You do not need political parties to improve the lot of pastoralists

A political party is not a raison d’être for the emancipation of marginalised pastoral communities.

Monday March 28 2016

More by this Author

Leaders from 16 pastoralist counties met recently and agreed to form a political party, allegedly to fight the marginalisation of their regions.

They appear to believe that the anticipated party will give them bargaining power on the national stage, sway the government to look their way, and direct resources to their regions to lift them to the level of those formerly known as high-potential areas.

One would understand this line of thinking if the leaders are stating that they had identified that their communities’ problems are rooted in marginalisation and want to change this state of affairs for posterity.

But this is not a contemplative approach to politics that they are taking. They are trying to use the manipulative approach to politics to attract the attention of the Jubilee administration.

For politics is about influence and the influential, it is about who determines who gets what, when, and how much. Therefore, if we can define politics as the authority to allocate resources, what kind of authority do leaders from pastoralist communities want to enable them to influence the allocation of resources in their region?

They miss the mark when they argue that with a political party, they will get an opportunity to address the historical inequalities that have afflicted their region.

Mandera Senator Billow Kerrow, the convener of the meeting, may at the end of it all, find that his group’s preferred platform may not address the challenges and aspirations of the pastoralists.

Leaders from the pastoralist communities can influence official government decision-making and actions and determine the benefits, rewards, and advantages that their people can get because they hold influential positions in the current administration.

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale does not need to be involved in a pastoralist party to ensure that the residents of northern Kenya get access to safe and clean water. He recently took Water Services Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa on a tour of Garissa on water-related issues.

Without mentioning names, the pastoralist communities have adequate representation in the current administration to influence the allocation of resources to their regions without necessarily forming a political party.


This is why a political party is not a raison d’être for the emancipation of marginalised pastoral communities.

One of the reasons for embracing devolution was to transfer resources and their allocation from the centre to the counties. Since 2013, Turkana and Mandera countries have been among the top recipients of funds from the national government. Thanks to devolution, counties inhabited by pastoralists are witnessing, for the first time, construction of tarmac roads, well-equipped hospitals, and construction of colleges.

If you throw in the Equalisation Fund, which stands at Sh6.2 billion, it is evident that the duty to lift pastoralists from their current state lies in the hands of their elected leaders.

It is instructive that some of the governors from those areas have been cited in corruption cases. It is clear that the leaders from the so-called marginalised communities no longer have the justification to claim that they are not in control of the means of production in their regions.

I do believe that political parties are formed to provide an alternative option to capturing power — through the ballot — after disagreement. Are leaders from marginalised communities stating that they have disagreed with the government of the day and are seeking an alternative political platform?

If that is the case, then they are welcome to take Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok’s advice and join the opposition. Kenya is headed in the direction of the United States or the United Kingdom, where two or three political parties are dominant.

Leaders from pastoral communities, instead of trying to throw knives at a government in which they have authoritative influence, should use the resources that the Constitution has placed in their hands to emancipate their communities.

The writer is the political editor, Nation Media Group. [email protected]