function of increasing the knowledge base of the citizens of Kenya on devolution, given that they are the vanguards of the multi-level system of governance in the Kenya democracy.
2. Heightened levels of understanding on the devolved system of governance, as a two-tier structure that was obtained and embraced upon the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 through the direct engagement training.
3. Training programmes will provide an opportunity to debunk myths and assumptions on devolution and decentralized governance, by providing a rich exploration of multi-level governance benchmarks in Africa.
As Tony Bruce pontificates, “There are a number of consistent themes in the policy statements of the devolved countries as they respond to common pressures. These include an emphasis on lifelong learning, more coherent pathways for learners from schools and colleges to university, the need for the rationalisation of provision, and enhanced research performance”.

As the challenges of devolution across the nation begin to emerge, it is clear that it will take even longer for the impact of the reforms to be fully digested and assessed, and journalists remain the eyes of the country. It is impressive to note that some counties have already taken off, with the impeccable example of Machakos County governed by Hon. Governor Alfred Mutua.

Parliament(National Assembly & Senate) will have to pragmatically lead from the front, while governors hold the keys to functional devolution at county level.

Parliament(National Assembly & Senate) will have to pragmatically lead from the front, while governors hold the keys to functional devolution at county level.

Challenges of Devolution in any Democracy
• Breeds corruption – local discretion and proximity result in elite capture
• Promotes inequality – devolved/decentralised taxing and spending increases disparities
• Causes macro-economic instability – devolved/decentralised taxing, spending and borrowing may destabilise the economy
• Requires high levels of capacity for success to be realized.

Benefits of Devolution in Kenya and in any Democracy
• Restrains concentration of power
• Stimulates citizen participation
• Enhances accountability
• Multiple sites of politics is good for multi-party democracy – requires mutual tolerance e.g. opposition governing counties.
• Sub-national governments are seedbed for future leaders if they seize the opportunity to be well organized.

Concluding Remarks
The durability of the Commission on revenue Allocation formula is not accidental, and is functional in the interim. For the 47 counties to witness remarkable autonomy and stability, they must start considering massive investment options, reduce unnecessary expenditure, and boost local economies.
Further, governors and the county executive committees must consider combining needs-based grant finance and county resources has to include some revenue adjustment in order to take account of the differing resource capacities of the various counties, given that the money allocated from the national government not only varies, but does not suffice the fiscal needs of counties.Devolution in Kenya and Africa

Javas can be reached through: jbigambo@interthoughts.co.ke

The role of youth leaders in championing implementation of manifestos and change in Kenya

10 May

SPEECH BY JAVAS BIGAMBO AT THE LEADERS CONFERENCE ORGANIZED BY CENTER FOR MULTIPARTY DEMOCRACY HELD AT THE NAIROBI SAFARI CLUB
TUESDAY 30TH APRIL, 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great delight for me to speak at this forum and I would like to thank the Center for Multiparty Democracy for inviting me to speak at this no less hallowed session. It is a great delight for me to speak at this conference, especially on the selected subject of “The role of young leaders in championing implementation of manifestos.”

Javas Bigambo/File photo

Javas Bigambo/File photo


Honourable Senators present, honourable members of the National Assembly, leaders representing political parties, ladies and gentlemen; To the Muslims present, I extend the prayerful greetings of peace, Asalaam Aleikum!

Young people the world over who had chance and time, helped to shape the most progressive democracies. From history we learn that it is a 32 year old Thomas Jefferson who wrote the immortal words “all men are created equal”, a young explorer discovered America, a young woman reclaimed the territory of France, a young man steered the Jubilee Coalition to Victory in the hotly contested 2013 elections, and now a young man stands before you to share some insights about how young leaders can champion the implementation of party manifestos.

The presence of the galaxy of distinguished guests is testimony to the importance of the forum, and the necessity of this nation to consciously think about political party manifestos after elections. It is also a clear indication of the high standing and the invaluable role that the young, newly elected representatives of the people in the 11th parliament as fundamental pillars in keeping the eyes on the prize.

Notably, every third Kenyan you meet on the street of Nairobi is a member of a political party; and in here, I would accept the quotient is even more imposing. All political parties drew up manifestos, and each political aspirant had a manifesto not far removed from the political party manifesto. These were the SUV’s to power. All of us should therefore yearn to make a real contribution to creating a better world. So then, even as ambition, success and power are ubiquitous in our sustained quest for political significance, our national significance shall no doubt be judged on the level of implementation of those projects and initiatives promised in political party manifestos drawn up and popularized during the campaigns.

A young girl who was raped in Marimanti (Meru) and her poor family could not get to a medical facility until after 48 hours because of lack of ambulances and besides, the roads are impassable. Recently a teenage boy in Kasipul-Kabondo succumbed to snake bite because local dispensaries are not sufficiently equipped to handle such tragedies. These are the stories and realities of life in semi urban and rural villages. These are the people who stood in lines to show support for political parties. These are the people who voted for you. As we gather here, they remain in their villages with unshrinking hope in the faith of their votes, the faith that you represent in parliament.

The young elected leaders should count it their sacred duty to admit no compromise and be ready to do their part in keeping the train to the railway. If you fail at this duty, generations to come will not look at you with forgiving eyes. For, in duty there is responsibility, in power, there is capacity.To embrace a great sense of duty and high resolve to make sure that political parties, those vehicles young leaders used to be elected, get to implement every promise made during the campaigns, and breathe life into the manifestos of political parties.This is the calling of your time.

The people who voted for you, the under 35 political leaders did so because they believe in leaders of character, leaders who are carried in the buoyancy of purpose, leaders of unrivaled confidence and faith in the true ideals of progress, founded on the tenets of selflessness and an unyielding quest for the development of the society.
In the end, to have political parties implement policy issues and every aspect of the manifestos, to set the train of implementation on the railroad, the young elected leaders have to study the manifestos of their parties, and work to initiate Bills and take them to the floor of the house, reach out to others in the spirit of bipartisanship, and see those Bills passed into functional pieces of legislation that will influence national multi-sectoral policies, and have resources equally distributed. Pick up thematic issues from the party manifesto (s) and champion those issues through legislation and policy.

We faithfully look up to you, and your performance during the term of this parliament will affirm or destroy the faith that the nation can have in young leaders. Make that difference by working together, regardless of differences in affiliation to coalitions of parties within parliament. I implore you to recall the wisdom captured in the poem by John Donne that states;

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

Bipartisanship will always take you miles ahead.
It is also vital, exceptionally so, to communicate your individual vision and mission, aligned to the party’s manifesto, to the electorate. Engaging with the electorate will always win you the people’s confidence, and trust. In the end, party manifestos are central to a competitive electoral process as well as the larger civic engagement process. So it was not just about the concluded election, it is about livelihoods of the people. It ranges from food security and infrastructure to job creation and the cost of living. Beyond political rhetoric and semantics in the political lexicon, let us be appreciated by the results produced. The only strategy is to roll the sleeves up, and get the work done.

It would be foul for the electorate to begin to imagine that party manifestos only employ political rhetoric as well as sloganeering to attract voters. In the political enterprise, voters will always evaluate you performance at the end of the office term. If we stand for the people, the people will stand with us and God for us all.
With the galaxy of leaders present, mine is the pleasant imagination that you are the hope of this generation, and that this is the time to forever gain and keep the trust in young leaders in politics.( I am happy to see here Hon. Sakaja, the chairman of TNA, Senator Lesuuda, Hon. Isaac Mwaura, the impressive Hon. Gatobu, independent candidate from Buuri Constituency, Hon. Soipan Tuya, Women Representative of Narok County, Hon. Priscilla Nyokabi, and all the other young elected and nominated members of parliament whose names i may not mention now).

May God Bless you all as you get down to work, and as we turn the page of progress in the nation’s politics.

Thank you.

Javas Bigambo is a consultant at Interthoughts Consulting and can be reached through: jbigambo@interthoughts.co.ke