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County assembly rows a threat to devolution

Thursday July 4 2019

EDITORIAL
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The session of chaos is back in the county assemblies. In the past few days, we have recorded cases of serious disputes at the assemblies that bring to question their ability to deliver on their mandate. Either, the assemblies are in conflict with the county executive, under the governor, or with their respective speakers.

In Kisumu, the Executive has accused Speaker Onyango Oloo of working with the MCAs to reject the 2019/20 budget in a bid to undermine the devolved government. Taita-Taveta Governor Granton Samboja has signed a memorandum and petitioned President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve the county government over a budget impasse. On Wednesday, the Nairobi County Assembly had a chaotic debate as MCAs rejected a motion with an attempt at taking the mace, the symbol of the authority of the House.

These cases demonstrate a return to the era of anarchy in the County Assemblies. In the first term of devolution, Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana wrote to President Kenyatta seeking dissolution of the county government due to irreconcilable differences.

In response, the President set up a commission of inquiry that, after investigations, recommended dissolution. However, the President declined, stating that the issues raised were not too extreme to warrant the extraordinary decision.

But the point was made that county assemblies, in line with Article 192 of the Constitution, risk being suspended should they prove unable to operate, among others, due to conflicts.

The MCAs, with their indiscipline among and turf wars with the county governments, are quite loathsome and bring to question their suitability for public office. It is a misnomer that those expected to provide leadership at the grassroots tend to behave like hooligans and bring dishonour to their offices.

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But the contest is driven by the selfish interest of seeking to manipulate and influence budgets in their favour. Oftentimes, county assemblies reject budgets to force the governors to accede to their demands that are often self-serving. That is a form of corruption, which cannot be condoned.

County assemblies represent the aspirations of the people at the local level. Their decisions shape what happens in the communities. For that reason, MCAs are expected to display a high level of discipline.

We condemn the trend of conflicts at the assemblies as they threaten operations of counties and, consequently, service delivery. MCAs must stop the unruly behaviour and provide leadership.

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