Oparanya speaks on 2022 politics and future of devolution

Saturday April 20 2019

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya. He has said that devolution is one of the greatest benefits that the 2010 Constitution brought. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

This week, Council of Governors Chairman and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya answers your questions.


1. Sir, you have been one of the proponents of three-tier government including formation of regional governments. What informs the idea and how do you reconcile such an expanded government structure and the wage bill strain on the government? What makes it more efficient in terms of service delivery? Dennis Olwalo, Nairobi

The issue of constitutional reforms is an open national debate. We are at a stage where each one should be given a chance to express their opinion.

I believe properly thought-out, three-tier government need not necessarily result in a bloated government.

Indeed, well-implemented, it has the potential to resolve some of our long-standing challenges and result into a lean government.


Devolution as currently constituted allows for overlap of functions and a lot of confusion. The system is very weak as it is now.

We have witnessed counties coming together to form County Regional Economic Blocks which are meant to take advantage of the economies of scale that come with such a structure.

A good example is perhaps found in infrastructure development that connects various counties. At this point, it is important to look at other jurisdictions and audit our own system.

2. The Lake Region Economic Bloc, which you chair, started with much admiration across the country, even from President Uhuru Kenyatta. However, there have been questions on its future due to infiltration of 2022 succession politics, with counties supporting Deputy President William Ruto, and who are members of the bloc, expressing their discomfort in it. What is your take on these issues and can the bloc hold? How will you steer the bloc yet you are also deep in the succession politics? Komen Moris, Eldoret

The attempt to associate economic blocs with political groupings or agenda may be the work of enemies of strong economic blocs.

We do not think that these side shows should be the focus of discussion. The benefits of strong economic blocs will outlive the narrow political ambitions of any one.

We urge all Kenyans to support the development of these blocs, as the benefits far outweigh any individual political agenda.

3. Your tenure as CoG chair is predicted to be stormy due to the many challenges ahead. A possible referendum, 2022 succession, the handshake dynamics, your presidential ambitions, a new revenue allocation formula and even a census this August. These are issues likely to threaten unity at the COG. How prepared are you to tackle them with minimum negative consequences? Komen Moris, Eldoret

Admittedly, my chairmanship of the council comes at a critical moment on the national calendar of reforms.

To the contrary, we consider this to be an exciting moment and which will finally resolve many of the challenges we have experienced.

We trust, as Kenyans, we shall successfully midwife these important reforms. As a council, we are active participants on the discourse on constitutional review.

The CoG already established a Constitutional Reform Committee that will audit the Constitution and see how we can strengthen devolution.

The review of the revenue formula is a constitutional process.

We acknowledge that the new formula is responding to the ever changing dynamics and is a great improvement to the current formula.

I am certain we will build consensus going forward. My priority is to ensure that counties are well-resourced.

On the handshake, the council fully supports the handshake as it is a step towards national healing.

In regards to the August 2019 census, the national government must involve counties, as they are able to engage mwananchi through civic education and public participation.

4. Despite a constitutional requirement that the functions of some ministries in the national government be devolved, Health and Agriculture ministries haven't been fully devolved. What is your take? Jeff Chepkwony, Sigor-Chepalungu

We continue to engage all stakeholders on the issue of full release of functions under Schedule 4 of the Constitution and the need to ensure that resources follow functions.

The Intergovernmental Relations Act provides for a framework for consultation and cooperation between the national and county governments while ensuring continued delivery of services.

The Constitution is clear on the 14 devolved functions, but what remains a thorny area is how counties can optimally perform their functions. We look forward to this issue being resolved.

5. We have seen little progress on the feeder roads, especially Nzoia-Matunda road and Lumakanda-Mwamba. As a result, some residents of Kakamega County have on occasions planted banana stumps on these roads in protest. What's your plan for feeder roads in Kakamega County and what became of the plan to build a dam in Lugari? Oliver Jumba Hyuga, Lumakanda

There is no denying that at the advent of devolution, Kakamega County had very poor road network.

As a county administration, and in my first term, development of roads was given priority resulting into opening up of over 3,000 kilometres of gravel roads across the county.

Regarding the Lumakanda-Mwamba road, we plan to upgrade this road to bitumen standards in due course. Matunda-River Nzoia road remains under our gravel roads maintenance programme.

On the Lugari dam project, my administration has prioritised supply of clean water to households by the year 2022, and we are working to implement this priority with utmost urgency.

6. What value do annual conferences by governors and county assemblies add to devolution? Habil Odhiambo, Kisumu

Experience has shown that these annual conferences have provided very useful platform for counties and devolution stakeholders to exchange experiences and strategise on how to address existing challenges.

It has provided a unique benchmarking forum for all counties at once. Indeed, the strides we have made as the devolution fraternity arise mainly out of a common voice to cross-cutting challenges.

7. Sir, what happened to the Mumias-Musanda road which you promised to tarmac during your campaign for the gubernatorial seat? William Mudenyo, Musanda

This road is now under the responsibility of the national government and we look forward to it being constructed soon.

8 As a youth in Kakamega County, l feel neglected because the county isn't creating more employment opportunities for the youths. Furthermore, the locals are sidelined in terms of employment. For example, at Kakamega County Referral Hospital, the locals are very few. Are you aware of this and what is your administration doing? Weblike Evans, Kakamega

You are free as a citizen of Kakamega to engage with the county institutions over any issue of concern to you.

As a county, we have, on equal opportunity basis, created employment and employed many county citizens and absorbed more people under the County Youth and Women Empowerment Programme.

However, in line with public service hiring, all these positions are usually advertised and all members of the public allowed to apply for jobs they are qualified for.

9. Creating regional economic blocs by counties to pull together and leverage on shared economic resources was done without an elaborate legal framework, and the concerned governors never bothered to check on what caused the break-up of East Africa Community in 1977 and the current efforts by Britain to pull out of European Union. What is your take? Dan Murugu, Nakuru

Counties have created seven economic blocs across the country. Before their creation, member counties actually actualised what was the purpose and scope that the blocs were going to play for purposes of economic prosperity.

The issues that faced EAC were more of boundary, economic and political differences among different countries.

The case of regional economic blocs is different as we are governed by one Constitution within the same jurisdiction, Kenya. The purpose and cause for us coming together is economic synergy and as such county territorial differences will never arise. I do acknowledge that legal framework has been a challenge but it is important to note that the Constitution anticipated the blocs.

Currently. the national government is developing a policy for the regional economic blocs in consultation with stakeholders which seeks to give guidelines on norms and standards for operating regional Economic blocs. Therefore, there is no huge gap in law as we speak.

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10. As a native of Kakamega County, I would like to thank you for the good work you have so far done. However I would like to know whether the county government has any plan to tarmac Kakamega-Shinyalu-Chepsonoi road which can open Kakamega forest as a tourist destination. Seth Mwangani, Nairobi

Thank you for your compliment regarding the performance of my government. As concerns the Kakamega-Shinyalu-Chepsonoi road, I wish to bring to your attention that this road has been taken up by the national government and we will work closely with them to ensure it is done.

11 Sir, you have expressed interest in the presidency come 2022. However, it is not disputed that Luhya unity has been a headache for any presidential candidate from the Luhya nation, and that means that your ambition would be standing on shaky grounds. How to do you intend to galvanise all the Luhya votes into your basket before reaching out to other regions? Edward Wanjala, Mukhweya-Kabuchai

The purported disunity among the Luhya is in fact a myth.

Even outside Luhyaland, where our country’s presidents have hailed, did not always have one candidate. The issue of several candidates expressing interest is not in itself a manifestation of disunity. The general Luhya population is united. I am offering Kenyans a choice.

12. From the time you entered elective national politics, you have remained loyal to your party leader Raila Odinga. Now you have publicly stated that you will be on the ballot come 2022. There is a possibility that your party leader maybe on the ballot, too. How do you plan to balance between your loyalty and ambition? Edward Wanjala Mangoli, Mukhweya-Kabuchai

One’s political ambition need not be inconsistent to his or her loyalty to the party and its leadership.

I am part of the leadership of ODM and trust in the party democratic systems to manage the ambitions of its members.

In any case, one’s candidature on a particular party ticket is a result of a process, which follows each candidate’s declaration of interest. I have declared mine and look forward to the support of the party.

13. Sir, from the look of things, it would seem like devolution’s mythical journey to Canaan in terms of making and managing wealth on behalf of the people is still mired in a lot of problems because of corruption and limited resources from the national government. As chair of the Council of Governors, how can counties surmount the challenges before it and deliver the goods devolution promised to Kenyans? Francis Njuguna, Kibichoi

It is agreed by Kenyans that devolution is one of the greatest benefits that the 2010 Constitution brought us.

It is generally accepted that across the counties, the citizens can now see and experience development in one form or another notwithstanding the challenges of limited resources.

We must therefore be proud of the strides we have made even as we renew our efforts to address challenges such as corruption, which spurns across all levels of government and even the private sector.

Devolution is fairly young. And of course, while laying the systems and structures, we will definitely encounter teething challenges. These challenges are important in helping us find solutions that will lay the ground for many years to come.