Use devolution, not secession, to end ethnicity, balkanisation

Friday August 25 2017

While self-determination is provided for under Article 20 of the African Charter for Human and People’s Rights, 1986, Kenyans have to ask and answer the question “Is Kenya ripe for secession?” before we begin this sensitive discussion.

Although I deeply believe in a ‘No’ answer, it is important to dwell on the ‘Yes’ side as it comes with other serious questions.

If we are, whom are we breaking from: The leaders or fellow citizens? Is our diversity our greatest threat and weakness? Should each tribe, therefore, have their own country?

I opine that the political class have taken control of the nation and antagonised communities for their own political gain.

Yet, many Kenyans share many similarities and challenges, irrespective of tribal and political affiliations.


Tribalism, corruption, impunity and nepotism are some of the major challenges to which we should all seek solutions. In fact, the idea of secession might, in a way, move these challenges to the newly formed political systems.

If we are the problem, then the problem will follow us wherever we go! The challenges will not end; the new formations will begin their own battles again and, in the end, more and more groups will seek to split—until almost everybody will want a country of their own.

Yet we have the opportunity to make Kenya more prosperous—by fulfilling the spirit of the 2010 Constitution: Devolution, the greatest socio-economic and political equaliser of our time.

For years, I have believed that Kenyans are not fighting for leadership. Communities and regions are scrambling for resources perceived to come with political leadership and power.


We have been made to believe that economic empowerment and other development undertakings solely depend on the individual in office—particularly with regard to the Presidency.

This notion has inculcated the concept of “our own in power” in the hearts of Kenyans; a concept that has also seen the majority vote along tribal lines.

The winner-takes-all system has also been a major contributor to the hyped and tribalism-driven political tension.

It gives a section of Kenyans the belief that losing an election is equivalent to missing out on all government services for the next five years—yet all pay taxes and have the right to public service irrespective of political affiliation.


Most development programmes depend on the national government; a spectacle that has drawn much attention to the Presidency and made it a product of ethnic balkanisation.

There is, therefore, a need to have most of our annual revenue and government programmes under the counties.

That will bring a sense of equity and reduce the focus on the Presidency as a means to empowering a community.

The Presidency will be rendered ceremonial and not play a major role in revenue allocation.

Instead of the secession drive, therefore, we should call for a referendum push with one major question: Full devolution.