The past couple of months have seen Kenyans increasingly engaged on the subject of secession. The debate was most recently sparked off by an article written by David Ndii in March 2016 who argued in his Saturday Nation Column that Kenya ‘was an abusive marriage’ and thereafter went on to call for ‘divorce’. A few months ago, there was a petition on self-determination shared on social media and calling on citizens from certain parts of Kenya to secede and form their own state. Thereafter, various politicians, in their usual element took it up, even sharing on social media maps of the two would-be separate Kenyan states. So one would ask, why is this conversation gaining track? And will it materialize?
A recent report jointly released by SID (Society for International Development) and KNBS (Kenya National Bureau of Statistics) paints a mixed picture of our economy. In Turkana for instance, despite the presence of funds such as Free Primary Education (FPE), Secondary Schools Bursary Funds (SEBF), Constituency Development Fund (CDF), Rural Electrification Fund (REF) and many others, levels of deprivation remain extremely high in some areas. In Loima (Turkana County), 93 percent of the population still has no education, compared to a paltry 8.2 percent of citizens living in Makadara (Nairobi County). The extents of inequality are many, including gender inequality which has for a long time in Kenya seen fewer women participating in politics, civil service and private enterprise. Admittedly, there have been marked steps in progressively empowering more women, following the new constitutional dispensation which prescribes the two thirds gender rule. So while that has been remarkable; what about the other forms of inequality especially economic?
One little recognized, but crucial facet of inequality is in access to quality essential services. When the poorest members of society are required to pay for essential services, this comes at a consequence for them. They will be forced to forego something else, which could most probably be their startup capital that sustains their livelihood. Globally, a report released by UN Habitat a decade ago projected that in 30 years, the world’s slum population will have doubled. Currently, of the three billion urban residents in the world today, more than one billion of them live in slums and are vulnerable to disease, violence, social and economic exclusion. Mathare, Kibera, Soweto and many other Kenyan slums are part of this billion vulnerable human beings. Not to mention other struggling Kenyans who don’t necessarily live in slums.
Now let’s tie in the knots. You have poor, marginalized and vulnerable Kenyans who have probably only known poverty all their lives. I say this because inequality can span generations if left unchecked. The poverty of a mother can blight the lives of her children. And that’s why each year, according to the Chronic Poverty Research Centre, more than 30 million children are born with impaired growth due to poor nutrition during foetal development. This is astounding!
So there are the facts. That although our economy is fairly doing well, it is important that it works for all Kenyans. And the best way (among others) to achieve this is by ensuring that public goods and services are affordable and equitably accessible to Kenyans irrespective of their political persuasions or leanings. And this can’t be done by the National government alone. That’s why we have the fourth schedule of the Constitution. In the years gone by, one can rightly claim that the unequal distribution of resources could be addressed solely by the ruling regime. Unfortunately, this is not the case now. All 47 county governments have an equal obligation to ensure that Devolution works perfectly well in all 47 counties. The National Government on the other hand, needs to increase the equitable share going to counties, as well as ensuring that it’s done in a timely manner.
This way, we shall take care of the most vulnerable members of our society who are currently the target of secession crusaders. We don’t need to part ways. There’s a way out of this, and it sits perfectly within our National and County Governments.
Let us therefore train our focus, not in seceding, but in calling out these leaders to action.