County law changes vital for devolution

Friday July 10 2020

The amendment of the county governments law is a significant step in strengthening devolution. It cures a constitutional lacuna that some governors have used for blackmail and to entrench themselves in power.

The change makes it mandatory for governors to appoint their deputies promptly should there be a vacancy in that office. The amendment has a valid basis.

Nairobi County has gone without a deputy governor since the occupant, Mr Polycarp Igathe, left in January 2018. Governor Mike Sonko has capitalised on a void in law in regard to replacement in that office when there is a vacancy. As structured, the law did not provide a time frame or any compulsion for a governor to fill an empty slot of a deputy.

The lesson from the Nairobi case is that laws should be water-tight. The framers of the law were liberal and thought that governors and those in positions of higher responsibility would be well-meaning and guided by a common sense of decency.


But history has taught us that may never be the case. Situations arise when some people get into public office and, once there, act in total disregard of conventional wisdom.


Nairobi has had the misfortune where the governor not only failed to appoint a deputy but also to fill vacant positions of county executives. The result is that the governor is left to do as he or she wishes and, often, act unilaterally and without interest of the county.

 That explains the mess in the city; nothing works because of poor leadership. Indeed, that is what compelled President Uhuru Kenyatta to set up the Nairobi Metropolitan Services and appoint a special team led by Maj-Gen Mohammed Badi to run the city.

It is still too early to make an assessment of their performance, but the point is that the elected office under Governor Sonko had failed.


Another lesson concerns voters who have to exercise prudence in casting the ballot. They have to make right choices if they are to institutionalise good governance. Electing individuals because of party politics, euphoria or cash handouts can be tragic.

That is what catapults ne’er-do-wells to top positions where they cannot deliver services. In the end, it is the voters who suffer due to poor service delivery and theft of funds.

Devolution remains a pillar of the Constitution and has to be strengthened. Proper structures are vital to ensure the county system works. The amendment, therefore, serves the common good.

 We ask for continuous reviews to align the existing laws with the citizens’ aspirations.