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Why Mt Kenya leaders are right to expect equity from BBI report

Thursday November 7 2019

By MATHANI KABOI

Some people have been quick to question the motive and wisdom of some political leaders in the Mount Kenya region pronouncing themselves on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report that is yet to be released.

Although they have been accused of jumping the gun, the people of this region have a saying that taking cover from imminent danger is not necessarily an act of cowardice.

The current Constitution has been in operation for nine years and the leaders have been around to experience and witness the way it has affected development and the performance of power.

And since the wearer of the shoe is the one who knows where it pinches, they are simply raising the red flag that, at the bare minimum, they expect the BBI to address the pertinent issues affecting the region — representation, resource sharing and structure of governance.

QUALITY OF VOTE

These ‘irreducible minimums’ simply underscore the principle of equality of vote, which the Constitution, sadly, treats as a secondary consideration. Representation speaks to the concept of ‘one man, one vote’; resource sharing refers to ‘one vote, one shillings’; and the structure of governance considers the fact that ‘every vote counts’.

The bedrock of representation in a democracy is political equality. This refers to the extent to which citizens have an equal voice on government decisions. This has not been the case.

Sample this: The registered voters for the 2017 elections in Eldas Constituency were 18,676, Tarbaj 19,699, Fafi 19,883, Lafey 14,321 and Turkana East 15,620. But Mwea had 122,380, Kiharu 114,260, Kieni 109,001, Ruiru 159,337 and Thika Town 147,323.

Every constituency has an MP — regardless of some falling far below the average number of voters per constituency, 67,162, with others on the other extreme.

Despite the variation in the number of voters they represent, every MP has one vote in Parliament. And each of these constituencies receives an average of Sh100 million of National Government Constituency Development Fund.

POLITICAL INEQUALITY

It is this political inequality that the Mt Kenya leaders want the BBI report to address.

The constituency is the basic unit of development for the national government and mainly forms the basis of resource sharing.

The equal allocation of resources among constituencies that greatly vary in population disadvantages the highly populated ones.

The leaders in these areas are perceived to be non-performers while those in the smaller constituencies are viewed to be the opposite. This partly explains the high turnover of leaders in the Mt Kenya region.

The Constitution created this unfortunate situation in a bid to address historical injustices of skewed allocation of resources, whereby the region that produced the President was perceived to enjoy economic and political advantage over the rest. However, the practice has only created a new form of reverse marginalisation targeting the highly populated areas.

Mathani Kaboi, political scientist, Mwea Constituency Deputy Manager for Parliamentary Affairs, Communication and Service Delivery Coordination, Kirinyaga