African Press International (API)

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Making Kenya democratically governable: Kenya MPs set stage for devolution

Posted by African Press International on January 22, 2010

ODM gun for political autonomy while PNU insist on resource criterion.

ODM gun for political autonomy while PNU insist on resource criterion.


MPs meeting to discuss the draft constitution have agreed on a two-tier system of government that would see the creation of 18 regions.

However, the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution called off its week-long negotiations before settling on the level of autonomy the regions will be granted. Unconfirmed reports gleaned from MPs attending the closed-door sessions said there was a brief standoff when it came to agreeing on the form.

While some ODM members reportedly insisted on regional or political autonomy (majimbo), their PNU counterparts insisted that resource-based devolution was the way to go. At that point, the MPs shelved debate until Monday morning, failing to meet their self-imposed deadline to conclude discussion on the draft constitution.

MPs are barred from discussing the proceedings of committee sessions and would be penalised for speaking on the record. The MPs revisited the chapter on representation, resolving to adopt the creation of an extra 80 constituencies, bringing the total proposed tally to 290.

Fifty-four special seats were also set aside for women while there will be 12 nominated MPs, taking the total to 356 MPs. The 26 MPs will return to Naivasha on Sunday afternoon to continue with the discussions six days before they return the draft to the Committee of Experts.

The MPs are also said to have proposed a senate made up of three members from each of the 18 regions. The senate will meet only four times a year to discuss regional matters but it will not be involved in making laws. The committees chairman, Mr Abdikadir Mohammed, said the members had agreed on all the contentious issues and would release a full report of their deliberations on Wednesday.

In the devolution debate, the MPs are reported to have come up with 10 questions to guide them in coming up with principles on which to peg their decisions on devolved governments. First on the list, was the reason behind CoEs move to drop one level of devolution in the revised draft, after the one month period within which Kenyans submitted their views.

In their first draft, the committee of experts had proposed the creation of three tiers of government national, regional and counties. But in the revised draft, which is now before the PSC, they dropped the regional governments and reduced the counties from 74 to 47, citing concerns over cost of running the devolved structure.

The MPs will also look at what model of devolution should be adopted, considering the cost, national security and national cohesion implications of each of the two models. We will also be looking at the impact of the two devolution models on the national fiscal and monetary control, said one of the members.

Sources revealed that the MPs will review the future of the Constituency Development Fund in relation to introduction of counties and whether MPs would support devolution if it scrapped the fund. They are also to look at the relationship of the different levels of government under the two models.

In their debate, it was reported that they will also look at other countries that have devolved governments and how they have performed. In particular, they will look at South Africa, which has set up a commission to dismantle regional governments introduced in 1994. It is also important that we look at the appropriate number of counties and regions under any of the two models in question, one MP told the Saturday Nation.

Another question is how long the counties and regions should be allowed to exist in order to prove their viability under the two models. The PSC has been accused of dealing with non-contentious issues while the law indicates that they are to use the 21 days ending next Friday to deal with the contentious issues.

Mr Mohammed has already dismissed these claims indicating that the law gives PSC full powers to deal with any section of the draft. Kenyans should expect fundamental changes in the draft that well be giving to the CoE, added PSCs vice chairman Ababu Namwamba.

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