25 May

By Javas Bigambo

The “outsider” mentality to political class consciousness and “the others” peripheral perceptions of communities, groups and individuals in Kenya, is the functional force of drawbacks to what should necessarily be progressive growth of democratization, inclusivity and constitutional permissiveness of frameworks that not only foster institutional expansionism for inclusiveness, but also a shot in the arm for national cohesiveness.

A painfully narrow and simplistic view of this is what would lead some to dismiss with a wave of the hand, the growing call for institutional reforms of even constitutional commissions such as the IEBC. That mass inequality, class and ethnic discrimination are alive in Kenya does not need hyperbolic narratives.
Everything seems to be tribal, petty, narrow and simplistic. Even an average mind of objective quality would appreciate tribalism is taking Kenya down so fast than the threat of terrorism.

Einstein on consciousness

Einstein on consciousness

The paradox of ethnic entitlement is a narrative now even being fed to the poor, and propagated in such a manner that it shreds logic, wisdom and inclusivity in political spaces in Kenya, now even more prominent under the Jubilee government, through the false but now accepted “tyranny of numbers” dumbness, predicated on an emptiness of consciousness.

To me, there is nothing impressive about tyranny of any kind, and the only numbers that should matter must be figures that speak to reduced national debt, reduced public wage bill, reduced number of poor people, and increased number in prisons of the corrupt, unjust and those who murder at will.
Kenya is presently winged into a labyrinth of political woes that would easily be averted by national leadership that is open to ideas and collective progress.

These are the times that call for the urgency of a nation’s consciousness must be awakened. Debates must start on every platform, and discussion through every channel and media, discussions that are true and helpful. These are indeed times that put the media and journalism on trial.

Javas Bigambo arguing out a point on NTV's Press Pass programme.

Javas Bigambo arguing out a point on NTV’s Press Pass programme.

Why do politicians look at their opponents through the lenses of enmity? Why do politicians reduce communities merely into ethnic bandwagons and appreciate then only as voting machines that can be procured on the cheap? Why do national leaders and heads of parastatals venture into wanton pillage under the veil of communities? But most importantly, why can’t ordinary Kenyans see through the cracks see the big picture?

A nation that sets one community against the other is one that is one that is surrendering to degradation and death, a total aversion to growth.
Many things are a miss in Kenya, but the biggest is the lack of a national consciousness that creates a platform where national pride and cohesiveness are evident, not occasionally but always.


24 Jun

By Javas Bigambo

(This is a transcript of the extemporaneous speech delivered by Javas Bigambo as the key speaker at the annual Kenya and Somali Expert Assembly of the GIZ (German Cooperation) held on the 23rd June 2015, at Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi)

GIZ Country Director Hendrik Linneweber, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

I am grateful to be hosted by the GIZ fraternity to reflect among experts on the subject of CITIZENS AT WORK: SERVICE DELIVERY AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN DEVOLUTION.
I thank you all accomplished enthusiasts of development for doing all you do to make things work. I feel honoured to join with you in this hall.

My entire remarks are predicated on the primacy of the revolution in governance christened DEVOLUTION, the only third truly remarkable thing to have happened in Kenya. The first great thing ever happening was attainment of Independence in 1963; the second is the introduction of multiparty democracy politics in 1992; and the third being devolution, thanks to the 2010 referendum and promulgation 0f the Constitution.

Everywhere you turn today, you see attempts of communities in action. It is not in doubt that devolution is the future of communities for shared growth and shared prosperity.

There are numerous success stories from various counties which can be told, that demonstrate how devolved governance has effectively led to distribution of resources across the country in the counties; how communities are striving to identify their place through participation; access to leaders and services;

1) Improved health services delivery: In most counties, for the longest time in our history, residents had long been trapped in the tragedy of broken-down, insufficient health facilities, and numerous maternal death cases. Now the narrative is changing. Counties are registering improved health services delivery. More than 9,000 health workers have been employed across the 47 counties; health facilities are being given face lifts and getting equipped; construction of new health facilities is evident; ambulances have been purchased; drugs are now in most health facilities and maternal death cases are on a steady decrease. In Mandera County in 2014, the people came a live to the first ever Cesarean Section since Kenya’ independence. Lamu County is innovatively using speed-boats as ambulances, and Samburu County has come up with delivery Manyattas.

2) Water supply: Makueni County is making history on its part with approaches for increased water harvesting and storage, because water is a priority issue in that County.

3) Education: Around the 47 Counties, thus far, over 3,000 ECDE teachers have been employed, and County Governments are sparing no shilling to develop ECDE centers and scale up polytechnics and Medical Training Centers.

4) Agriculture: Farmers in many Counties are finding reprieve, and smiling all the way to the bank. In Murang’a County, the shilling has doubled for the dairy farmers because middle men or brokers have been eliminated, and marketing approaches have been enhanced. Across the country, Narok County has purchased milk coolers to increase milk storage and reduce wastage. Farmers in Trans-Nzoia like in the Rift Valley are receiving fertilizer and seeds at subsidized costs.

5) Infrastructure Development: Nearly in every County, there are evident works of grading or graveling of roads, or tarmacking. Machakos County has demonstrated how this can be done through their brand of Maendeleo Chap Chap, and rural areas in many counties are opening up for access. This will enhance mobility and access to services.
6) Trade Industrialization: County Governments and embracing technology and now angling for breakthrough in industrialization through evident efforts to make Private Public Partnerships to work.

These efforts and changes are evident to all of us, and no one can argue against them. However, in the thrilling changes of devolution, not everything is rosy.

I have traveled the length and breadth of this country, just as much as all of you, and I have been confronted by the same questions and challenges that have not eluded any of you. Why are people asking themselves too many questions about devolution? Three years after the roll out of devolution why is accountability emerging as a major challenge? These are things we all know to be true.
Record numbers are losing hope and sliding into despair. There is need for a turnaround in these formative years, to seal the gaps, enhance transparency and accountability, and renew the people’s hope in approaches to devolved governance.

The fundamental pillars of devolution are strongly enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya, and devolution is clearly the backbone of our Constitution.

Our challenge with devolution is very clear. Many people, far too many people don’t understand its layout and its objects. We all realise that uncertainty of political good will in transparency and accountability, and power politics remain a major challenge, and need urgent attention.

Three years now since the 2013 elections, we can firmly say that the amorphous nature of public participation without useful structures in place makes far too many people find it difficult to engage with the leadership. I am referring to public participation in three perspectives: public participation as a process, public participation as a space or platform and public participation with regard to capacity. Without access to information people and communities cannot effectively participate in decision making and furthering the development agenda in devolved governance.

Public awareness levels are still low, just as much as literacy levels, and this is greatly exploited by cunning politicians. Less informed communities are a weakness in the progress of devolution. County Governments too must go further in packaging and disseminating information. Much possibly is being done, yet much remains unknown to the public.

County Assemblies too are mostly filled by semi-illiterate politicians who now engage in wanton plunder of resources. Just check around, and you will realise that more than half the big contracts and machines in County governments are superintended by those in power, to their own companies through proxies, and common citizens have only a 2 percent chance to win tenders. That is the reality in which we live.

There is need for enhanced safeguards in devolution. Constitution implementation is a must but should not be the only safeguard. The power in the hands of the people must be enhanced by fast-tracking the enactment of a comprehensive Public Participation Act; there is need to lobby for the amendment of the Elections Act 2012 to make sure that every holder of an elective position must be a degree holder.

Legislation, policy formulation and oversight are not simple things, they are complex. You cannot legislate when you are semi-illiterate. This tells you why the quality of legislation is compromised.
Perchance in times ahead we may need to have in place a body that can police public participation mechanisms across all the Counties, and strengthen this principle.

Further, the need to leverage devolution’s success on technology; transparency and accountability; leadership and integrity, and Constitutionalism needs no emphasis.

We find ourselves at a point in time where we must ask ourselves hard questions, for our own sake, and for the sake of communities, and self-analyse, and determine whether we want to look at devolution as an instrument of ethic fiefdoms and corruption, or as an instrument of hope and prosperity in the hands of communities.

Challenges are rife, and seem to get compounded. Border conflicts between Counties are on the rise; ethnic chauvinism is now at unprecedented levels, and most recently, the flexing of political muscles between the Senate and the National Assembly nearly brought the functioning of County Governments to a halt. The speaker of the National Assembly and the speaker of the Senate are always at odds, and often speak at cross purposes.
These are challenges that we must agree exist, and face them with appropriate measures.

The challenges faced by County Governments with regard to Private Public Partnership need attention too. The bureaucracies and attendant challenges must be reduced, especially by the National Government. PPPs must be made to work for the Counties, just as much as County Governments themselves need have their capacity in the planning component scaled up.

Additionally, Counties need to go beyond the formulation of CIDPs. It is regrettable many residents across Counties remain less involved in development. Most County Governments have not publicly shared their CIDPs. No County has translated their CIDP into Kiswahili. It is necessary and proper that important national documents be made available and functional. The Constitution of Kenya too is printed in the English language only. There is no official translation of the Constitution into Kiswahili. This leaves out many Kenyans, and denies them the chance to understand the supreme source of law in Kenya.

From my experience as a consultant in governance, devolution and development communication, I find it necessary that for future strengthening of devolution, to have in place a framework called Counties Peer Review Mechanism, a platform that could help County governments to caucus among themselves as accountability partners. This can be something modeled around but more functional than the Africa Peer Review Mechanism among African countries.
It is time for everyone to value devolution, and for devolution to be of value to everyone, not the privileged few.
It is important for us to shepherd ourselves around common goals and aspirations, that tether us to those values and principles of good governance lifted and consecrated by the Constitution.
Kenya needs partners in this endeavor.
Communities and Counties need partners too, and you are in the right place. For the great support and commitment you continue to offer as GIZ experts and for the multi-sector support as development partners, you certainly deserve the thanks of all people.

Javas can be reached on mail through


10 May

By Javas Bigambo

Today the world pauses to celebrate a day in honour of mothers in the year 2015. For the much that many like her, have had to countenance in the endeavor to spruce up and nurture individuals, such as the humble author of this note, it is not easy to mention every effort made by mothers all over the world. Sacrifice has no better example than the spirit and path beaten by every mother. To celebrate them is the least that can be done, to honour them should be the joy of mankind. To my mother Jael, and all mothers, with thanks.

A mother is the symbol of endurance (Photo courtesy Malawi MDG campaign)

A mother is the symbol of endurance (Photo courtesy Malawi MDG campaign)


17 Jan

By Javas Bigambo

Plaints and counter-plaints are flying across the global web and media in the aftermath of the fatuous Paris attack. The Pan-African jingoists are whispering incomprehensible things while Euro-centrists are rising to eminence over the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Je suis Charlie” is now a global slogan, a magnetic and profound worldwide meme that everyone is struggling to identify with. It is emerging as a powerful symbol of the struggle against terrorism. It may easily rise to be the face of defiance and a flash in the face of intolerant religious extremists. The Charlie Hebdo incidence as it place in history already.

A sea of humanity descended upon the streets of Paris, held hands, and some pushed others over for a moment with the cameras, and many remained in their homes chocked with grief, while others supported the weight of their heads with their hands, wondering what an intolerant world we have become. The world mourns the brazen shooting of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, and it is fitting as the world mourns the death of cartoonists and top editors, and condoles with their families, the veil is lifted at this timely hour.

World Leaders guiding the International March of Unity in Paris after Charlie Hebdo attack.

World Leaders guiding the International March of Unity in Paris after Charlie Hebdo attack.

As the world reflects upon the impact and related interpretations of the power of satire magnificently shouldered by Charlie Hebdo, an expressively artistic newspaper, I remember a long departed Ugandan author, lyricist and towering poet called Okot P’Bitek.

While he is remembered for ingenious works such as Song of Lawino, there is a small great book he wrote titled “Artist, the Ruler”. While that book is a collection of essays on Art, Culture, and Values, including extracts from Song of Soldier and White Teeth Make People Laugh on Earth, that title alone could invite us to think, in appreciation of art.

Art is powerful. It is works of art that invited an unwarranted attack on Charlie Hebdo. It is the work of artists that now has the world talking. The 21st century’s global agenda continues to be shaped by acts of and responses to acts of terrorism. Since September 11, the devastating attack on America’s soil and the attendant response to counter-terrorism, the world has changed, the ground immensely shifted.
Terrorism is now a global problem in all its forms. Grief has no shades of black or white, neither is it grey. All continents must unite against terrorism. The fight against terrorism must gain the necessary prominence even in foreign policy and international diplomacy across all continents.

Yes, the attackers on Charlie Hebdo were just as prejudiced as the newspaper itself, and that is why it is vital to start entertaining deeper reflections on the place of literary freedom and religious chauvinism in the advancement of global peace.
Few questions may arise over the solidary march in Paris. What exactly was the march about and what was it not about? Was it about solidarity with the families of those exterminated by the dishonourable bullets of the intolerant terrorists? Was it a depiction of solidarity against attack on Charlie Hebdo and thus a voice against all forms of terrorism? Was it a voice in line with anti-semitism? Or was it a march for freedom of expression? We may not necessarily isolate the questions, but if it was objectively a march against terrorism, why didn’t it stretch from the cold streets of France to the dusty scotching heat of Nigeria?

It is sad that 17 people were killed in the Charlie Hebdo intolerable religious ignominy, but 2000 people were killed in Nigeria by the nefarious arm of Boko Haram, yet the world wept inconsolably for the 17, and left the 2000 with unnoticed pity in Baga, Borno state Nigeria. What yawning indifference this is! Why the cacophonous near-racist response to terrorism?

Boko Haram Militants: They are a dangerous terror group like Al-Qaeda.

Boko Haram Militants: They are a dangerous terror group like Al-Qaeda.

The Paris protest, fitting as it was, has degraded Africa even further, and positioned the continent merely as a hostage of western interests.

The march in Paris was supremely a white protest against terrorism, and world leaders striving for political mileage and angling for significance in the global political currency. The indifference of the Western powers, and their unmistaken decision not to march on the streets of Nigeria as they did in Paris 3.7 million strong protesters, remains a self-evident shattering blow to the hopes of the African continent that the commitment of global powers to combat terrorism is unbiased around the world. Africa remains forlorn, recoiling in self-pity, and occasionally bathed with the sloppy dozes of Western sympathy.

The African continent is incessantly drenched in miseries of terrorism, the original tragedy of shouldering Western interests, wiping off black tears of anguish that cannot attract white protests of solidarity as witnessed in Paris.
Admittedly, the stridency of cluelessness of America and Europe on how Africa feels should be unveiled the prevailing circumstances. Since the attacks on Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam in 1998, to Kikambala in the Kenyan coast, flowed by numerous other terror attacks in Nairobi, the Kenyan coast, in Kampala and the situation now running out of hand in Nigeria, major world powers have kept a convenient silence, and demonstrated their concern by issuing travel advisories against the countries in distress.

Acts of terrorism in the past one and a half decades and gradually transformed from being an attack on western interest in Africa, to a global problem pitting cross-continental interests. There is no doubt that terrorist groups across the world continue to advance their sources of financing, arms and recruits, and their reliance on technology and sophisticated intelligence and media exposes just how intricate the different terror groups and their networks are.

Look at Nigeria. Recall the abduction of young girls by the Boko Haram. All that the world could do was suggest photo sessions requesting the terrorists to “bring back the girls”.
Terrorism has affected economies in the global East of Africa; whole industries such as tourism continue to suffer because of inconsiderate travel advisories, thousands of lives have been lost, many survivors are maimed, and on their part, the terrorists continue to be more sophisticated.
America and the Western powers must reawaken their consciousness and stand for something greater than them. What we need is a global protest against terrorism, depicted in singular strategic efforts against the vice. Not isolated white protests against terrorism, pitted against overwhelming black tears mourning the death of thousands in the hands of terrorists.


14 Nov

By Peter O. M. Wanyama

One of the defining characteristic of Kenya’s post-independence constitutional and legal order from 1963-2010 was the consolidation or centralization of sovereign power in the central government. As a result, the governments that were in power during this period presided over governance pattern allowed official marginalization and skewed distribution of national resources. This dominantly contributed to the clamor for a new Constitution and largely influenced the contents content of the Bomas, Kilifi, the Wako and the Naivasha Drafts of the Constitution provided some form of devolution.

The Constitution of Kenya 2010, whose contents were influenced by these earlier drafts, came into force on the 27th October 2010 upon its promulgation before Kenyans. Its implementation began in earnest in March, 2013, immediately after the elections that ushered in a new national executive, legislature and the county governments.

Many Kenyans pinned their hopes on devolution to realise the dreams that were over the decades frustrated by skewed appropriation of resources to the centre. Owing to this expectation that devolution would provide a remedy for the economic injustice over the years, the county governments are under pressure to deliver on these expectations. This delivery would not be possible without the necessary fiscal support that is required form the national government.

Devolution was meant to achieve the following objectives:
(a) To ensure the democratic and accountable exercise of sovereign power;
(b) To foster national unity by recognising diversity;
(c) To give powers of self-governance to the people at all levels and 0enhance the participation of people in the exercise of the powers of the state;
(d) To recognize the right of local communities to manage their own local affairs, and to form networks and associations to assist in that management and to further their development;
(e) To protect and promote the interests and rights of minorities and marginalized groups at all levels;
(f) To promote social and economic development and the provision of proximate, easily-accessed services throughout Kenya; and
(g) To ensure equitable sharing of national and local resources throughout Kenya, with special provisions for less developed areas.

However, the critical challenges lie in the implementation of the devolution. The implementation of the developed governance structure alone requires intense executive leadership and unbridled commitment on the relevant state organs. Despite, that the Constitution establishes the nation-state of Kenya on a platform of devolution, ethical conduct, integrity, transparency and accountability, its implementation is being defeated. The following examples aptly illustrate these points:

The National Government is constitutional responsible for the development of policy in an environment of consultation and cooperation. At the moment there are 200 national government policy documents that require review to conform to the Constitution and devolution. National government has not reviewed these polices, which it continues to implement. As a result, national government ministries and functionaries continue to preside over a government structure that encourages arbitrary decision making and unaccountable bureaucracies.

It also lays basis for abuse of executive power and centralization of decision making contrary to the promises in the Constitution. For example, the Rural Electrification Programme, the Constituency Development Fund, the Road Maintenance Levy Fund, and other numerous national government programmes continue to be implemented in total disregard of the Constitution and the existence of county governments. Moreover, parastatals such as the Kenya Rural Roads Authority, Kenya Urban Roads Authority, and Regional Development Authorities continue to be funded to undertake county government functions in total disregard to the Constitution.

It is on this basis that the Council of Governors calls for Transition Authority, the Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution, the Kenya Law Reform Commission, Parliament, National Government ministries, the Attorney General and other key state organs, to play their rightful role in ensuring the existing policy, legal order and institutional framework of Government accords to the principles of devolution. Specifically, the Attorney General, who is principal legal advisor to government, should strive to nurture and imprint the culture of constitutionalism and devolution in all government actions, decisions and policies. To effectively imprint the culture of Constitutionalism at all levels in government, a fundamental clean-up of the entire legal order, policy framework and operational principles is required. This is a task that falls squarely on the office of the Attorney General.

When Kenyans voted for new constitution to remove fused executive and parliament, they wanted new paradigm of checks and balances, raised bar on the transparency and accountability in executive and parliament performance of the respective functions, and set significant standards which every arm of the state should adhere to while conducting its affairs. However, the politically self-driven laws being generated by Parliament raise serious question on the competence of Parliament to ensure high standard in the quality of legislation as a constitutional duty. There seems to be no code of legislative standards set for good quality legislation agreed between Parliament and the Executive. In addition, Parliament has no mechanism of ensuring quality control to oversee application and effectiveness of the code of legislative standards as well as perform pre-legislative scrutiny.

Clearly, there is little consultation and scrutiny engagement of expertise deployed from policy to legislative process. Consequently, Parliament keeps generating defective and or deficient laws as well as carrying out shallow oversight. Parliament is pretty good on observation but very poor in substantive, proactive and active examination of its legislative and oversight work. Governors are concerned these about laws. Most laws being drafted such as the Agricultural laws, Mining Bill, Water Bill, Energy Bill, Forestry Bill, Roads Bill, Potato Bill, and many others all undermine County Governments.

Other sources of laws that undermine devolution emanate from subsidiary legislation that Cabinet Secretaries promulgate. Statutory grants of rule-making authority to the executive branch in Kenya often leave Cabinet Secretaries with considerable latitude in applying legislation to individual cases. Following long-established practice, neither the Constitution nor statutes require transparency or public consultation in the making of executive regulations.

In a legal regime where most laws come in the form of delegated legislation or executive rule making, the continued absence of meaningful parliamentary, popular, or judicial oversight of sub-legislative rule making effectively enthrones the executive as the real source of the laws governing society’s routine social and economic activity. To guarantee the effectiveness of the constitutional and legal order, the Attorney General shall be required to advise and create a defined framework that as much as possible curtails the unfettered discretion of the Executive. Besides, the provisions of the Statutory Instruments Act must be fully implemented. At the moment there are over 50 regulations that require review. They provide good fodder to undermine functions of counties.

Devolution is a system under which certain governmental powers are exercised by the counties, not by the national government. In this way devolution is an integral part of Kenya’s constitutional system. Fundamentally, the success of devolution will require huge resources, public awareness, capacity building initiatives and highly committed personnel, institutions and organizations, founded on the national values as enshrined in the Constitution.

The question of adequate funding to County Governments has been discussed in forums for intergovernmental relations such as the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Forum and the Summit. Despite, agreement with key stakeholders such at the Commission for Revenue Allocation and the Senate, Treasury and National Assembly have incessantly pushed for a reduction of the equitable share to County Governments. For example, in the 2014/2015 financial year, the figure was cut from Kshs. 270 Billion to Kshs. 226 Billion. Kshs. 226 Billion is nearly is 12.5 % of the national revenue which stands at as staggering Kshs. 1 Trillion.

The Council undertook a cursory review of the 2013/2014 financial budget and discovered that the national government had allocated over Kshs. 120 Billion on budgetary items that are fully devolved. This forms the basis of the increased push for more allocation to Counties. Besides, the national government has not shown any hurry to complete the audit of its accounts. The allocation to counties in the 2014/2015 financial year is based on the approved accounts of 2010/2011 budget. Administrative delays in the approval of the budget aids the national government in underfunding counties.

County Governments are also worried about the unchecked borrowing by the national government. In the last financial year the national government collected taxes in the sum of Kshs. 1.2 trillion. Out of this amount, it proposes to use Kshs. 400 billion to pay loans and interest thereof and another Kshs. 500 Billion ostensibly for ‘strategic national interests.’ It is not clear what these strategic national interests are. The effect is that the equitable share to Counties is significantly reduced. There is urgent need to restructure national government borrowing and to develop an equitable revenue sharing formula that is based on costed-functions.

This article was written by Peter O.M. Wanyama.
The Author of this article, Peter Manyonge Wanyama of Manyonge Wanyama & Associates Advocates, is a corporate lawyer based in Nairobi, Kenya. He has extensive experience in corporate/commercial law and law reform. Peter has initiated key areas of legal practice in Kenya such as legal audit and risk-based legal practice.


10 Nov

By Javas Bigambo

It is not easy to mourn Dr. Myles Munroe. The uniquely gifted preacher and motivational speaker sculpted careers, shaped minds and inspired souls through his soaring oratory and disarming wit. Now the world says goodbye to a man of talent.

Dr. Myles Munroe together with his wife Ruth and 7 others dies in a tragic plane crash in the Bahamas.

Dr. Myles Munroe together with his wife Ruth and 7 others died in a tragic plane crash in the Bahamas.

From my desk here in Nairobi Kenya, I have no fitting superlative encomiums to pen a fitting eulogy in honour of that distinguished international leader, whose time on earth has fled on gossamer wings, poignantly robbing the earth of a consummate businessman, celebrated author and a bright lamp upon a hill.

From the small elegant Bahamas the world has benefited the most. Today, the Bahamas is clouded by the low-hanging clouds of grief. Myles, Ruth and the other seven souls in the plane crash – rest in peace.

The Bahamas is a beautiful Common Wealth nation.

The Bahamas is a beautiful Common Wealth nation.


22 Oct

By Javas Bigambo

Far easy it is to apotheosise the departed academician Prof. Ali Mazrui, whose memory and transcendental writings and academic praxis will be cited by generations to come. I braved his writings way back in primary school, and his writings and mastery of African political prairie would effortlessly bathe me with a refreshing wit, just as much as Wole Soyinka, Philip Ochieng, Betwel Ogot, Nadine Gordimer continue to do.

Their pen’s suffusion will remain the pleasant materials for avid readers. May the old man find calm, with the pleasure of the Almighty, and rest in the peace that only the company of angels can provide.

Prof. Mazrui gesturing in a file photo. He was a respected scholar around the world.

Prof. Mazrui gesturing in a file photo. He was a respected scholar around the world.

As we remember the accomplished scholar, it is not enough to say an intellectual giant has walked in our midst.


25 Sep

By Javas Bigambo

I find it most difficult a task to opine on a matter that celebrated seniors, intellectual giants and my contemporaries have long weighed in, the object of my fear being that my view may not necessarily be diametrically detached from some views already in circulation, on the alleged subject of Tony Mochama sexually assaulting Shailja Patel.

For my response, I do not intend to make an academic rejoinder to this matter, more refined academics have already responded. Neither am I willing to jump into a biased rhapsody of condemnation by throwing stones and sticks without analysis of unequivocal meritorious witness accounts and counter accounts from both sides.

The person and character on Tony Mochama has been called to question, primarily on account of the alleged occurrence on the said date now well known to all. I must not defer any further to state that my few interactions with Mochama on social media, and one account in person, have undoubtedly left a bitter taste in my mouth, his sharp unapologetic tongue incessantly being on the loose. Perchance that is his vocation. But that I leave to literary and sociological historians for analysis, if needs be.

I have not met Shailja in person or spirit, save through her works. So don’t tell me I am biased, for, in principle, I have no basis to depend on any social ties as crutches to make my view.

It is improper and unfortunate that such act of sexual assault happened, if it did. It is more unfortunate that it is alleged to have happened at an assembly of creative, progressive and exposed minds. It is obvious that a sound mind cannot merely create such assertions, but it must also be clear that such charge must be verified and proper avenues embraced before putting the whole into circulation. There must not seem to be a thin membrane of pursuit of justice and malice in this matter.

Complete unverified accounts have been made by both sides, none zealous to pursue the most logical and necessary, yet urgent avenue of the justice system, yet both sides most given to witness or permit the social demise of the other.

The evidence of selected responses on this platform and elsewhere permit me the confidence to state that the manner in which this whole allegation has been presented makes it easy for one to be emotive, partisan and possibly uncritical of the whole.
I have no grounds for approbation or to excuse any claims made by either side, as I am neither a judge nor God to determine this matter ex cathedra.

It is logical and fitting, that the matter can and should effectively be presented to our growing criminal justice system, for the necessary inter partes hearing and acceptable determination.
I do necessarily believe in alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, in selective matters, which, I hold, the matter at issue should not entertain.

I see scattered merit, if any, in the urgent calls to demobilise Mochana socially, economically and professionally, primarily on the account of strong chronicles made by Prof. Wambui for and on behalf of Shailja. Neither does Mochama’s distant response offer any meaningful appreciation of the seriousness of the matter now before us.

The weight of this allegation should not be left to the strength of integrated social and professional network systems enjoyed by each party, which can potentially be explored with relative impunity.

I agree with Muthoni Wanyeki that it is in our place to hold the justice system to account by using it. I hold that our appreciation of Kenya’s justice system as frail must not be an excuse to avoid using it, whatever the matter. It is the justice system and the supremacy of laws that makes life less “brutish, nasty and short”.

Further, I agree with Al Kags that we can have this matter excellently pursued by affording each side to present their case in the courts of law. I cannot disagree with Robert Alai to the unstinting extent that condemnation of Mochama without hearing him out is tantamount to crucifying someone then later trying to establish whether the crucifixion was proper, after all.

I agree with Prof. Keguro Macharia, in part, that our keenness on accountability must not be loosened. But that accountability must not be exclusive of the existing tools and instruments that make legal and social progress possible. It may not be proper that we should set out to give a dog a bad name chiefly because we want to kill it.

If Shailja Patel was sexually assaulted by Tony Mochama, let her take the matter to the courts. If Tony Mochama refutes the allegations and is willing to prove his innocence, let him go to court. The courts will afford both parties a less dramatic avenue to resolve this matter, without the base alloy of emotional and fraternal sympathy without preliminary condemnation.

This, in my estimate, will potentially guard against the alleged victim suffering further or annexed violence, by giving room to normative and substantive application of the law. Let the hunger for justice be the railroad upon which the train of truth will pass.

Social expediency must not be a substitute or be recourse to systematic justice. If we cannot believe in the justice system at a time of relative order, what would make us believe in it at a time of chaos?
I do believe that women’s rights are undoubtedly human rights, and thus my view that this matter is best handled through an acceptable rights-based approach.

Sexual assault is a public issue, and of unfettered public interest. Documented cases around the continent such as that of Amina Lawal of Nigeria whose appeal ruling came through in 2003 must affirm our collective courage to believe in the justice system, however frail it is, however disbelieving we are in it.

In closing, numerous reports in the public domain in Rwanda, Uganda, the Congo, South Africa and here in Kenya make absolute sense of the way forward, founded on accounts of transitional justice, closing the gender gap, women empowerment and law enforcement in developing nations. UNIFEM’s report 2008/2009 titled “Who Answers to Women: Gender & Accountability” also offers useful discourse. Like authentic justice, future history can be unforgiving on a matter of this nature.


23 Sep

By Javas Bigambo

Kenya’s political intelligentsia is on an ugly mission. The rejuvenated pursuit of corroding devolution in Kenya is so tasteless, so thankless an endeavour that at worst amounts to spitting in the face of Kenyans. This paper discusses the devolution imbroglio in Kenya, and the convoluted path of implementation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, reflecting on political and socio-economic yearnings that are emerging to be either a curse, or a calculated move to kill the goose that is tipped to lay the golden egg.

Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua has excellently used PR to demonstrate his efforts to transform his county.

Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua has excellently used PR to demonstrate his efforts to transform his county.

Devolution is the statutory granting of powers from the central government (national government) of a sovereign state to governments at subnational levels, such as counties or states. It is a form of decentralization. Devolved territories have the power to make legislation relevant to the area.

With regard to Constitution of Kenya 2010, devolution encompasses the relocation of some functions, resources, and power to the County level of government, so as to bring services closer to the people, and to include them in decision making on issues that affect them and the approaches to governance most desirable to them. Devolution in Kenya is viewed in the context of propelling rapid economic growth.

Devolution differs from federalism in that the devolved powers of the subnational authority may be temporary and ultimately reside in central government, thus the state remains, de jure unitary.

In Kenya, county governments are responsible for service provision in agriculture, transportation, trade licenses, sanitation, pre-primary education, village polytechnics and most health facilities. While health as a function has been largely devolved, the role of policy formulation remains a responsibility of the national government, including the management of some hospitals such as level 4 and level 5 hospitals, which include referral hospitals. In a general sense, the national government has the overriding responsibility of policy formulation while the county governments are to deliver the various services under their functions.

Therefore, the purpose of devolution is to promote democracy where people are actively involved in leadership, governance, and development for the benefit of all. Devolution therefore is a type of administrative decentralization. When governments devolve functions, it means that they transfer authority for decision-making, finance, and management to semi-autonomous units of local government with corporate status. In devolved systems such as the one in Kenya, the counties have clear and legally recognized geographical boundaries over which they exercise authority and within which they perform public functions.

The Constitution of Kenya postulates that the objectives of devolution are:
i. Promotion of democracy and accountability;
ii. Fostering of national unity;
iii. Enhancing the participation of the people in the exercise of the powers of the state and in making decisions affecting them;
iv. Recognition of the right of communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development;
v. Protection and promotion of the interests and rights of minorities and marginalized communities;
vi. Promotion of social and economic development throughout Kenya;
vii. Ensuring of equitable sharing of national and local resources throughout the country;
viii. Enhancement of checks and balances and the separation of powers.

For too long ordinary citizens and local communities have not had significant say in what happens in in their constituencies, or political jurisdictions, whether in development initiatives, planning, implementation or even budgeting. Sadly, not much of this has changed in Kenya since the advent of devolved government.
It is disquieting that hopes that devolution in Kenya will lead to greater accountability are nose-diving.

The Journey to Devolution in Kenya.
Historically, in the run up to independence, the matter of local government became a key bone of contention, partly because Kenya’s pre-colonial inheritance was one of strong localism. It is from this strong tradition, reinforced by vibrant local authorities with responsibility for a range of services that the tradition of decentralised power grew, (Maina 2005).

The colonial administration encouraged the formation of political associations along regional-ethnic lines, thereby rendering nationalist political movements organisationally weak. The colonialists forbade promising political parties from organising nationwide, confining such organisation to provinces instead.

This demand was driven principally by the desire to reduce the control of Kenya’s larger ethnic groups.
Negotiations of these parties with the British government produced a quasi-federal constitution, the so-called Majimbo Constitution, which gave significant powers to elected regional assemblies. Elected local authorities (councils), with their own local civil servants and bureaucrats, were to deliver most public services, such as education and health. But full implementation of the Majimbo constitution was derailed soon after independence.

The Majimbo constitution itself was replete with uncertainties, giving central government civil servants leeway to interpret it as they pleased. For instance, provisions were quite vague about the extent and purpose of federalism, procedures for participation and the roles of officials at various administrative levels. This was in addition to the unwillingness of central ministries to provide technical and managerial assistance to local government units.
The eight regional governments were abolished in 1966. Nonetheless, Kenya maintained a system of local government operational at the district level and in urban centres, although made much weaker by the centralisation of functions and revenue control.

Attempts in 1967 to strengthen these local authorities, to mitigate against the effects and criticism of repeal of the Majimbo constitution, had little chance to take root as centralisation was accomplished through the Transfer of Functions Act in 1969, by which major services such as primary education, health and road maintenance, were transferred back to the central government.
This same Act also transferred the Graduated Personal Tax (GPT), the major source of revenue for local government, to the central government. Responsibility for “multi-district” planning and national programmes was to be placed in the hands of the head ministries, while responsibility for the operational aspects of the district-specific rural development projects was to be delegated to the district.
Activities of local authorities and non-state actors were to be integrated into district programmes. For this, these local actors were invited to join District Development Committees (DDCs), which formed the cornerstone of the new strategy.
Membership of the DDC was to include a district commissioner (DC) as chairperson, a district development officer (DDO), heads of ministerial departments, area members of parliament, the chairperson of local authorities and officials of KANU (the then-ruling party).

In the years that followed during the immediate post-colonial government under President Jomo Kenyatta’s leadership; the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and the Local Authority Transfer Fund (LATF) during President Mwai Kibaki’s leadership. Yet these have not always performed to the expectation of the people.
These forms of resource distribution were subject to many abuses, and fell short in the area of public participation. Citizen participation in CDF and LATF through the Local Authority Service Delivery Action Plan (LASDAP) process was next to zero.

Tough lessons can be drawn from the successes or failures of these two funds to inform participation at the county level. It is evident that the quality of participation in financial matters both at the national and local levels was limited to impact change on decision making or resource allocation.
Furthermore, the above systems of transference had poor accountability mechanisms, corruption, inefficiency and mismanagement of the resources, (Maina 2005). This meant that service delivery to grassroots in the key areas of land, health, and agriculture was poor and not effective.

Political interference and rewarding political party supporters rather than grassroots communities was the order of the day. For example, the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) was managed by Members of Parliament, who single handedly selected members of CDF Management Committees largely from their supporters.
The devolved governments and all their administrative units need to effectively ensure that county residents actively participate in decision making and development initiatives, and directly feel the impact of the county governments absorbing the billions of shillings annually.

1. There is need to recognise the urban development sector as a stand-alone sector and recognise it as such in the CIDPs by all county governments.
2. County governments need to ensure they deal capacity and management of semi-urban areas, towns and urban areas.
3. Urgency in increased training in the areas of trade and finance.
4. Establish a committee to oversee the implementation and coordination of the Act and the attendant developments.
5. Need to empower county decentralised units. This will help to manage municipalities across the country.
6. Need for effective town planning across the counties.
7. It is necessary for the private sector to have space through which they can play their role effectively.(Private Public Partnership)

Additionally, the national government jointly with county governments need to address the numerous challenges that inhibit the vertical growth of the micro and small enterprises sector. This will improve competitiveness of local products, and possibly county governments need to consider a policy to purchase products from the jua kali sector. Key among them is quality of products and limited product range, which result in low competitiveness. This, he attributed to low levels of technological innovations, technology acquisition and adoption among the operators in the MSE sector.

It is regrettable that low levels of education and technical training of some of the operators and inadequate financial capacity to acquire available technology and infrastructure, sometimes hinders them from seeking and using appropriate technology.

County governments need to be awake to the needs of the people, and the realities of universal development within the counties.
The concept of devolution is motivated by two principles: the demand for equitable distribution of national resources and the need to empower the ordinary mwananchi by ensuring that public expenditure reflects their needs. In this regard, the Constitution, under article 174, emphasises citizen participation in the exercise of power, and in the making of decisions that affect them.

Still, citizen participation is neither a clear concept nor is it easy to implement. Despite the constitutional requirements, Kenya is yet to come up with a clear framework to ensure implementation of citizen participation at the county level, including participation in the county budget making process.
This moment, our courage cannot be defined simply by our willingness to face a failing approach or struggling system of devolved government, but by our determination to overcome 21st century challenges, and form a progressive partnership that will be the envy of African democracies.

Today, Kenya stands tall on the gains of democracy, and the benefits of a devolved system of government. The 47 autonomous county governments have made the elastic dreams of development possible, and the fruits of progress within reach.

Five years ago, on August 27th, the sun rose over Kenya, and a new Constitution was promulgated. The constitution has made this possible, and we take great pride in it. With the evidence of this dream Constitution, it is here, in this country that dreams are not only valid but are validated.

Through this platform Kenya rises to meet the hopes and aspirations of poor families and struggling students. We meet the fears of the rich and the legitimate discontent of labourers from flower farms to those who work in chilly tea and coffee farms. We meet the deferred hopes of young people and the struggles of women young and old.
Our Constitution is the living promise of our liberty and the truth hoped for, which remain the challenge of our generation. It is from this living promise that the reality of devolution rests upon our laps. It is therefore fitting for Kenyans to defend this Constitution with sweat and blood.

The evidence before our eyes is that one year after the roll out of the devolved system of government; we are in a quagmire of system ridicule and waste.

Nation Newspaper's Cartoonist GADO captured it excellently when he indicated that devolution hasn't taken place in the minds(of political leaders).

Nation Newspaper’s Cartoonist GADO captured it excellently when he indicated that devolution hasn’t taken place in the minds(of political leaders).

The evidence of unnecessary travels, excessive expenditure and lack of accountability dismays all of us.
Every side we turn we see communities in need. We see that only the well-connected seem to be progressing. We see the youth and the disabled fighting for opportunities which are hard to find. We see women fighting inequality and children fighting for protection. We see families becoming poorer by the day and political leaders becoming richer by the day. We see in common how we have nothing in common.

The Political Musical Chairs and the Absence of Wisdom
The collective sacrifice, aspirations and Kenyans’ commitment to all-round national development to the villages and hamlets was self-evident during the 2010 referendum, which was swiftly followed by the promulgation of the new Constitution.

Four years after the said promulgation, elected political leaders seem most determined to misinterpret the will of the people.

The emerging sectarian and nationalistic overtones for referendum, led by the political highbrows, pulling in different directions, calling for a wide range of constitutional and administrative changes, and the unwillingness of the elected leaders to discuss on the imperatives of the touted referendum illuminates to numerous derivatives of the referendum push. Some want to demonstrate their political might, others want to position themselves for the next general election, while others want to settle political scores.

The civil society, which ordinarily positions itself as the rare conscience of the nation, has become all too complacent, and has willingly, all evidently elected to keep the peace in the quarters of silence.
Religious leaders on the other hand have become paragons of ethnicity as opposed to voices of hope and cohesion. They live each day to please political leaders of their ethnic orientation. God seems to have departed from the hearts and minds of most religious leaders, and now they are grouping in the dark.

When non-state actors, scholars and independent activists lose focus and become impresarios of the ruling class, or tread too carefully for the fear of unsettling clan masters or so as not to attract unwarranted verbal attacks from the paid supporters of political elites, a nation begins to die.

Devolution is the answer to Kenya’s bothersome question of rural development. It must be the call and interest of all political voices to be the development voices in Kenya, as it must be the case in any society.
The burden of development must not entirely be placed on the shoulders of elected leaders, but on all the people. The kernel of public participation in political and development praxis is the genius of collective accountability, and counting on the people as partners in development.

Kenya’s national Assembly and the Senate have not prioritised enacting a strong law on public participations. The limited provisions on public participation in the County Government Act offer nothing much beyond definition, and how it is to be understood. That explains why nearly all county governments’ budgeting processes have cosmetic involvement of the people within sub-counties.

When you look deeply, you realise that Members of County Assemblies are positioning themselves as small gods, who are thirsty for power, recognition and visibility, and most of them can barely hold a meaningful sustained discussion on critical national or development issues in English or Kiswahili, with utter absence of wisdom.
When you look deeply, you realise that Members of Executive Committees in counties want to be worshiped and celebrated, yet some are embattled for their soaring thirst for wealth, influence and ambition.

When you look even deeply, you note that Senators, MPS and women representatives are the one winning county tenders to supply goods and services in collaboration with County Secretaries.

Most youth people who are not related to those in power, and majority of the disabled cannot secure businesses in counties for the same reason that they are not known.

It is obvious that Kenya will not hold multiple plebiscites. Governors are pushing for more revenue allocation dubbed “Pesa Mashinani”, the Jubilee Coalition want s referendum to cap the age limit for presidential contenders, CORD Coalition wants a referendum to address insecurity, disbandment of the IEBC, reduce cost of living, de-tribalise public service and eliminate famine. The challenge is how the referendum question will be framed for the people to vote on.

Perennial self-interest and sectarian interests are making discourse on the plebiscite quite belligerent and in the process loses sense. The worst is to politicize devolution or development. Devolved government in Kenya has raised more questions than the answer it was supposed to be. Our politicians are the poison arrow killing devolution.

Thus far, the emerging challenges of devolved government in Kenya are political in nature, and it is the political man that seems keen to rock the boat as the common mwananchi helplessly watches. Perhaps only God can save Kenya and devolution, because the Constitution seems unable.

Kanyinga, K. and D. Okello (eds.) (2010) Tensions and Reversals in Democratic Transitions, Nairobi: Society for International Development/ Institute for Development Studies (SID/IDS)
Maina, B. (2005). Monitoring and evaluation of support to decentralisation and local governance: Kenya Case Study. (ECDPM Discussion Paper 61). Maastricht: ECDPM. Ministry of Planning and Vision 2030, (October 2007). Kenya Vision 2030: A Globally Competitive and Prosperous Kenya.
Muriuki G. (1974) Devolution of Power in the Agikuyu community. Fotoform Ltd.
N.A. Saleemi, (2009), General Principles of Law Simplified, Saleemi Publications Ltd., Nairobi
National Council for Law Reporting (Kenya), (2012). The County Governments Act 2012.
National Council for Law Reporting (Kenya), (2010).The Constitution of Kenya 2010.

Ndegwa, S.N. (2002) ‘Decentralization in Africa: A stock-taking survey’, Africa Working Paper Series No. 40, the World Bank, Washington, D.C
Ng’ang’a Wanguhu. (2006). Kenya’s Ethnic communities. Foundation of the Nation. Nairobi, Kenya. Gatúndú Publishers Limited.
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Ministry of Local Government, (April 2011). Volume I: Report of the Task Force on Devolved Government.
Omolo, A. (2010) ‘Devolution in Kenya: A critical review of past and present frameworks’, in IEA Devolution in Kenya: Prospects, challenges and the future, IEA Research Paper Series No. 24, Institute of Economic Affairs, Nairobi.
Restructuring the Kenyan State. ( 17th November 2013),
The Constitution of Kenya. Chapter 11- Devolution.

The writer is a key policy and political analyst, and a consultant in governance, devolution and communication at Interthoughts Consulting. He can be reached through


19 Jun

By Javas Bigambo

Earlier today I teamed up with Ben Mulwa and Brian Weke on a critical TV morning show on K24, to deliberate on the state of national security, and how our politicians are shaping Kenya. For my argument, I advanced three hypotheses which I derive from the state of our politics as a nation. First, we are witnessing a desperate to depict performance. Both government and CORD want to appear to be effective in the eyes of their supporters and rivals.
Second, what we are witnessing is a deep contest of dynasties (the Odinga and Kenyatta political dynasties) and politicians & tribes are merely being used as catalysts. Lastly, we are witnessing a muscle flex for political supremacy. These three factors are making a joke of national security, and using tribalism and their party supporters as arrows in their political quavers. CORD and Jubilee leaders need to search their hearts and spare us their ego championship contests.

Former President Jomo Kenyatta with his son President Uhuru Kenyatta

Former President Jomo Kenyatta with his son President Uhuru Kenyatta

Former Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and his son Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga

Former Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and his son Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga

Kenyans want a progressive country, guided by sound leadership. But it is the ordinary citizens who must demand order, sacrifice, leadership and development from their elected leaders. It is beyond pity that Kenyans are trading insults and going for each other’s jugular merely instigated by tribal animosity. IN the end, with the passage of time, upon personal reflection, it is obvious we will wonder regretfully “why were we really so hateful against each other?”. Why be on the war path ethnic group against ethnic group in a contest of dynasties that we scarcely understand?
So as we blame politicians, let us too search our hearts, and know which path we resolve to follow. It is in our power.