Dove Magazine

Speech by Raila Odinga during devolution conference

Remarks of Rt Hon Raila Odinga during the Second Devolution Conference:

Appreciating and strengthening Devolved Governance; Working together to Realize the Objectives of Devolution.”

Your Excellency the President;

Council of Governors;

One of the amazing achievements of democracy is how its fruits trickle down to supporters and opponents alike. Those who voted for or against the constitution have equal chance to benefit from its fruits. It is the story of Devolution in Kenya.

We may debate how the counties are being governed. But there can be no doubt that voters want their counties to be supported and strengthened, not wound up or undermined.

Devolution has many challenges. Corruption cartels have commandeered many county governments. Unrepentant believers in the old order are fighting devolved units in the false hope that they can reverse the clock.

Some elected leaders have confused their oversight role with execution, pitting county assemblies against county executives.

Some of the County governments are too tiny to benefit from economies of scale. Nearly all county governments are serving populations grounded in decades of poverty. Many sectors with direct impact on citizens have not been fully devolved. Although Health is devolved, it has serious challenges with regard to funding and personnel.

Agriculture and infrastructure are not fully devolved, but people expect the County governments to deliver on them. In these partially devolved areas, County and National Government Development plans are creating conflicting priorities, confusion and unclear visions. Some counties are bogged down by tribal and clan tension. Nearly all county governments are sagging under the weight of expectations.

Voters expected that services that had stalled for fifty years in infrastructure, healthcare, tourism, agriculture and employment would take off immediately under county governments.

By and large however, Devolution is changing our country in ways few imagined. There have been loud concerns about corruption. The activities of some members of the County Assemblies and County Executives have been seen as pushing greed and impunity to new levels, sparking off protests.

But there is a positive side to the protests. They indicate that the people are taking control of their destiny. In the days of the old order, nobody questioned the PC, the DC or the DO. Too few knew what had been allocated for their development. Development was what the DC or PC said. Devolution has come with a new boss; the people. Development is what the people say it should be.

The National Government has handed over more powers to politicians and institutions elsewhere in Migori, Muranga, Mombasa, Turkana, Kericho, Bomet and elsewhere. What we do with those powers are absolutely up to us.

Results are trickling everywhere.

In Turkana, they have cut distance to the hospital from 55 kilometres to 35 kilometres in two years. Turkana increased education bursaries from Kshs 150 million to Kshs 300 million in the current financial year. At no one time in the last 50 years did the Government of Kenya allocate such amount of money to the education of Turkana children.

Rural Health Services that long suffered inadequate financing; dilapidated physical facilities; unreliable supply of drugs; absence of adequate medical equipment; and shortage of qualified medical staff have changed.

Nearly every village has access ambulance services from their county government.

In Kisii, each of the nine sub county hospitals has a state-of-the-art ambulance operated by qualified paramedics. This has boosted referral of critical cases by over 340 per cent. Referral of pregnant mothers has increased by 300 per cent. This story is replicated allover the country. Kisii Town is now a 24 hour town after the County Government installed 300 solar lights.

In Arid Marsabit County where water is life literally, the County Government has drilled 26 boreholes in the last two years against less than 15 boreholes drilled by national Government in the last 50 years. A slaughter house is coming up for the first time since independence.

Mombasa County’s School Milk Program has seen over 27,000 children from all the public Nursery and lower primary from class1-3 get school milk 5 days a week. The focus here is to improve nutrition which if not addressed in childhood leads to stunting and low prospects in later life. It is also meant to enhance the transition rate from home to ECD and from ECD to primary school.

The planned water desalination plant by county government will solve a long standing problem that should have been addressed decades ago.

The Muranga Integrated Development Day, incorporating the Muranga Investments Cooperative and Muranga Child Can are pace setters.

Despite the problems the leadership is going through, the amount of talent and capacity the county has put together indicate something worth looking forward to.

We are witnessing regional growth and enterprise outside of Nairobi and the traditional “high potential” areas. Yes, people are still heading to Nairobi for jobs. But millions are instead heading to the county governments.

Kenya’s economy has withstood the shocks coming from insecurity partly because of the investments going on in counties and the promise of these counties. For the first time in our history, we are looking at the possibility of an economy firing on all cylinders.

The point that was missed by the political elite for too long; that we need to rebalance our economy away from its overreliance on the National Government is slowly beginning to sink.

We are beginning to realize that we have other strengths too in other places and that there is actually no low potential part of Kenya.

Despite problems, Devolution has put Kenya on right course, in line with trends in the world; strong economies, built on semi-autonomous and interdependent regions. It is the story of Germany, the US, India, UK. It is a story all Kenyans have bought. If you doubt, just try abolishing a county.

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