24 Jul

By Javas Bigambo

Kenya’s general election always fascinates, confounds, stirs and also dissuades most right-thinking observers in a manner that no other country in Africa is capable of doing.

Kenyan Flag: Election times always test our nationhood since independence.

During the peak of each election cycle, the electorate is dazzled with buzzwords of change and associated fantasies, moralist speechifying at campaign rallies against the backdrop of forgotten national and individual histories, and true to their nature, politicians celebrate public ignorance and amnesia like horses consume hay during the drought season.

Seventeen years since the turn of the century, Kenya’s politics is still wretchedly crippled by the vicious pains of tribalism, deplorable plunder and extensive wastage of public resources, favouritism in party primaries and nomination to parliament and county assemblies, reversed wisdom in campaign arguments, and guileful ploys to thwart accountability.

The 2017 election scarcely provides new options or new ideas. What is at play is a battle of craftiness between Jubilee Party and NASA coalition. They are using templates initially used in the 2013 and 20017 elections.

The creepy pursuit of populism and diabolical twists and turns in fleeting accusations and counter-accusations in the political playfield among politicians and political parties, bereft of ideology that must have died soon after the struggle for Kenya’s independence is evident in the lack of requisite ideological drive instrumental for constructive politics.

Javas Bigambo:There is no debate about the need for conscientious debate, and the only debate is about why it is not debatable that we are divided as a nation.

Examining and analyzing all the manifestos presented to voters during the campaign period goes further to depict how not-so-far-apart the political groups are. There are no hard positions on interventions that would create sharp differences to distinguish what each party would offer.

No, I am not pouring cold water on the efforts made by technocrats who penned the manifestos. The trouble is that what the technocrats believe in is not exactly what the political class believes in.

Kenyans are pained by the heightening levels of graft, cronyism, nepotism, flouting of procurement laws and guidelines, disregard for national values domiciled in the Constitution, and thirst for quick riches is the bane of our politics.

Majority of rural populations have refused to interrogate critical issues by examining hard-content with critical depth that would shame the spookiness of the political class.

There has been no critical and sustained insistence by the electorate to have Look at political parties castigate any governor under their party umbrella for misappropriation and plunder of devolved funds.

Look at how no political party is emphasising how local development is going to be exemplified by devolved government, and how they would upscale the oversight roles of County Assemblies to strengthen accountability and oversight at county level.

Look at how no one is immersed in discussing the need to strengthen social audits as a mechanism for enhancing public participation at the two levels of government.

No party is discussing the necessary boost that the Council of Governors needs so as to strengthen direct foreign investment to counties and strengthening of Public Private Partnerships for county governments.

See how no party is discussing the possible and necessary improvements needed to make the Summit and the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council more functional, platforms that most Kenyans know little about, and platforms that have left so much to be desired.

The cost of healthcare continues to be unbearable, health and economic welfare insurance remains slippery, and a preserve of the rich, and sustainable development seems to be a good fairytale.

The politicians are obviously on top of their game, and the pliably oblivious electorate is cheering the politicians on and on.

Kenya needs a new awakening. The prisoners of conscience and tolerance must take to the stage and upstage the grandstanding of the status quo, and drive out the agents of political intolerance.

In the 2017 election cycle, the second cycle since the advent of devolution, the only change that is evident is how politicians are deploying technology to throw mud at opponents, and lack of clarity to specific commitments once elected into public office. It is the Kenyans who stand to lose.

Disturbingly, the gushing wound of tribalism and regionalism is what politicians, the self-appointed doctors, have purposefully refused to treat, and are ready to pop the Champaign bottles at the death of the patient, thanks to the wound.

There is no debate about the need for conscientious debate, and the only debate is about why it is not debatable that we are divided as a nation.

The best description of the Kenyan situation is captured by the Irish poet W. B. Yeats in his timeless poem titled The Second Coming, and he states;

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

An election is supposed to symbolize the light at the end of the tunnel. Sadly, in Kenya, there is no tunnel, and no light. There is no rock bottom that beats having many political leaders with observable conceptual gaps in governance and development.

Political office holders are deemed to be public trustees whose task primarily is to oversee and manage whatever resources entrusted to them as apportioned by the Constitution, and are charitably expected to be do-gooders incapable of pursuing the dusty path of seeking self aggrandizement and personal wealth at the expense of public service.

New levels of political cynicism and idiocy, and class conspiracies continue to be mainstreamed in the Kenyan politics, without foreseeable prospects of clean politics. The brutal tribalism, duplicitous intolerance, and crafty responses to public concerns seem to be the lasting fiber in our body politik.

The voters are admittedly comfortable to choose between degrees of evil. It is like jumping from one hole to the other of similar depth, and imagining that you are kissing the sky.

As we head to the ballot on August 8th 2017, many of us are overwhelmed by the emptiness of many politicians, and as we gasp for air, we are nearly asking for oxygen masks.

Javas Bigambo can be reached through


6 May

By Javas Bigambo

Kenya is yet again headed to another general election, whose stakes are evidently high, and political daggers are already drawn. Among the many questions arising is whether we are well prepared for the general election.

Proper election preparedness is crucial in the advancement of democracy. Political parties as institutions, aided by vibrant and objective civil society, advancing idealpolitik and realpolitik, contribute to the blossoming of democracy.

Political and public institutions aligned to politics are the aorta of democracy, whose backbone is the rule of law.

As Abraham Lincoln easily paused in his pivotal address at the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, “What has this to do with the perpetuation of our political institutions?”

Political institutions are the wheels on which democracy runs. Democracy, like freedom, must always be chosen, and sustained by the resolve of a nation.

Democracy is a critical precursor to fundamental freedoms in any free society.

By it’s nature, democracy prioritises the sanctity of the vote, and guarantees the right of that vote, not just to be cast, but to be counted with regard to the intention of the voter.

Proper preparedness for election broadens bolsters not only democracy, but speaks to the soundness of the perpetuation of political institutions.

Already political mobilisation is at an advanced stage. Opposition Coalition NASA has finally determined its direction by settling on Raila Odinga as its flag-bearer.

National Super Alliance (NASA) has settled on Raila Odinga as its presidential flag-bearer. Mr. Odinga is Jubilee’s fiercest critic.

Jubilee Party on its part is looking to battle it out once more with one of its fiercest critics that Raila Odinga is.

President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto have dismissed NASA and Raila Odinga, terming NASA as a “coalition of jobs for the boys”.

But is the country ready for elections?

Here in Kenya, it would be erroneous to assume that election preparedness is the primary and sole task of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

It would be altogether pernicious to the dictates of democracy’s growth, to leave much of election preparedness to the IEBC.

Successful, credible, verifiable and transparent elections increasingly depend on the collective efforts of key stakeholders, a team that constitutes the principal institution planning and overseeing the elections (IEBC), the judiciary, political parties, civil society, relevant commissions such as the National Cohesion Integration Commission (NCIC), the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), the media, and the participation of the general public.

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati and CEO Ezron Cheloba at a recent press briefing on election preparedness.

It can no more be negated that Kenya’s growing democracy is a patchwork of a nation’s resilience, vigilance, steadfastness and diligence in political actions. Each country has its unique path to democracy.

While the key principles of democracy are universal, the flesh that covers the bones that those principles remain different, unique, and of different shades and hues.

When one mulls over electioneering trends and practices, question arises as to whether the challenge in Kenya’s democracy is the weaker political institutions, the tetchy politicians or the people.

When the dotes are connected, some don’t still realise that when unions demand salary increases for workers, government raises the money through increase in taxes, which directly affects the cost of living.

When corruption goes unpunished, white elephant projects become the norm, standard projects become unreasonably high, the exchequer pays even more for the same projects, and the nefarious, unscrupulous public servants, working in cahoots with service providers, milk public coffers dry, and a bad culture is sustained through the fame of emboldened corrupt individuals who are celebrated as wealthy.

Lawless spirits always beget lawless public servants and lawless business people.

When tribalism and political tribal blocks are hailed as cryptic political arithmetic that wins political office, the smaller ethnic groups gather in the cold corners of minority positioning, and end up having their voices drowned in the sea of national politics.

When greedy business men and women become the trusted advisors to the holders of public office, roper service delivery is threatened, and accountability is eschewed.

These are things that choke a nation, threaten development, and create darkness at high noon.

As we head to the 2017 general election, political tension is at the heart of its preparation.

Each side is suspecting the other, and one would be forgiven to conclude that each side seems to be sounding the drumbeats of war.

Assumptions and presuppositions, accusations and counter-accusations, suspicion upon suspicion, and ego against ego, no side is resting easy.

What makes our elections replete with violence is ostensibly the lack of fresh ideas from the political class, who continually cling on tribal affiliations, and a population too that does not demand political leadership that can re-invent itself with ideas, not wealth and egos.

It does not seem to concern many Kenyans that no side in this divide has come up with ideas on how to combat climate change; a new strategy to counter AIDS; a puzzling idea on how to make famine a thing of the past; how to sort out the healthcare mess; how to ultimately deal a blow to corrupt public servants (by the way, majority of the party stalwarts on each side have benefitted from or abated corruption); how to reduce the cost of monthly electricity bills; or perhaps how to make business and employment opportunities available to everyone equally.

Instead, each side is nippy to demonize the other, and spewing epithets that make no sense for public good and progress.

What’s even more troubling is that those with ideas are seen as ‘academic’, statements made to possibly declare that being academic is not cool, yet education is declared a right by the Constitution.

Overwhelming evidence shows that democracy itself is a product of education and academics.

While by each election the state of our democracy seems to be growing stronger, the calibrations of such growth are known by the marks of strife, deaths, injuries, violence, compromises, sacrifice, reforms, and resilience. A whole catalogue of pains, sorrows, joys and forward-falling.

With all these, at no time can we say that we were very well prepared for the general election, even those times when we really thought we were, the contested election results, especially at the presidential level, have always brought out one reality – that we have never been satisfactorily prepared.

All political and media spaces need to be used to make the atmosphere conducive for a cohesive nation, especially as we move toward the 2017 general election.

The media should play a crucial role in this direction. Political analysts appearing on television and radio should be men and women of solid ideas and objective enough to strengthen public discourse toward a stronger democracy.

Javas Bigambo: Analysts appearing on television and radio should have solid ideas and be objective enough to strengthen public discourse toward a stronger democracy.

his is the kind of confidence that IEBC, the judiciary and all political parties must build.

The opposition coalition (National Super Alliance – NASA) on its part must not keep chastising the IEBC and incessantly viewing it through the lenses of suspicion.

The government too should act in such manner that a demonstration of possible mischief is not construed.

Only then can we aver that we are genuinely, collectively and diligently preparing for elections, regardless of heightening political competition.

Free and fair elections are a function of adequate financing and proper preparation, which makes democracy possible.

Democracy has no perfection, it is always work in progress, an inheritance across generations.

The writer can be reached through


1 Jan


By Javas Bigambo, Interthoughts Consulting

The centerpiece of the development of nation states is the nature and quality of each nation’s politics, and politicians.

From antiquated Greece to modern third world and developing countries, politics is the stuff that makes or breaks nations.

Political leaders determine each country’ development agenda, foreign policy direction, tax regimes and development budgets, even though most politicians are irredeemable hedonists.

That is why it is beyond dispute that the unequaled power and subtlety of politics inadvertently makes elections a matter of universal interest. Agreeably, dependence on transparent democratic decision-making and veneration for well-structured political institutions makes national progress possible.

A democracy that makes proper use of knowledge, regards public participation, accountability and good governance ends up benefiting the denizens more, than a democracy that is blind to corruption, embraces tribalism and nepotism to the chagrin of the masses, and rides on the wheels of inevitable folly.

To determine the respect of institutions by a government, judicious use of public resources and development plans that work, democracy demands that governments renew their social contract with the people by conducting periodic elections.

For this very reason, Kenya heads to yet another election cycle in August 2017. However, owing to riches of selfishness, self-aggrandizement, limited imagination, profound vacuity, tribal interests and an indifferent electorate, anxiety is already building up over the general election, just as it has been the case in all previous elections. Kenyans’ commitment to democracy will once again be tested, question is whether it will be found to be sturdy.

Every electioneering in an election cycle in Kenya comes with stunning exuberance, energy, flaunting of ignorance, narrow interests and cut-throat competition, and mass excitement wrapped in the valiance of contestants.

Regrettably, the 2017 election in Kenya will be won by the presidential candidate with the highest ability to craft compelling propaganda and ethnic arithmetic, altogether laced with campaign messaging replete with unprintable profanities, expenditure of looted public funds, choreographed policy bravura that cannot be remembered after elections and borrowed ideas from which nothing is learned.

This has cemented the place of Kenyan politicians in the canon of global politics. Political ambition and agenda ordinarily should constitute of sterner stuff.

Political literature from which much can be learned is composed of a collage of profiles, some legendary, while others can consign you to a shrine of tears.

Across Africa, and through the prairie of Kenya’s political history, it cannot be mistaken that politics is the most misconstrued and misguided profession, where some seek personal wealth, others seek old age consolation, some use it to protect their wealth, and only a few join to lift a people from dark valley to majestic heights of development.

Hence, politics remains a strange and yet compelling thing all around the world. Progress has been baked and served through the crucible of visionary leadership, and new national or global agenda shaped by leaders now remarked as legends in history, because they chose the better and altogether rare path.

Ambition by itself is not a bad thing, but ambition mounted on ego, driven by emptiness and supported by greed can only be calamitous.

For politics, Brutus murdered Caesar in Shakespeare’s compelling play titled Caesar; for politics, Trump quit business to join the most intricate career and caused the most absurd and baffling political contests ever imagined; for politics, the world has been treated to the most distinct and awe inspiring orations in the leadership Abraham Lincoln who preserved the Union; John F. Kennedy who led America through a new frontier that took the USA to the moon; Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton with his silver tongue; Tony Blair with crafty persuasiveness; Adolf Hitler with amazing convincing power; Tom Mboya’s profound agility; Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, Barack Obama with exemplary mastery of communication and soaring oration;


Barack Obama, America’s 44th President and the world’s most compelling orator in modern history.

Freeman Mbowe, Chuka Umunna among a slate of great communicators and latter day orators, who have distinguished themselves as weavers of words.

Politics has been the stage for all of them, yet history profiles them differently.

What messes up Kenyan politics is the erroneous thought on the part of politicians who think that political power is their natural and lifelong entitlement.

I hold it firmly that no politician must be permitted to act as he or she pleases.


Javas Bigambo sharing a thought with opinion leaders and compelling young political leaders in Kenya.

The dictates of democracy are such that the collective wishes of a people must necessarily be the guidepost for national growth and aspirations, which, in our case, are enshrined in the Constitution by what is firmly referred to as national values, which sadly make no meditative sense to Kenyan politicians.

The Constitution must be revered second to the Bible or Quran. When political leaders surrender good judgment and reason to beasts of the bush, their sycophants hauntingly rise to personify absurdity that is a departure from the civility that defines national decency.

Nationhood cannot be perfected when politicians and individuals entertain disregard for constitutionally established institutions, or disrupting the esteem of constitutional offices they hold, or even worse, watering down independence by surrendering democratic power or management of elections to foreign powers or institutions.

Ours must not continually be a disfigured homeland, misguided by apparitions and politicians’ phantasmagoria, which lead a whole nation into sanctioned darkness by the people’s own inaction.

Due to diminished wisdom and reason, Kenyans have experienced tragic elections in the past, the worst being the 2007 Post-Election Violence.


Images from the 2007-2008 Post Election Evidence that shook the foundations of our democracy and put a nation’s conscience to shame.

Honesty and sobriety was washed off the inner beings, and anger was permitted to flourish. For no reason whatsoever must violence be given a chance, ever, because of elections. There must be no reason for anyone to orchestrate violence after the August 2017 elections.

We should find counsel in the wisdom of Thomas Paine who once wrote “He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”

Kenyan democracy, through every election cycle, must be ameliorated by the unadulterated growth of truth that no politician must make his or her followers burn our country and other people’s property, and that as ordinary citizens, ours is the harder task of defending our democracy, yet not the less.

This is a noble purpose we should pursue to a noble end. The mere display of fierce ambition by politicians need not be the gasoline we use to burn that which generations of Kenyans have, through toil and sacrifice, built up.

To reduce our elections therefore to merely to an arithmetic of tribal groupings and electoral victory being merely a function of tribal arithmetic, and not a function of progressive ideas supported, is to postulate a frail thesis that tribes build nations and not brilliant ideas of visionary leaders.

This is what President Uhuru Kenyatta should know, this is what Opposition Leader Raila Odinga must not forget. It is precisely what CORD/ NASA and Jubilee Party should reflect on.


President Uhuru Kenyatta who will seek re-election in the August 2017 general election.



Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who will lead an onslaught against Kenyatta’s re-election bid.








The writer can be reached through




13 Jun

By Javas Bigambo

If there ever was a Drum Major for justice and the rule of law, it is Justice Willy Mutunga. This week is historic. The honourable Chief Justice who elected to retire a year early, leaves office. A fair-minded judge has walked among us.

Justice Willy Mutunga has retired from office.

Justice Willy Mutunga has retired from office.

The stars in the expansive sky are not illuminating his name in twinkles, but it cannot be denied that the mortal judge has left a legacy so immortal.

In comparison, his predecessors dim in their glow juxtaposed with Willy Mutunga’s irrefutable shine. No Chief Justice had ever proven their mettle in the leadership of the judiciary in the interest of justice as opposed to political interference, than that which has been witnessed in his time.

More by example than precept, the first President of the Supreme Court in the new constitutional order has demonstrated that justice must not always be understood to be an advantage to the strong or the wealthy. In his time, he has been seen as that force at the helm that possibly hindered the executive from wanton miscarriage of justice through the justice system as a tool.

The state has openly done much to wane the independence of key institutions, including the judiciary, and he has overtly chided at the all-powerful state machinery, culminating in his last hoarse wail that Kenya is a bandit economy.

Except for the glitch he nearly suffered with the entire Supreme Court during the 2013 presidential petition, the man has irradiated light on the maxim that whoever comes to equity must come with clean hands.

Cartoonist GADO's impression of the spectacle that was the 2013 Presidential Petition at the Supreme Court.

Cartoonist GADO’s impression of the spectacle that was the 2013 Presidential Petition at the Supreme Court.

He impressed even the more when he made the report on the transformation of the judiciary after his first hundred and twenty days in office.

From the start, he courted controversy. The President of the Supreme Court preferred to carry his rag pack like a magician, defended his stud, and did not give himself to don the finest suits and converse in legalese, the pride in the realm of the learned friends. The man has had his flaws, but credit him for the good work done.
Those who propagate the status quo will want to forget him so quickly, no doubt, but history has a place for him already. No mud would stick on him. And those earnestly diametrically opposed to Mutunga’s leadership, finding no torn hem on his garment of leadership, chose to hate on him for the stud he wore, an artifact that never blocked his ear for justice.

He took over an institution that had suffered the stroke of public confidence crisis, thoroughly underfunded and where justice was procured by the highest bidder. While the judiciary is not yet out of the woods, it is fair to say that it is nearer the road than when he took up its leadership.
No one doubts where he stands on the issue of corrupt judicial officers, and it is alright that he is not standing in the grey area.

The judiciary has opened up new and expanded courthouses in most areas within counties, and has done much to reduce backlog of cases in a bid to dispense justice. Admission to the bar for new attorneys no longer had to wait for eternity and a day.

Under Willy Mutunga’s leadership the judiciary has ceased being an allegory of judicial obfuscation where access to justice was known to shrivel on account of social status. Now social justice has a bigger and better platform, reinforced by an even more liberal Bill of Rights in the Constitution of Kenya 2010.

Perhaps Justice Mutunga’s last best efforts and attitude for justice is evident in the Justice Rawal retirement appeal imbroglio, now set for determination at the Supreme Court. By a stroke of his pen, Mutunga rolled back the date initially issued by Ndung’u Justice on the hearing date for the Supreme Court hearing of the appeal, on a matter so open to the naked eye.

It is famous for the dictum of Lord Camden who once quipped that “If it is law, it will be found in our books. If it not to be found there, it is not law”, in the famous Entick v Carrington. One only hopes that the Supreme Court will not fail to agree with the initial High Court ruling and the recent Court of Appeal ruling on the express issue of the retirement age of judges inscribed in the Constitution in glowing letters.

Whatever path the leadership of the Supreme Court takes henceforth, is justly in the wisdom of whoever takes over. But if wisdom be ours for the pride, the conscientious among us will node in agreement with the uncannily judicious Lord Denning who asserted “Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.”

In the journal of human affairs on earth, nothing hoists justice better than unprejudiced course of liberty among men.

The writer can be reached through


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.