Kiambu County's proposed workforce law undermines diversity

Thursday December 21 2017

By MUTHONI THANG'WA
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Kiambu County has passed a motion that, if it becomes law, will compel all institutions, both public and private, to hire 70 per cent of their workforce from the dominant community, read Kikuyus.

Members of the county assembly (MCA) who proposed the law claimed that it is in support of section 65 (1) e of the 2012 Country Government Act of Kenya, which provides employment guidelines to the County Public Service Board. That particular section of the act reads, The need to ensure that at least 30 per cent of vacant posts at entry level are filled by candidates who are NOT from the dominant ethnic community in the county

INCLUSION

In my limited understanding of the law, it does not warrant the reverse of the sentence to imply that 70 per cent of workers must be from the dominant community. I suspect this clause was specifically trying to protect Kenyans from the very situation that the Kiambu County government has chosen to pursue – lack of cultural inclusion in the workplace. This county has chosen to ignore that cultural exclusion and/or isolation is a form of abuse of the rights of the people in that culture and a recognised form of poverty.

Cultural inclusion by its very nature seeks to support people from cultures other than the one most practised in a region. It also makes an effort to appreciate the values that other cultures bestow on the so-called dominant culture. The very idea of dominant cultures is in itself repulsive as it primarily suggests coercion, imperialism and/or subjugation.

Cultural inclusion is now considered a human right, and requires that all people in spite of linguistic, cultural or social differences, be able to express themselves freely, feel safe and be protected from unfair criticism and most important be enabled to participate in the social and economic life of the region in which they are found.

AUDIT

County lawmakers have gone ahead and indicated that they will conduct some form of ethnic audit in all businesses in the jurisdiction to ensure that this regulation is adhered to. My free advice to them is that ethnic audits are only conducted when one wants to increase diversity in ethnic representation, rather than for purposes of balkanisation.

Where will the resources to conduct such an audit that will obviously be met with resistance by the business community in the county come from? Should the county government choose to allocate such a portion of its income to such an exercise, isn’t there a more important need that can be addressed to benefit the dominant community that they are so interested in ‘helping’?

What makes Kiambu lawmakers so daring that they can propose legislation that is obviously hostile and belligerent towards the other 43 ethnic communities that will obviously not be dominant in the county? Is the county even aware that an audit conducted by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission last year raised the alarm that counties are dens of ethnicity and that none of them at the time were hiring according to the law?

It is therefore very likely that the county has already met its threshold of 70 per cent and the legislation will be targeting private institutions. How about the ‘small’ issue of entry level as stated in the County Act. How do the proposed audits auger in law?

There are industries, hospitals, schools and many other businesses operating in Kiambu that have their own regulations when it comes to hiring. Does the county really want to antagonise them for no reason at all?

BALKANISATION

Hypothetically, although I suspect that other counties have better things to do for ‘their people’, should other counties ask the people of Kiambu to return to their counties of origin, will my home county have enough jobs to accommodate all of us? Are you also delusional enough to assume that everyone born in Kiambu has dreams of working and living in the county?

How does this proposed legislation address the role of professionals? Just for the purposes of communicating at the level of these MCAs, is a doctor first a doctor or first a Kikuyu? How about all that real estate in Ruaka, Ruiru, Githurai and many other cosmopolitan places in the county? Will the lawmakers demand that the occupation of this investment be the ‘dominant’ community?

Do counties think about national aspirations when they pass laws? On the one hand, the President extended a hand of brotherliness by assuring members of the East African Community that their citizens will be treated like Kenyans and will be free to operate in this country using only their national identification card. Should we now send them a diplomatic memo to let them know that this applies to all parts of Kenya except the county of Kiambu?

Kiambu needs to reconsider this proposition. It will not serve the country any purpose and can disadvantage the people of Kiambu in ways that will not be immediately apparent.

Twitter: @muthonithangwa