Connect with us

Politics

Towards the Home Stretch: Poll Update in an Evolving Electoral Context

20 min read.

This is the fourth in a series of articles that will review and comment on surveys related to the August 2022 general election, providing analytical tools to enable the reader to assess their credibility and potential impact.

Published

on

Towards the Home Stretch: Poll Update in an Evolving Electoral Context
Download PDFPrint Article

With less than one month until the general election it was to be expected that at least one further round of national polls would have been conducted/released since my previous (and third) piece for The Elephant, leaving me with two more pieces to offer: one before and one after August 9. The five main developments and issues that are covered here are: a summary/comparison of the results of the three surveys relating to the presidential contest; consideration of respondents claiming to be “undecided” about their presidential voting intentions; some challenges in weighing the impact of deputy presidential running mates as well as of “the gender factor”; issues related to the interpretation of county-level data and media performance in this regard; a comparison of the sub-national regions/zones now used by the three mainstream pollsters, as well as the implication of such areal categories for consideration of the “Elephant in the room”: the ethnic factor in Kenya’s electoral politics.

Comparison of the three polls: third horse entry?

Each of the three “mainstream pollsters” that this series has been tracking – TIFA Research, Infotrak and Radio Africa – released results during the week of 10 July. Though TIFA had conducted its survey during the last week of June, it delayed release of its data to give a client, the Standard newspaper, enough time to publish findings from the issue-based questions that it had loaded onto the questionnaire.  These questions constituted about one-third of the survey’s total content, thus in declaring “the sponsor” of the poll as required by the Publication of Electoral Polls Act of 2012, TIFA was not obliged to identify The Standard Group, although the Standard’s own article reporting and analysing the findings clearly stated that it had engaged TIFA for the purpose.

As the table below shows, the main change since the previous round of surveys is the emergence of a third candidate – George Wajackoyah – whose initial ratings suggest the profound impact he could have on the “two-horse” race by denying both of them the required “50 per cent + 1” to avoid a second round run-off contest.

Before offering a few points about the figures – and without casting any personal aspersions on Wajackoyah – the various and non-mutually exclusive possible motivations for such “minor candidate” ballot appearances for all elective positions in Kenya, and in no particular ranking order of importance or actual occurrence, may be suggested: to build one’s public profile for a possible future run or for shorter term business or professional benefits, or even just for social purposes, or with the aim of obtaining an appointed position by the eventual winner or winning political party (at either the county or national level); to draw votes away from one or more of the leading candidates, whether self-motivated or instigated/supported by others; and to promote a particular policy agenda, whether individual or on behalf of some issue-based party or lobby group (e. g., environmental protection).

Clearly, in a contest such as Kenya’s presidential one where a second round, run-off, contest must be held if no candidate initially garners enough votes spread out over enough of the counties to achieve a win, the bargaining power of any candidate who can take “credit” for this outcome, increases significantly. (Although an alternative outcome is for any such candidate(s) to be “enticed” to stand down – at least through a public declaration if it is too late to have any names removed from the ballot paper – for whatever motivation or benefit.)

Firms Sample Size/Margin of Error Data Collection Dates (2022) Ruto  Odinga Wajackoyah Undecided/NR
TIFA* 1,308 / +/-2.7% 25-30 June 39% 42% 4% 14%
Infotrak 9,000 +/-1% 2-7 July 37% 43% 4% 16%
Radio Africa** 3,000 / +/-1.8% 7-10 July 45.3% 46.2% 5% 3%
3 Survey Average 40.4% 43.7% 4.3% 10.7%

 

* The TIFA survey sample was 1,533, but after removing those who declared that they are not registered voters, as well as those who said that they were but would “definitely not vote” on August 9, the sample decreased to this figure.

** Information on the sample size, the (correct) margin of error(not +/-0.8 per cent as reported by the Star), and the mode of data collection (not indicated by the Star, and not by SMS “invite” as in Radio Africa’s three previous surveys but by “ordinary” CATI) and dates (not 7-11 July as reported by the Star) was obtained from a senior Radio Africa editor, but who also (incorrectly) stated that the margin of error is +/-1 per cent). Radio Africa also announced (in the Star) that they will be conducting “weekly polls” between now and the election.

A few comments about these three polls should be added.  First, looking at the error margins of the TIFA and Infotrak results provides a useful lesson about random national surveys: that even massively increasing sample size (with the accompanying cost) adds little value in terms of the (national only) results. Specifically, even with a sample size of nearly nine times that of TIFA’s, Infotrak’s results fall within the margins of error of the two surveys (as shown, +/-2.7 per cent for TIFA’s and only +/- 1 per cent for Infotrak – and this is so even if there was a full week (and more) difference in the data collection dates).

Another point is that even if all three surveys were conducted by CATI, the Radio Africa poll once again reports a far lower proportion failing to answer the “which presidential candidate will you vote for” question. Why this survey has no figure for “no response” is puzzling; so, too, is Radio Africa’s reversion to a CATI methodology given that its last several surveys have been based on SMS “participation invitations”; the accompanying story offered no explanation for this.  It seems improbable that this contrast (i.e., only 3 per cent “undecided” vs. 10 per cent in TIFA’s and 16 per cent in Infotrak’s) is a consequence of Radio Africa’s slightly later data collection date, although this absence of a “No Response” figure explains Radio Africa’s significantly higher figures for both of the main candidates. (I have sought an explanation from Radio Africa about this – for example, do their interviewers put any “pressure” on their respondents to “just name the candidate you think you might vote for”?  I await a reply. In this regard, it is also unclear why the Daily Nation writers of the story on the Infotrak survey, in noting TIFA’s “delay” in releasing their results (on 12 July) suggested that this “could make the [TIFA] numbers obsolete in a fluid political situation”, yet – as noted above – they are statistically identical with those of Infotrak.

If Wajackoyah can maintain the level of his current popularity, he has the potential of forcing a run-off.

Whatever the case, the overall conclusions from these three recent surveys are first, that while Odinga maintains his lead over Ruto, he has not increased it over the last month – if anything, it has decreased slightly – and second, that if Wajackoyah can maintain his current level of popularity, he has the potential of forcing a run-off. This is evident if all those respondents who stated that they were as yet “undecided”, together with those who declined to answer this question at all (for whom, as noted, Radio Africa reported no figure), are removed from the calculation. Nevertheless, this reality exists even if the figures from one firm (Infotrak) put Odinga barely over the required “50 per cent + 1” threshold.  (Interpreting these same figures, James Mbaka of the Star is thus in error when, after recently reporting the results shown in the above table, he asserted that “Three recent opinion polls by credible firms projected that neither Raila nor Ruto would manage to win . . . in the First Round. . .” since he evidently failed to do this adjusted arithmetic. (Whether the Treasury can afford a run-off contest is another matter.)

Preferred Next President with Running Mate
One example of the failure to do such basic re-calculations was provided by Brian Otieno of the Standard in suggesting that “Ruto . . . would need the entire undecided vote to swing in his favour and also some two per cent from his opponent’s – Raila or George Wajackoyah, at four per cent baskets.”  Again, he failed to do the required (and quite simple) calculation.

Regardless of the likelihood of a runoff, such ratings for Wajackoyah raise the question as to just who his would-be voters are. As shown by TIFA in its media Release (of 11 July), they are most numerous (in proportionate terms) in the South Rift (8 per cent), Lower Eastern (7 per cent) and Mt. Kenya (6 per cent).

Further, and perhaps more significant, among probable voters, more than three times of those declaring an intention to vote for him are among the youngest age cohort (i.e., 18-24) as among the oldest (above 35): 7 per cent vs. 2 per cent. And recall here that such voting-intention questions were asked only to those who claimed to be registered voters, excluding those who said that they “definitely” would not vote.

More generally, and just on the basis of speculation, four (again, non-mutually exclusive) motives may constitute the basis of the support for Wajackoyah that these surveys have captured. At least among those who, on the basis of such polls (or other information), realize that he has absolutely no chance of winning, it could be an unhappy “protest” vote against the main ballot-choice of Ruto and Odinga (for whatever reasons), the “fun” of voting for an extremely “non-conformist” candidate based on whatever combination of his character and advertised policies (e.g., the legalization/promotion of the growing and marketing of marijuana, the execution of those convicted of corruption, etc.), the hope that his vote total will force a run-off contest in which he may be able to “sell” his overt support in exchange for some personal or policy presence in the next government, and/or the hope that he will be encouraged to participate in some future election (for whatever position) with a better chance of winning.

Regardless of the likelihood of a runoff, such ratings for Wajackoyah raise the question as to just who his would-be voters are.

At the same time, it is possible that such figures will not be reflected in the official results after the votes are counted, based on the fact that such survey responses were either not sincere when they were given, or that at least a significant proportion of such people will decide that votes cast for him will be ‘wasted’, and therefore force themselves to choose between the two viable candidates on August 9, especially if the polls continue to show the Odinga-Ruto race as ‘too close to call’.  Time (and further survey research) will tell.

The undecideds: Who’s who and why?

Again, based on these survey figures, we have seen, as expected, that the proportion of all respondents who were unable or declined to mention a preferred presidential candidate has continued to decrease since the beginning of the year. For example, according to TIFA, it has dropped by about half, from 30 per cent in January to just 14 per cent in late June. At the same time, it cannot be assumed that all such respondents have not, in fact, made up their minds, but may be too shy to reveal their voting intentions, for one reason or another. Indeed, only with the benefit of credible official results will it be known if at least some of those declining to reveal their voting intentions have actually concealed them – similar to the significant proportions of respondents in the surveys that were “wrong” with regard to Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US election and in the UK’s “Brexit” vote the same year. Assuming that is the case, who between Ruto and Odinga will benefit most when the real votes are counted?

While an answer to this question must wait a bit longer, it is clear that the proportion of respondents who have declined to name a preferred presidential candidate in this electoral season remains larger than it was in the period leading up to any of the last three elections. The relevant figures taken from surveys conducted about one month before them are as follows: in 2007, 1 per cent; in 2013, 5 per cent; and in 2017, 9 per cent. It should also be noted that the surveys which yielded these figures were all conducted face-to-face at respondents’ households, in contrast to the three at issue here. It may be assumed that in the former setting, where interviewers and respondents are able to establish a more “personal” relationship, it would be more “awkward” for a respondent to avoid answering this question.

Aside from any differential impact of methodology, however, it may also be suggested that the choice of the main presidential candidates in this election is rather more complex or challenging than in any previous (multi-party) contest, in that the leading contenders have largely exchanged their political “clothing”. For his part, the deputy president is largely campaigning against his president – and thus the status quo – even if throughout their first term, there appeared to be not an iota of daylight between them. By contrast, the former prime minister finds (or has put) himself in the somewhat awkward position of trying to sit in two chairs at the same time: competing with the DP in offering credible “change” improvement for the vast majority of the electorate currently suffering a plethora of economic (among other) woes, while largely unable to attack the outgoing president to whom he owes whatever advantage the latter’s support provides. Indeed, in a TIFA survey of June 2021, fifty per cent more respondents identified Ruto rather than Odinga as “the political leader most active in terms of criticizing the Jubilee government and trying to hold it to account”, and in TIFA’s April 2022 survey, some three-quarters of respondents identified Odinga as “Uhuru’s preferred successor”.  Such a situation makes it largely impossible for Odinga to assume the anti-government posture he has assumed in the last five elections, notwithstanding his short-lived absorption into Moi’s KANU government and party in 2001.

The proportion of all respondents who were unable (or declined) to mention a preferred presidential candidate has continued to decrease since the beginning of the year

Whatever reasons might be offered about such higher figures, the question remains as to just who these “undecideds” are (as well as those who simply declined to answer the question – coded as “No Response”).  A cursory look at the data offers some indication. First, dividing all respondents who claimed to be registered voters into those who did vs. those who did not name any candidate, rather more of the former answered the question about their likelihood of voting by saying they “will definitely vote” (71 per cent vs. 63 percent), suggesting a somewhat greater interest among them in the election altogether. An even greater contrast is found in terms of gender, with almost three times as many women as men not naming a preferred candidate (21 per cent vs. 8 per cent). Again, whether this is due to shyness, a lower level of interest in elections, or taking longer to make this ballot choice, perhaps due to Kenya’s largely patriarchal culture in which women receive “instructions” various issues from husbands, fathers, etc., cannot be discerned. Such a contrast is nearly equally apparent in terms of education levels, as significantly fewer of those without any or just a primary education named any candidate as compared with those with secondary or higher education. Further, in ethnic terms, while at least nine out of ten Luo and Kalenjin named a candidate, the figures for nearly all other (major) groups is about 10 per cent lower, aside from those in the Mt. Kenya grouping, who are in an intermediate position, evidently based on the presence of a fellow ethnic running mate candidate on both sides of the main partisan divide.

On the other hand, no contrasts in the proportions of those who did vs. those who did not name a candidate are found in terms of political party/coalition alignment, age, and employment status. (Actually determining the relevant salience of each factor would require a complicated regression analysis that goes beyond the confines of this piece!)

In sum, it seems clear that the most frequent response of the “undecideds” in TIFA’s April survey as to what would most enable them to decide whom to vote for – “more information about policies/manifestos” – is not the whole story.

The running mate (and gender) factor

Precisely measuring the impact of running mates on campaigns is always a challenging task, in large part because many respondents may be unclear about this in their own minds, or unwilling to acknowledge it even if they are. When the respective supporters of the two main presidential candidates were asked a more general question in TIFA’s last survey, “How satisfied are you with Raila’s/Ruto’s choice of Martha Karua/Rigathi Gachagua as his deputy president running-mate? Are you…?”, there was a marked contrast in their responses, with considerably more of Odinga’s than Ruto’s supporters stating that they were “very satisfied” (90 per cent vs. 67 per cent), yet Ruto’s overall support rating rose slightly more than Odinga’s (4 per cent vs. 3 per cent compared to the previous survey, although this 1 per cent difference is within the survey’s margin of error).

(One other point: When the Standard reported these results – based on several questions they had sponsored in TIFA’s June survey, as noted above – the story’s caption was: “Poll: Karua will net more votes for Raila than Rigathi for Ruto”, yet as Nzau Musau explained in his first sentence, this conclusion was derived from a perception question, not an analysis of the actual candidates’ ratings/change of fortunes since TIFA’s previous survey. That is, whereas 49 per cent stated that Karua will add to Raila’s vote total, only 30 per cent felt likewise about Ruto’s choice of Gachagua, with another 21 per cent not certain as to which running-mate will bring along most votes.)

In ethnic terms, while at least nine out of ten Luo and Kalenjin named a candidate, the figures for all other (major) groups are about 10 per cent lower.

Moreover, with specific regard to the Karua/gender factor – and again, notwithstanding the perception that she is considerably more useful in terms of adding votes to Odinga than Gachagua is to Ruto – the rise in their respective ratings is (as noted) statistically identical.  Further, Odinga suffers from a significantly greater “gender gap” (i.e., male vs. female) than does Ruto (47-37 per cent for the former but only 40-38 percent for the latter). Indeed, this 10 per cent gap for Odinga is exactly what it was at the end of April (37-27 per cent) before running mates were announced.  At the same, it may be the case that her presence on the Azimio ticket will encourage higher voter turnout among women on August 9 (whether to vote for her and Odinga, or across the board), but the main point is that whatever Karua is contributing to Odinga’s electoral prospects, there does not appear to be any “gender” advantage – so far, at least.

County-level data and ‘battlegrounds’

Reporting the latest Infotrak poll, Daily Nation writers Collins Omulo and Onyango K’Onyango began by referring to “ten crucial counties with a total of 3.6 million votes” that “recent opinion polls have classified as battlegrounds, where the vote could go either way.”

It should first be noted that only Infotrak (once again) used this term in releasing its results, without, however,  giving it any numerical definition. (In June the number of respondents from each county was reported, but not for July; since the sample size in both surveys was identical, it can be assumed that the county numbers are the same.) For example, these writers stated that: “However, Mombasa with 641,913 voters and Tana River with 143,096 voters are now battlegrounds with Mr Odinga’s popularity in Mombasa at 46 per cent, Dr Ruto at 27 per cent and 20 per cent being undecided voters.” In other words, in Mombasa Odinga enjoys a 19 per cent margin. Yet with some 270 respondents drawn from this county, the margin of error is +/-6 per cent, equal to a 12 per cent spread – giving Odinga a clear lead of (at least) 7 per cent. So how much larger would Odinga’s lead have to be for Infotrak to classify Mombasa as among his “strongholds”?  We have no idea.

In any case, such a statement is misleading in three senses. First, since Kenya does not have a US-type electoral college system, counties are not electoral units that are “won” or “lost”; the only thing that matters is how the votes are distributed between the candidates across the entire country in their efforts to attain the “50 per cent + 1” threshold.  (This statement assumes that neither of the two main candidates will have any difficulty in obtaining at least 25 per cent of the vote in at least 24 of the 47 counties – which all recent polls suggest is certain to be the case.)  In the Kenyan context, therefore, “winning” a sparsely populated county (in terms of registered voters who actually turn out to vote on election day) such as Lamu or Marsabit by netting a few more votes than one’s main opponent is not nearly as critical as “losing” a highly populated county such as Nairobi or Nakuru by simply increasing one’s share of the vote there by a few per cent.

Second, and more egregiously (as suggested above), the Daily Nation’s writers fail to interrogate the statistical basis of Infotrak’s lists of counties in the “grip” of either Odinga or Ruto: 21 in that of the former and 16 in that of the latter. Specifically, there is no reference to any definition of this term; presumably, some stated margin between the two candidates’ ratings in each county.  To repeat the point from my previous Elephant piece, before accepting Infotrak’s “stronghold” lists, it is necessary to calculate the margin of error for each of these counties. For example, Garissa, with a Ruto-Odinga gap of 22 per cent (based on figures of 50 per cent vs. 28, respectively), is included among Ruto’s “strongholds”.  Yet with a registered voter population of about 165,000 and an allocated sample of about 85, the resultant margin of error is +/-11 per cent, equal to a 22 per cent spread – exactly the difference between them. Should that earn Garissa the “stronghold” label in the Ruto list?

In other words, while a national sample of 9,000 looks impressive, when divided (proportionally) into 47 counties, the resultant margins of error require attention.

This Nation piece further reports the Infotrak CEO as stating that: “We have seen a complete flip in Lamu and Kwale”, referring to an increase for Odinga from June to July of 26 per cent in the former county and of 19 per cent in the latter. Yet the margins of error for these counties are +/-17 per cent in the former (for a 34 per cent spread) and nearly +/-8.5 per cent in the latter (for a 17 per cent spread), meaning that the change in the figure for Lamu falls within this county’s margin of error and that of the latter only just outside its margin of error (i.e., 2 per cent), perhaps not qualifying for the description of “a complete flip”.

While it does not employ any vote-support categories (such as “battlegrounds”), TIFA likewise could be more explicit about the error margins of the nine zones for which it provides sub-national results. The most extreme case is that of South Rift (which, as shown, is comprised of just two counties: Kajiado and Narok (see below). Constituting only 5 per cent of TIFA’s total sample (in this most recent survey of 1,533 – but as shown, only 1,442, having removed those who stated that they are not registered voters, and then leaving only 1,308, having also removed those who state that they “will definitely not vote”), this amounts to only (“likely to vote”) 65 respondents. Based on a total registered voter population of about 1,270,000, the margin of error is +/-12 per cent, equal to a 24 per cent spread. Keeping this in mind, neither the increase for Odinga-Karua by 17 per cent, nor even the decrease for Ruto-Gachagua by 33 per cent looks quite so dramatic (since the former’s gain could really be just 5 per cent, although the latter’s loss remains a hefty 21 per cent).

Similarly (in the same Nation article), Infotrak reports that over the last month, Ruto’s popularity (i.e., the expressed intention to vote for him) “jumped” from 52 per cent to 55 per cent in Mt Kenya while “Mr Odinga’s approval [sic] currently stands at 24 per cent from 27 per cent in June.”  In other words, even if Odinga gained so much in the (sparsely populated) South Rift so as to overtake Ruto by 10 per cent there, the 3 per cent gain in Mt. Kenya, combined with Odinga’s decline of the same amount, gives the DP a far more (potential) vote boost, given the vastly greater population of registered voters in the latter zone.

Since Kenya does not have a US-type electoral college system, counties are not electoral units that are “won” or “lost”.

As for Radio Africa, the report of their most recent survey offered correlations of preferred presidential candidate with (reported, presumably monthly) income. In doing so, the second category shown (after “no income”) is Shs1-30,000/-, which surely must include at least half of the sample. Yet they then use five additional more affluent categories, the highest being “above Shs150,000/-“ which, based on data from the last few years of TIFA surveys, could not have included more than a handful of respondents, if that. For example, in TIFA’s most recent poll, only 4 per cent of respondents reported earning more than Shs50,000/- per month, yet Radio Africa presents results for four high income categories beginning with Shs50,000/- to Shs70,000.  Based on a sample of 3,000, that would be equivalent to about 120 respondents, for whom the margin of error (if all those with reported monthly earnings above Shs50,000/- were lumped together) is +/- 9 per cent – equal to an 18 per cent spread. In other words, even if Radio Africa did not display the margin of error for each income category, they should have shared the number of respondents in each one with their readers and let them judge what, if any, statistical integrity such correlations have.

Perhaps the overall point is that even if there is no agreed minimum number of respondents among even ‘credible’ survey firms for which such sub-total results should be presented, whether such categories are income, regions, or any other variable, there should be more transparency about such sub-national error-margins.

Zone comparisons and the (other) elephant in the room

Radio Africa has now jumped on the TIFA “bandwagon” by adjusting its previous sub-national categories as Infotrak began to do, starting with its most recent previous survey (although they did not include a chart for these as they have done in the past; TIFA always includes a list of its nine zones, listing the counties in each one). All three firms have thus now moved away from using the eight pre-2010 provinces for this purpose. The table below shows the sub-national units each one used in releasing their most recent survey data reported above.

Regions / Zones (TIFA) TIFA Radio Africa Infotrak
Nairobi* X X X
Coast* X X X
Lower Eastern X X X
Mt Kenya X X X
Northern X
Central Rift X
South Rift** X X X
Western* X X X
Nyanza* X X X
Upper Eastern X
North Rift X X
North Eastern* X X

*These regions/zones were provinces in the pre-2010 Constitution era.

**TIFA includes only Kajiado and Narok in this zone while for Infotrak it also includes Kericho and Bomet. While this makes geographic sense, TIFA prefers to place all the main Kalenjin areas in Central Rift.

Although, as shown, the regions (or in TIFA’s terminology, “zones”) differ slightly across the three firms, they nevertheless allow for some comparisons at this sub-national level, even if none of them includes the margin of error for each one, an omission which helps to explain a certain amount of erroneous interpretation by journalists in asserting that one candidate or another has “gained” or “lost” votes in a particular region when the change actually falls within that region’s margin of error, which is by necessity much greater than for the national sample as a whole, as also discussed above.  At least Infotrak and TIFA always show the percentage of the total sample that was drawn from each region/zone, so that, knowing the total sample size, it is possible to take a margin of error table and a calculator and do the “math” to ascertain these.

Presenting survey results at this sub-national level raises a question rarely asked by local journalists (or others), even if it seems that many are thinking about: To what extent can these units be considered as “substitutes” for at least the main ethnic group resident within each one?

This question arises simply because no survey firm releases results with ethnic correlations, for the (perhaps obvious) reason that none of them (nor any media house) would want to be accused of “dividing Kenyans”, let alone “threatening national unity”, even when – as is certainly the case in this pre-election season – the data reality shows that Kenyans are much less polarized along ethnic lines than many assume. (Let me also note here that several attempts over recent years to obtain public policy “guidance” on this issue from the National Cohesion and Integration Commission yielded no “edible” fruit, notwithstanding the apparent interest they displayed in the figures that were shared with them.)

For example, it was found (in a June 2021 TIFA survey) that only 40 per cent of Kenyans answered the question, “Is there anyone who you consider to be the main leader of your ethnic community?” in the affirmative.  True, this national figure rose as this year’s election approached (in TIFA’s June 2022 survey) to 54 per cent – clear evidence that like the proverbial “hangman’s noose”, elections tend to concentrate communal minds, but this seems far below what most people consider to be the case. And this defiance of “common knowledge” holds true even if the specific figures are as high as two-thirds among the Luo, Kalenjin and Kamba and below 50 per cent for the Kikuyu and Gusii. Also significantly, among those who believe their community has such a leader, there is far from unanimity as to who that leader is, even for the two communities with “serious” presidential candidates: the Luo and the Kalenjin. (The lower figures for the Kikuyu and Gusii are clearly in part a reflection of the fact that neither has a serious presidential candidate in this election, while the former has two deputy presidential candidates and a president about to retire.)

While thoughtful people may reasonably disagree about what the impact of releasing such figures would be, given such widespread assumptions about their salience in electoral choices, it is clear that much analytical capacity – and thus public understanding – is lost by “hiding” them (even when it is clear that the major campaign teams make considerable use of such data in crafting and implementing their vote-hunting and turnout strategies).

In the absence of such ethnic correlations in publicly released findings, the public is left with the regional correlations that the main survey firms almost always include.

The following table (based on TIFA’s June survey data) shows the largest (and where included, also the second largest) ethnic group in each region.

Zones (TIFA) Predominant Ethnic Group(s) Per Cent
Nairobi Kikuyu 35
Coast Mijikenda 50
Lower Eastern Kamba 80
Mt Kenya Kikuyu / Meru 60 / 20
Northern Somali / Turkana 35 / 20
Central Rift Kalenjin / Kikuyu 65 / 20
South Rift Maasai 45
Western Luhya 75
Nyanza Luo / Gusii 50 / 25

 

It is clear, therefore, that while one or another ethnic group predominates in most of these zones, there remains considerable heterogeneity in most of them.

Moving from ‘what’ to ‘why’, and other Issues 

Given the reality (described above) that not a single ethnic group is homogenous in terms of its presidential voting intentions, the question arises as to what accounts for these intra-ethnic divisions. For example, within a (largely) ethnically homogenous area such as Mukurwe-ini in Nyeri or Kilungu in Makueni, what factors explain why some people will vote for Ruto and others for Odinga? At this stage, what should be clear is that even beginning to answer this question requires not assumed generalizations but detailed research, and of a nature that would best include and also go beyond quantitative surveys.

Another issue not considered here is the so-called “bandwagon” effect: that candidates or parties shown to be leading in polls will thereby attract more votes, based on the assumption that many people want to be on “the winning side”.  For now, it is enough to say that it is widely assumed to exist, and at a significant level. If not, why would we see candidates and other partisans so vociferously bashing results that do not show them leading, as well as sponsoring “fake” polls – sometimes by “unknown” survey firms, and at other times attributing results to credible firms that had nothing to do with them. The non-profit research organization, Code for Africa, recently reported that it has been identifying six to seven “fake” polls per week over the recent past – which they define as attributing survey results to firms that did not conduct them. What is clear is that candidates find it difficult to remain silent when a credible survey firm shows them trailing, or even just decreasing in popularity. Just how the impact of such “fake” – as well as genuine – polls might be measured will be taken up in my next piece.

In the meantime, with less than three weeks remaining before the 5-day embargo period prescribed in the Publication of Electoral Polls Act kicks in, and with all the mainstream pollsters either having begun or about to launch their final (or nearly final) round of surveys, there is certain to be plenty more material to present and discuss before “D-Day” on August 9.

Support The Elephant.

The Elephant is helping to build a truly public platform, while producing consistent, quality investigations, opinions and analysis. The Elephant cannot survive and grow without your participation. Now, more than ever, it is vital for The Elephant to reach as many people as possible.

Your support helps protect The Elephant's independence and it means we can continue keeping the democratic space free, open and robust. Every contribution, however big or small, is so valuable for our collective future.

By

Dr Wolf is an independent governance/research consultant currently associated with TIFA Research.

Politics

Arror & Kimwarer Dams Saga: Fighting Corruption or Realpolitik?

The cases at the Milimani Anticorruption Court provide few concrete answers amid claims that the investigations into the Arror and Kimwarer Dams projects are politically motivated to weaken Deputy President William Ruto who is running for the presidency.

Published

on

Arror & Kimwarer Dams Saga: Fighting Corruption or Realpolitik?
Download PDFPrint Article

A joint investigation by IrpiMedia and The Elephant

Soon after Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto secured a controversial second term in November 2017, investigations begun into the procurement and financing arrangements surrounding the Arror and Kimwarer dams in the Rift Valley county of Elgeyo Marakwet.

The dams had been commissioned years earlier, and billions had been paid out but there was nothing on the ground to show for either dam. The Kimwarer project has since been cancelled, the Arror one scaled down, and eight defendants today face charges of conspiring to defraud the government of nearly Sh60 billion. However, there have been claims that the investigations and prosecutions are politically motivated and aimed at weakening Deputy President William Ruto who is running to becoming Kenya’s fifth president. Just this week, during the presidential debate, Ruto essentially said the dams were casualties of the 2018 fallout with his boss. This has been many times denied by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The two cases dealing with the dams at the Anti-Corruption Court in Milimani, Nairobi, focus on alleged irregularities in the tendering and contracting of the dams as well as alleged illegal payments made to two Italian companies. The crux of the ODPP’s case is that officials of Kerio Valley Development Authority and the national government colluded to grant CMC di Ravenna and its joint venture partner, Itinera S.P.A, a contract for the construction of the two dams for which they had not won the tender and that differed fundamentally from the terms advertised in December 2014, which called for proposals for the “funding, design, build and transfer” of the dams. The eight Kenyan officials in case No. 20 of 2019 and the 18 Italian companies and individuals in case No. 21 of 2019, are accused of executing a sleight of hand, initially pretending that the contractors would mobilize money from the Italian government to build the dams and then switching it to a commercial loan with the government as the borrower. Furthermore, instead of the borrowed money being deposited into the Consolidated Fund as the constitution prescribes, on the contrary, it was sent directly to the contractor. In the ODPP’s view, this is where the fraud arose.

The initial contracting model selected was Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Financing where the contractor also arranges financing for the project through tie-ups with financing institutions. They can be useful when contractors have better access to low-cost financing, including state-provided export-import financing. However, the Parliamentary Service Commission has noted that these contracts are vulnerable to abuse and in 2019 parliament suspended 20 dam projects, including Arror and Kimwarer, saying “Kenyans [were] not getting value for money in this model”.

According to the ODPP, the tendering process for the two dams was riddled with irregularities. In an affidavit sworn in February 2020 on behalf of the DPP, Police Constable Thomas Tanui states that, unlike the Arror dam, the Kimwarer project had not been approved by the Cabinet, as required by the 2013 Public Private Partnership Act (PPA). Further, in the course of the process, the tender documents for CMC di Ravenna were illegally altered at least twice to switch CMC’s joint venture partners from South Africa’s AECOM to a company only known as MWH, and then again to Itinera S.P.A. And while it was Italy-based CMC di Ravenna that made the bid, the tender was awarded to South Africa-based CMC di Ravenna, a different legal entity with whom KVDA signed Memoranda of Understanding regarding the two dams in December 2015 and February 2016 that were meant to end with the signing of concessional contracts within 8 months.

However, the MOUs expired without the concessional contracts being signed and instead, on 5 April 2017, the KVDA signed commercial contracts for the construction of both dams with the Italian CMC di Ravenna and its joint venture partner Itinera S.P.A. for a total combined amount of US$501.8 million, including 10 per cent contingencies that had not been negotiated for under the concessional agreements.

In his affidavit, PC Tanui avers that the dam projects were conceived as concessionary projects under the PPA but were surreptitiously converted into a commercial instead of a concessional contract. However, what the ODPP means by “concessional contract” and how that differs from a commercial contract is not clear. There’s no mention of a “concessional contract” in the PPA which defines a concession as “a contractual licence . . . entitling a person who is granted the licence to make use of the specified infrastructure or undertake a project and to charge user fees, receive availability payments or both”. While the law allows government agencies to “enter into a project agreement with any qualified private party for the financing, construction, operation, equipping or maintenance” of infrastructure, none of the 15 types of public private partnership arrangements it lists in its second schedule seem to fit what KVDA had initially advertised.

However, perhaps what the ODPP refers to as a “concessional contract” is a reference to the way the project was to be funded. According to press reports and Richard Malebe’s petition, the initial charges alleged that  the national government and KVDA officials as well as the Italian companies conspired to “entered into a commercial loan facility agreement disguising it as a government-to-government loan guaranteed by the Italian Government . . . ‘while knowing the tender document contained in the request for proposals for the development of the dams project was a concessional agreement where the intended concessionaire was to be the borrower and financier and not the Government of Kenya’”. In essence, by substituting the commercial contract for the concessional one, rather than an arrangement where Government only paid once the dams were delivered, with the contractor and financiers assuming all the risk, it was the public that was left holding the baby when things went wrong. If anything, the Kenyan public paid to insure the banks against government default, which insurance the ODPP says was illegally single-sourced.

A Treasury press statement dated 28 February 2019, signed by one of the accused, former Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich claims that the financing agreement for the two dams was “government-to-government” with the Italian government—represented by the 100 per cent owned Servizi Assicurativi Del Commercio Estero (SACE)—providing “insurance cover and financial support” amounting to close to 88 per cent of the total loan amount, with a consortium of four banks led by Intesa Sanpaolo said to provide the rest. The statement details “the Conditions Precedent”, which were payments apparently required before funds could be released to the government and the contractor. These include €7.83 million (Sh951 million) in fees and commissions and €94.2 million (Sh11.4 billion) in credit insurance to cover lenders for both dams. In addition, another US$75.2 million (Sh9 billion), or 15 per cent of the total contract sum for both dams was paid out to the contractor.

The Kenyan public paid to insure the banks against government default, which insurance the ODPP says was illegally single-sourced.

The Treasury claims these fees and advances were provided for and paid from the loan from SACE and the banks, not Exchequer funds. This aligns with a November 2019 note by SACE to the Italian foreign ministry which states that the agreement required the “payment of the sums due by the Contracting Authority to the CMC-Itinera joint venture through direct disbursement by the lenders on a current account of the contractor opened outside the State of Kenya” —a violation of the Kenyan constitution which requires all sums borrowed by the government to be deposited in the Consolidated Fund. However, according to both CMC-Itinera and a confidential analysis by the ODPP seen by The Elephant, the advance payment was for a total of €66.6 million (Sh8.09 billion), a discrepancy of nearly Sh1 billion. (It should be noted that the National Treasury appears to have entered into a facility contract with lenders in Euros, and payments appear to have been made in the same currency, even though the commercial contracts were in US dollars, which exposed taxpayers to losses through changes in the exchange rates. In this article, we have used the current exchange rates to reflect the amounts in Kenya Shillings.)

Further, according to business journalist Jaindi Kisero, SACE does not appear in the external debt register which raises doubts as to whether they were indeed the main lender. Also, the November 2019 note by SACE to the Italian foreign ministry says the insurance guarantee was “in favor of the Lenders for the entire amount financed”, which seems to say that all the money came from the banks. The ODPP analysis says that while the agreements make it clear that SACE was one of the financiers, the agency did not act as a party to them. It argues that the insurance premium was fraudulent because if the funds came from SACE, as the agreements suggest, it would have been a government-to-government loan which would require no insurance. It concludes that “payments made by GoK were made with the intention to siphon money from the country in the disguise of advance payment, insurance premium and commitment fees”.

Deputy President Ruto has claimed that only Sh7 billion was in question and that the government had a bank guarantee that protected every penny. The Treasury statement seems to back him up, at least as far as the guarantee is concerned, claiming the advance payment was backed by “a bank/insurance guarantee” which would be called “if the contractor is unable to deliver the service to the Government or runs bankrupt”. And in February 2022 Regional Development Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang told Parliament that Heritage Insurance and Standard Chartered Bank had respectively issued insurance guarantees for the advances paid to the CMC Ravenna-Itinera joint venture for Arror (Sh4.1 billion) and Kimwarer (Sh3.6 billion). He said the government had already recalled the Arror guarantee and was planning to do the same regarding Kimwarer, whose guarantee expires in June 2023. However, it is again unclear from his statement what currency the guarantees are in: dollars, euros or shillings. If in shillings, then it seems that up to Sh1.3 billion may not be covered.

The ODPP analysis says that while the agreements make it clear that SACE was one of the financiers, the agency did not act as a party to them.

It is unclear exactly how much Kenya stands to lose given the discrepancies in the currencies used. In total, according to the ODPP, €168.5 million (Sh20.5 billion) was paid between 4 May 2017 and 7 November 2018 to cover the insurance premium, various fees as well as the advance payments. The statement from the Treasury, as noted above, puts this figure at €102 million and US$75.2 million for a total of Sh23.5 billion at current rates. In addition, the external debt register lists Kenyans as being on the hook for the entire loan amount of €578.4 million (Sh70.3 billion) which stands to be repaid until November 2035. Yet it does not seem that any further disbursements have been made by the banks to the companies beyond the insurance premium, fees and commissions and the advance payment. Why the full loan amount would be reflected as drawn down in the debt register is a mystery. It is also noteworthy that Kenya has refused or failed to make any repayments on the moneys already disbursed.

The cases at the Milimani Anticorruption Court provide few concrete answers. There are currently two cases, consolidated from the initial four—two cases for each dam dealing separately with charges of financial and procedural irregularities. Each of the four initial cases had numerous defendants including directors of companies based in Italy who refused to come to Kenya to take plea, occasioning long delays. Eventually, all the cases were consolidated into two, with Case 20 of 2019 having 8 accused persons based in Kenya, and Case 21 of 2019 dealing with the alleged crimes of 18 Italian individuals and companies. This arrangement has allowed the Kenyan cases to proceed with the first witness out of 57 taking the stand in November last year.

One strange thing about the cases filed by the ODPP is that while they allege a conspiracy to defraud the government through the commercial agreements, there is little indication of the other side of that coin: how did the individuals involved benefit from the scheme? No one is charged with paying or receiving a bribe and there has been little evidence produced so far to warrant the many press allegations of corruption and kickbacks. According to a report in the East African Standard, Sh450 million was “wired by the Treasury to Italian firm CMC di Ravenna . . . was sent to an account in London then Dubai and later to Nairobi”. One of the report’s writers, Roselyne Obala, would later add that the same Sh450 million was part of a larger payment of over Sh600 million and that it was paid to an account in Barclays Bank in Nairobi. However, none of this is in the charges preferred at the Anti-Corruption Court. Further, it is unclear whether “over KSh600 million” refers to the much larger advance payments which, in any case, was (illegally) transferred directly by the banks in London to the companies. Further, the absence of prosecutions within Italy, which has a law criminalizing Italian companies paying bribes to public officials abroad in return for contracts, suggests that there is no evidence that a bribe was paid in this case.

There have been allegations raised that the prosecution of the dam cases was politicised, targeting allies of Deputy President William Ruto. In October last year, Rotich instituted a petition at the Milimani High Courts questioning why the DPP left out key personalities involved in the tendering process such as the former Attorney General Githu Muigai, solicitor general Njee Muturi and former Environment CS Judi Wakhungu. Rotich has also argued that he was not responsible for procurement of the tenders and was not the accounting officer at Treasury. “It is absurd that the respondents chose to charge me while the Attorney General is not charged in this respect. This is an indication of selective prosecution that cannot stand the test of objectivity and fair administration of action,” he argued in the petition. Others have pointed to the dropping of charges against members of the KVDA Tender Committee as well as some of Rotich’s co-accused, former Treasury PS Kamau Thugge and Dr Susan Koech, a former PS in the Environment Ministry, as proof of malicious prosecution.

It is also noteworthy that Kenya has refused or failed to make any repayments on the moneys already disbursed.

Regarding the latter accusation, it is notable that many of the former accused have actually become witnesses so it may just be a case of the DPP using the small fry to net the “big fish”. However, when it comes to why the former AG, the solicitor-general, and the various ministers who oversaw KVDA between 2014 and 2019 are not in the dock, the answers are not so convincing.

A bigger source of discontent is the lack of similar prosecutions over similar projects. For example, the contract over the Itare Dam in Nakuru, also in the Rift Valley, features the same set of characters—SACE, CMC di Ravenna, Intesa San Paolo, BNP Paribas—and was the first dam awarded to the Italians in 2014. After advance payments of Sh4.3 billion were paid out, the project appears to have collapsed. As Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika noted in February 2019, “It . . . seems as if there is no equal treatment of all the projects across the country.”

In 2013, CMC had signed a consultancy contract with Stansha Limited, owned by Stanley Muthama, the MP for Lamu West, in which Stansha pledged to help CMC in its bid for tenders for the construction of Itare Dam, which is under the Rift Valley Water Services Board, and Ruiru II Dam under the Athi Water Service Board, for a fee of 3 per cent of the contract value. For Itare, it came to Sh330 million. According to the ODPP analysis, on 25 November 2015, a Stanley Muthama identified as “Staff CMC Kenya office” participated in a high-level “clarification meeting” with KVDA officials regarding the tender for the Arror dam, one of the decisive meetings for the award of the contract. Among those at the meeting were Paolo Porcelli and Gianni Ponta, two CMC officials the ODPP has charged, among others, for having “conspired to unlawfully have the services of CMC di Ravenna-ITINERA JV procured by KVDA for the development of Arror and Kimwarer multipurpose dams”. There is however no Stanley Muthama being prosecuted by the ODPP in the Kenyan case and no suggestion of any wrongdoing with regard to the contracts.

There, however, seems to be a pattern emerging where CMC di Ravenna—which has been in economic turmoil for four years; in 2018 it owed creditors €1.5 billion euros—receives advance payments for projects it does not thereafter complete. In Nepal, a US$550 million contract for the construction of a hydroelectric plant was terminated in 2019 and the company ordered by an Italian court to return €15 million to a bank in Nepal that had financed the project. CMC had not warned the Nepalese bank of its financial problems and had not even begun the work.

In Kenya, though, the two Italian firms have also claimed the cases were politicised and lacked grounds. In December 2020, they filed a suit at the International Court of Arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce claiming they were victims of power politics between President Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto. They alleged that the cancellation of the tender was a ploy to weaken Deputy President Ruto’s 2022 presidential aspirations and are demanding US$115 million (KSh13.7 billion) in compensation for the cancellation of the contracts.

A bigger source of discontent is the lack of similar prosecutions over similar projects.

“It seems hardly coincidental that the highest ranking official to be investigated and charged in the criminal proceeding is Kenya’s Treasury CS Mr Henry Rotich, an ally of Mr Ruto,” stated the court document as reported in Business Daily. They claim that allegations of impropriety did not surface until two years after the contracts were signed and that KVDA had admitted that the projects had been politicised with an intention of terminating them.

In notes sent to the Italian Foreign Ministry, the joint venture complains of “delays in the payment of fees [by Kenya] to the Agent Bank with the risk of blocking future disbursements”. The companies blame the failure of the project to get off the ground on the failure by KVDA to deliver the necessary land, a claim repeated by Deputy President Ruto during the presidential debate in July. They also claim that import permit exemptions had not yet been issued.

President Kenyatta has also reportedly tasked AG Paul Kihara and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua to negotiate with the joint venture to seek an amicable settlement although it is curious that Kenya would seek to pay off the very companies it accuses of conspiring to defraud it. The country has, however, trodden this route before. In 2014, President Kenyatta ordered payment of Sh1.4 billion to briefcase companies for termination of contracts to supply telecommunication equipment and bandwidth spectrum, part of the Anglo Leasing scam where billions were paid to fictitious companies for security-related contracts.

Further, in May last year, SACE wrote to the AG, the Treasury and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying that Kenya could get a partial refund of its insurance premium but only if it committed to paying off the banks on whose behalf the country had taken out the policy. And the letter included a not-so-subtle hint that Kenya’s relationship with Italy was on the line.

They alleged that the cancellation of the tender was a ploy to weaken Deputy President Ruto’s 2022 presidential aspirations.

In brief, it seems clear that there were serious irregularities during the tendering and contracting for the two dams. KVDA tendered the projects under the PPA for a concessional arrangement but awarded a commercial contract under the Public Procurement and Disposal Act to a legally different entity from that which had won the tender without beginning the process afresh. Further, the arrangements to transfer money directly from commercial banks to the contractor seem clearly illegal and the shift from a concessional arrangement to a commercial one probably means Kenyans ended up paying more—including for unnecessary insurance. However, no money appears to have been paid out directly from the Exchequer, although the fees, commissions and advance payments have accrued a debt of up to Sh23.5 billion (at current exchange rates), less than a third of which may be covered by bank/insurance guarantees. Assuming the debt register is mistaken when it lists the entire loan amount, and that the guarantees by Standard Chartered Bank and Heritage Insurance are eventually honoured, Kenyans would still be, when we eventually get round to paying it, out of pocket by around Sh13.5 billion, the sum of the insurance premium (part of which we may get back), the various fees and commissions, and the exchange rate costs. As noted, no one has been accused of actually pocketing bribes. It also does not seem like either Kenya or the banks are pursuing a refund of the money paid to the joint venture in the Italian courts.

The biggest obstacle to a clearer understanding of what is happening with regard to the Arror and Kimwarer dams is the political whirlwind around it. Adding to the confusion is the language employed—terms like scam and kickbacks—suggesting that the officials involved pocketed bribes, whereas they are not actually accused of any of that. Further, journalists have tended to report the story much like the proverbial blind men of Hindustan—each accurately describing a part of the elephant’s anatomy, but not able to grasp the entire animal., It is to be expected that, even after the general election, the controversy surrounding the Arror and Kimwarer dams will continue to generate more political heat while shedding very little light.

Continue Reading

Politics

Election 2022: Will the Incoming Leaders Deliver the Promises of Devolution to the People of North-Eastern Kenya?

The leadership is simply not investing in priority areas. The livestock sector, the main source of livelihood and the economic mainstay of the region remains highly underinvested.

Published

on

Election 2022: Will the Incoming Leaders Deliver the Promises of Devolution to the People of North-Eastern Kenya?
Download PDFPrint Article

Kenyans will go to the polls on 9 August to elect their representatives at the national and county levels. The upcoming elections are the third in Kenya under the 2010 constitution that introduced devolution. Instituted in 2013, devolution sought to bring government closer to the people by devolving political and economic resources to Kenya’s 47 county governments, to better address the local needs of Kenyans. 

Just like the rest of Kenya, the residents of the three north-eastern counties of Garissa, Wajir, and Mandera where I was born and brought up, will once again go to the polls to elect their representatives: governors, members of county assembly, women representatives, members of the national assembly, and senators. Those who will be elected will be in charge of managing devolved resources at the county level for the next five years.

In the last decade, devolution could potentially have transformed the lives of the people of north-eastern Kenya but, unfortunately, this has not happened, despite the accrual of substantial funds and political power; the billions of Kenya shillings that have gone into the region have not brought improvements. On the contrary, some sectors such as healthcare and water service provision, have seen a decline or remained the same despite billions of Kenya shillings being pumped into these sectors in the last 10 years. Northeastern Kenya remains one of the most underdeveloped regions in Kenya, lagging behind the rest of Kenya in almost all development indicators, and the people are among the poorest in the country. The majority lack access to basic services and infrastructure such as water and healthcare, good roads and electricity.

The lack of progress in the last ten years is largely attributed to poor governance and the massive theft and misappropriation of public resources by elected leaders, the region’s elites and public officials. All indications are that massive graft, corruption, and misallocation of political and economic resources have stunt the region’s ability to take advantage of devolution and catch up with the rest of Kenya. Resources meant for the population are being misappropriated and the leadership has nothing to show for the ten years after devolution existence; blatant theft and embezzlement of public funds and misgovernance have been its defining characteristic in the last ten years.

This article is a review of devolution in north-eastern Kenya ten years after its inception. It focuses on the three north-eastern counties of Garissa, Wajir and Mandera and is a reflection of the writer’s assessment of devolution in north-eastern Kenya over the last ten years. The situation described above is similar elsewhere in the larger northern Kenya in the counties of Marsabit, Isiolo, Tana River, Samburu, Turkana, and West Pokot, but this piece focuses exclusively on the three north-eastern counties.

The lack of progress in the last ten years is largely attributed to poor governance and the massive theft and misappropriation of public resources by elected leaders, the region’s elites and public officials

Disclaimer: By highlighting the failures of devolution and how it has not delivered for the people of north-eastern Kenya, the writer is by no means advocating for the previous Nairobi-based centralised governance system where resources were shared only by a few at the centre (1963-2013), a system that had neglected and marginalized the region for far too long, denying it investments, the cause of the current predicament the region faces today.

The current failure of devolution in northern Kenya is partly tied to the failure at the centre; the ills of the centre have been replicated at the periphery. Under the Jubilee government, the national government has since 2013 experienced astronomical levels of corruption and theft of public funds affecting public sector institutions than any other time in Kenya’s history. National state oversight institutions mandated to fight corruption at both levels of government have been unable or unwilling to effectively carry out their oversight duties. Also, of importance to note is that, the widespread allegations of corruption and misappropriation of public funds are not unique to the counties of north-eastern Kenya but are also reported across most of the country’s 47 counties and this has greatly demoralized Kenyans.

Blatant theft of public resources

In north-eastern, county officials and leadership, including governors, executives and other public officials are stealing from the people. Over the years, the office of the Auditor General has exposed massive misappropriation of resources and irregular procurement rules. General public perception in the region is that the leaders are not serving the people’s interests, but are only enriching themselves with the resources they have been entrusted with, with impunity and zero accountability. As a consequence, the electorates have given up and resigned themselves to their fate, leaving it to God to will punish the thieving elites in the hereafter.

Over the last decade, and during the tenure of the last two county administrations, the elected governors have turned the north-eastern counties into family “fiefdoms” and “small monarchies” similar to Middle East monarchies where those who benefit most are the immediate family members, close friends and cronies. Nepotism and favouritism have become widespread, and governors and their appointed county executives use relatives, including extended family members and close friends as proxies to siphon off public resources meant to benefit citizens. Across the three counties, the governors and other senior county public officials have put close family members and relatives on the county payroll as ghost workers who have no job descriptions, actual portfolios or offices. Individuals who have previously never worked in any major capacity and have little experience are given high paying public jobs only because they belong to the right families or know the right people.

Governors, county executives and elected local leaders also use proxies and companies owned by friends and close family members to obtain lucrative multimillion contracts. For the five years the governor and the county executives are in charge, they and their proxies remain inaccessible and out of reach of the ordinary mwananchi.

A small portion of the loot is laundered in the region.  Much of the looted money is laundered in major cities such as Nairobi and Mombasa, where the county leadership uses the ill-gotten wealth to invest in residential properties and shopping malls. County governors and their executives have bought houses, apartments and palatial homes worth hundreds of thousands of US dollars in Nairobi’s upscale residential areas such as Kilimani, Kileleshwa, Lavington, Parklands, Karen, Spring Valley and others.  One favourite estate among senior Somali county officials from northeastern is the South C neighbourhood, where a high number of county executives live and operate from, instead of their respective county headquarters. They either pay high monthly rents or have bought expensive apartments and houses. The Eastleigh neighbourhood the looted public money is “reinvested” in businesses in the form of shopping malls. Some use the looted public resources to marry second and third wives or to purchase vehicles worth many times their annual salaries as county officials, while others have used the plundered money to go to Mecca on pilgrimage and “contribute” to religious causes such as building mosques and Islamic madarasa schools. Governors, specifically, have moved some of their ill-gotten wealth abroad, especially to the Middle East and Turkey. Other favourite destinations include Dubai and Turkey where the governors have bought palatial holiday homes and apartments in cities such as Ankara, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and elsewhere.

All north-eastern governors have offices in Nairobi where they spend a ood part of their time instead of operating from their county headquarters. Governors and county executive members also hold county executive meetings in Nairobi instead of the county headquarters. You will also find that many county officials such as executive members, chief officers and members of county assemblies are ever present in Nairobi, operating from the city instead of operating from their respective county headquarters.

The current failure of devolution in northern Kenya is partly tied to the failure at the centre; the ills of the centre have been replicated at the periphery. Under the Jubilee government, the national government has since 2013 experienced astronomical levels of corruption and theft of public funds affecting public sector institutions than any other time in Kenya’s history.

Why is this the case? How are elites able to steal with impunity? The stealing that happens in the counties mostly happens through the flouting of public procurement rules, inflating the price of projects and at times even budgeting for non-existent projects. Kenya has been plagued by corruption since independence, but corruption and blatant theft of public resources has become commonplace since 2013 when the Jubilee Party led by Uhuru Kenyatta came to power. Under the Jubilee government, corruption cases involving the blatant theft of billions of shillings of taxpayers’ money have become the norm since 2013. Pervasive institutional corruption at the centre has spread to the periphery through devolution and, therefore, political and economic devolution to Kenya’s 47 counties has only enabled the creation of another cadre of corrupt elites with the ability, through elections, to capture institutions and resources. What used to happen at the centre has been replicated at the county levels through devolution; county leaders plunder everything from nationally devolved county funds to donor contributions. They take for themselves and their proxies the most lucrative contracts. Development projects in the region have become contractor- and vendor-driven with the governors, deputy governors, county executives and elected members of county assemblies being the biggest beneficiaries.

The looting of public resources has largely been successful and continues unbated due to weak government oversight institutions such as the anti-corruption agency, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), the Department of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The lack of effective anti-corruption mechanisms and political will at the national level to fight graft plays a major role in fuelling graft and theft at all levels of government. Inessen ce, there is little to no risk of being held accountable and this explains why the leaders are unafraid. Not a single culprit who has stolen from the people in the last ten years is behind bars because of what he or she has done, despite large-scale corruption and mismanagement.

Poor service delivery 

The mismanagement, graft and elite capture of county resources has resulted in poor service delivery to the people of north-eastern counties.  A major challenge is that the leadership is unable to prioritize development that would transform and improve service delivery. Despite the billions in investment – cumulatively, the three counties received close to Shs100 billion in devolved funds over the last ten years – there is nothing much to show for it. Also, the leadership is simply unwilling to prioritize and invest in areas of public need where the impact would be greatest. Instead, funds are spent as they come in poorly thought-out contractor-driven “development” projects. As a consequence, crucial sectors such as livestock and water, healthcare, and education provision, where the needs of the population lie, have been ignored and, in some instances, the quality of services has deteriorated compared to the period before devolution.

In the counties, the easiest way to steal public funds is through infrastructure projects that are of no benefit to people, such as repairing a rural road that does not actually require refurbishment. Millions in resources have been poured into the construction of structures that now lie idle. For instance, it is quite common to build a structure in a certain village and label it “a health centre” or “a market” even as it remains unoccupied and abandoned. No health workers, equipment and drugs are deployed to the structure to make it an operational health facility. Office blocks are also be built which then remain unoccupied.

To symbolize misplaced priorities, the leadership has invested millions in ultra-modern office blocks, and residences for the leadership, instead of fighting poverty and investing in critical infrastructure such as water, healthcare and fodder for livestock at this time of severe drought.

The leadership is simply not investing in priority areas. The livestock sector, the main source of livelihood and the economic mainstay of the region remains highly underinvested. The recent response to the drought emergency is a testament to the ineffectiveness of the county leadership in responding to emergencies and assisting people at a time of need. Last year alone, millions of head of livestock died after water pans and grasslands dried up following a severe drought season. The drought is even now ongoing. Had the county and national governments intervened and provided needed water and fodder for the livestock, the deaths of millions of head of livestock, which are people’s livelihoods, could have been prevented. The pastoralists had no one to turn to as the response from both counties and the national government was lacklustre; the pastoralists had to fend for themselves, buying water for their livestock from private water vendors at an exorbitant cost. On average, one water truck cost between KSh10,000 and Sh50,000 depending on the distance from water sources, which in many cases are at the county headquarters. I witnessed residents of Wajir County who live far from the county headquarters having to wait for “their turn” to receive water supplied by trucks contracted by the county government. In one village less than 50 kilometres from Wajir town, residents had to wait more than 14 days for their turn to receive water. And when the one truck arrived at the village of 300-plus residents, it could only provide water for the people but not their livestock. In many of the less accessible villages  in Wajir, help from the county government never arrived.

To symbolize misplaced priorities, the leadership has invested millions in ultra-modern office blocks, and residences for the leadership, instead of fighting poverty and investing in critical infrastructure such as water, healthcare and fodder for livestock at this time of severe drought.

North-eastern is most water-stressed region in Kenya, the number one hurdle that the people of the north-eastern face. Obtaining drinking water for both people and their livestock is a major challenge. Unfortunately, the region’s leadership has not been willing to find a sustainable solution to the perennial water shortage, the most common response to “alleviate” the water problem in the last decade being the construction of expensive water pans and boreholes. The big ugly holes dotting the landscape serve as temporary rain water reservoirs, but do nothing to solve the perennial water problem in the region. The leadership prefers them because they are easy to implement as they do not involve much technical skill and are normally constructed at inflated cost. Water pans are not a sustainable long-term solution as they dry up almost immediately at the onset of the dry season.

Ten years after devolution, and after receiving billions of shillings annually including in allocations for the water sector, residents of Mandera County headquarters do not have access to running water in their homesteads.  The Mandera leadership has been unable to tap the waters of River Daawa, which flows through the county headquarters for most of the year. The county residents rely largely on commercial water vendors.

The World Bank-funded Water and Sanitation Project meant to connect households to piped water, provide community water points, and improve sanitation services in Wajir Town, the Wajir County headquarters, is failing largely because of lack of county leadership, and elite competition for contracts related to the project.

Half of the homesteads in Garissa Town do not have access to running water. Those that do have access to water benefited from a water project that was undertaken in the town during President Mwai Kibaki’s 2003-2007 administration. This means that from 2013 to 2022 the Garissa County leadership has not done much to expand water provision. This is despite River Tana flowing right through Garissa Town to drain into the Indian Ocean.

The health sector is an area that has seen a deterioration in services during devolution. Hospitals and health centres have been incapacitated from lack of staff, lack of adequate medical equipment and essential supplies such as drugs and laboratory reagents.

The three main referral hospitals in the region are run down. Public health facilities have collapsed to the extent that they do not offer basic services such as CT Scans; citizens are forced to seek such services in private facilities at exorbitant prices. When medical equipment such as MRI machines and CT Scans break down, the authorities take months to have them fixed. As an example, when the MRI machine at Garissa’s main referral hospital broke down, it took the administration months to have it repaired. On a visit to Wajir Referral Hospital in Wajir town, I found that the hospital did not have staplers to pin papers together, staff in the maternity ward were using bandages to tie papers together, a situation that persisted throughout the period of one week that I visited a sick relative in the hospital’s maternity wing. Upon enquiry, I was informed by the staff that this had been the situation for weeks. They also told me that it was common for them to run out of other basic essentials such as cotton wool.

A call to the people of north-eastern counties

This is a wakeup call and a public appeal to the people of north-eastern Kenya to elect people of integrity in the upcoming election on 9 August. It is only the electorate who can stand up to and liberate their counties and resources from the thieving “leaders” who have captured and appropriated the county resources. The electorates should give priority to electing leaders of integrity who have a good track record. It is time to reverse the misgovernance and misappropriation of public resources of the last ten years.

Statutory government oversight institutions such as the EACC, DCI and the DPP have spectacularly failed to rescue the counties from the thieving elites. Despite the wanton theft and loss of billions, the corrupt are walking free and are not held accountability. On the contrary, they flaunt their ill-acquired wealth in front of the poor citizenry they have stolen from.

No single public official has been apprehended and convicted for stealing and misappropriating public resources in the last ten years. However, we should not lose hope. Hopefully, the next national government that will be elected in Nairobi in August will prioritize the fight against corruption and theft of public resources, and reform and empower anti-corruption agencies.

In the meantime, the citizens of north-eastern should not give up and resign themselves to their fate, but rather, use the power of the ballot to vote in good leaders who will serve them.

Continue Reading

Politics

Kenya’s Internally Displaced: An Enduring Colonial Legacy

Whoever between Raila Odinga and William Ruto takes the presidency of this country after 9/8 must find the moral courage to finally break with a colonial legacy that has relegated thousands of our co-citizens to a life of unending misery and despair.

Published

on

Kenya’s Internally Displaced: An Enduring Colonial Legacy
Download PDFPrint Article

The long-awaited rains are finally here and yesterday’s dry, cracked black cotton soil that we here call kagenyo has turned into a gluey, slippery mess that sticks three inches thick to the soles of your shoes. I am struggling to keep my sneakers on as I make my way up the path to Wanjĩra’s* homestead.

Wanjĩra greets me at her gate and stands there, not showing any signs of inviting me in. Her handshake is firm and her manner brisk, a big woman in a body fed mainly on stodge. Clearly, Wanjĩra is waiting for me to get to the point of my visit so, in the manner of country people, and to break the ice, I begin by observing that, thank God, the rains are finally here. Wanjĩra turns her head, points her chin at the field behind her wooden cottage and says that she’s wondering whether she should bother to start over again. She had planted the early-maturing Pioneer variety of maize seed in anticipation of the long rains but nothing had come of that and the shoots had died in the ground, beaten down by the unyielding sun. Will the rains be sufficient this time round? There follows an awkward silence; where does one begin when one is intruding on the already difficult lives of those displaced by politically instigated violence?

I had learnt only recently that there were internally displaced people living not five kilometres down the road from me, further inland, and I determined to find out their circumstances, concerned that there could be desperate cases—like those I had found at Shalom—living within my community. That is how I ended up at Wanjĩra’s gate, led there by her orphaned niece, a twenty-something young woman with an infant strapped to her back.

Wanjĩra was born and raised in Londiani, Kericho County. Like many Kikuyus of his generation, Mũreithi, Wanjĩra’s father, had been uprooted from his home in Mũrang’a and moved to a colonial village under the colonial government’s villagisation programme that, by the end of 1955, had “relocated some one million Kikuyu into 804 fortified, policed and concentrated villages from their scattered homesteads that were in turn demolished”. From here, having been fingerprinted and with a mbugi around his neck, “no longer a shepherd but one of the flock”,  Mũreithi was removed from the kiugũ, the cattle pen, as Wanjĩra sardonically described the village, shoved onto the back of a lorry and transported to Londiani on the other side of the country, never again to return to Mũrang’a. Mũreithi’s final destination was a settler’s farm where he earned a monthly wage of two shillings and fifty cents as a farm labourer. He married and brought up Wanjĩra and her siblings on that pittance but was never able to find the wherewithal to buy land of his own when independence came. A son had done well enough to purchase a quarter-acre in Karamton, Nyandarua County, and this is where Mũreithi was buried when he died.

Born in 1958 and now with a family of her own, Wanjĩra worked in the Londiani Forest planting trees in exchange for permission to grow crops in the clearings, while also slowly building up a herd of 38 cattle that she would graze in the forest. But the violence that broke out following the 2007 general election would prove to be the final straw for Wanjĩra and her family; she and her husband gathered up their eight children and fled Londiani. When the couple married, Wanjĩra’s father-in-law had made room on his one-acre piece of land for the couple to establish a home and raise a family. But beginning in early 1992, the family’s hold on life became increasingly tenuous as the clashes that broke out in late 1991 in Tinderet in Nandi District spread like wild fire to Londiani and other parts of the Rift Valley. The family hunkered down and survived the onslaught but found their lives once again threatened by the politically motivated ethnic violence that followed in the wake of the December 1997 elections. They survived that spate of violence too and carried on with their lives.

But a decade later, starting in April of 2007, Wanjĩra says that they began receiving anonymous written demands that they move away or face certain death. Living under constant threat of violence took its toll on Wanjĩra’s parents-in-law and both died within months of each other. Hardly were they buried on their one acre but Wanjĩra and her Kikuyu neighbours were surrounded by hostile youths blowing cow horns and wielding bows and arrows. The herd she had so painstakingly built over time was driven away before her very eyes and her home was razed to the ground. Wanjĩra and her family fled without a backward glance, her husband with three arrow wounds in his side.

A decade later, starting in April of 2007, Wanjĩra says that they began receiving anonymous written demands that they move away or face certain death.

Unlike the many displaced who ended up at the Nakuru Show Ground where disease was rife and the hardship beyond endurance, Wanjĩra and her husband took their family to Gatundu North. Someone had told them that they could live and grow their food inside Kieni Forest in exchange for providing labour to plant trees. From 2008 to 2013, the family joined those who had moved into the forest following the 1992 clashes, living under plastic sheeting in a river valley inside the forest, co-existing with marauding elephants as best they could until the government sent in the General Service Unit to evict them. Following a stand-off, the 805 families squatting in the forest were eventually paid 400,000 shillings each by the government in lieu of land, and it is this payment that enabled Wanjĩra and her husband, together with four other families that had also taken refuge in Kieni Forest, to buy land in Ndaragwa in Nyandarua County.

Like much of the land in this part of Nyandarua County that borders Laikipia East, the land on which Wanjĩra and her family finally settled had been occupied by a British settler in colonial times. The 3,400-acre ranch was eventually sold in 1964 to a group of Kenyans who ran it commercially for almost two decades, growing wheat and keeping livestock, before they subdivided the land among themselves. Over time, some of the owners have further subdivided their farms, bequeathing the parcels to their offspring or selling them to those like Wanjĩra’s family looking for land on which to (re)settle.

Just a kilometre or so down the road from Wanjĩra’s homestead, one such landowner sold some 30 acres of his land to the government to be subdivided amongst victims of the 2007/2008 post-election violence, each family receiving two and a quarter acres. Waithiageni does not know exactly how old she is. Ndiathomire, she tells me, I did not go to school. But she thinks she was about eight years old when her father moved the family from Mũrang’a to what was then Kisumu District. Waithiageni’s father had left his family behind and moved to Nakuru to work on a settler’s farm. Come independence, he applied to be resettled on the Koru Settlement Scheme and moved his family there.

Waithiageni now lives by herself in a corrugated iron shack by the side of a dusty track, having been chased off her father’s 20 acres at Koru and losing her only son in the 2007/2008 post-election chaos. To survive, the now elderly Waithiageni depends on casual work, when it can be found, and on the kindness of her neighbour Nyagũthiĩ, a mother of two grown-up daughters who escaped the violence at Londiani in late 2007.

A government vehicle dropped Waithiageni and her neighbours off in this shrubland in 2014, leaving them to get on as best as they could with no shelter and nowhere to relieve themselves. The closest source of water is a trek downhill to the Pesi River, the nearest school miles away and the health centre further beyond. No matatu comes this way and a boda boda ride to the trading centre along the Nyeri-Nyahururu road will set you back 300 shillings, a day’s wage in these parts. The 25,000 shillings they had each received to build a home and the 10,000 shillings start-up capital did not stretch far enough and eight of the twelve families left within the year to find a more hopeful livelihood elsewhere.

Kenya is a state party to the Great Lakes Pact, one of the few international agreements that address displacement in a comprehensive and holistic manner. Kenya domesticated the Pact’s Protocol on the Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons through an act of parliament on 31 December 2012. It establishes a legal framework for the protection of IDPs through the incorporation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement into domestic law.

A government vehicle dropped Waithiageni and her neighbours off in this shrubland in 2014, leaving them to get on as best as they could with no shelter and nowhere to relieve themselves.

Specifically, Section 9 of the IDP Act foresees that “The Government shall create the conditions for and provide internally displaced persons with a durable and sustainable solution in safety and dignity. . .” and that, among others, the following conditions for durable solutions shall apply: long-term safety and security; enjoyment of an adequate standard of living without discrimination; access to employment and livelihoods; and access to effective mechanisms that restore housing, land and property.

In November 2013, Nelson Ributhi Gaichuhie, then Chairperson of the Departmental Committee on Administration and National Security, made a statement in parliament to the effect that the government had fully complied with Section 9 (3) of the IDP Act, saying that those affected had been provided with relief food and decent housing. However, to put it in Kenyan parlance, things on the ground are different. Eight years after they were dumped by the government in their new “home”, Wathiageni and her neighbours still live in what can only be described as hovels lacking even the most basic of amenities. Eight long years on, the government has yet to undertake the necessary surveying to allow for subdivision of the land into individual parcels and so, unable to work their land, and without title, they live huddled together on a bare patch by the roadside, walking miles each day in search of casual labour on other people’s farms.

As for Wanjĩra’s family, the 400,000 shillings that it finally received in compensation was just about enough money to buy two acres of land and put up a small wooden structure to house the family of ten. After years of ill health compounded by the hellish living conditions in Kieni Forest, Wanjĩra’s husband died in 2016 and was buried on his land. Her first-born son followed soon after. Her seven surviving children are now grown and two have established their homes on the family’s land. Wanjĩra says that, having lost everything in Londiani, rebuilding what the family lost without resources seems like an insurmountable challenge. On a neighbouring farm is a neatly tended field with onions planted in zai pits. Wanjĩra tells me the land is leased by a farmer with the means to bring water up from the Pesi River about a kilometre away. Wanjĩra hasn’t those means; she must wait for the rains.

The second of the Great Lakes Pact’s ten protocols that is particularly relevant to the internally displaced is the Protocol on the Property Rights of Returning Persons that requires member states to provide legal protection for the property of the displaced and establish legal principles on the basis of which they are able to recover their property. But while the IDP Act requires it to ensure “access to effective mechanisms that restore housing, land and property”, the government appears to have thrown in the towel even before it has started. The following statement from Gaichuhie to parliament makes clear that the government has no plans to ensure that those who lost land and property recover them or are adequately compensated:

“Some of them have title deeds. Very few of them have not been able to go back to where they were living. But I can tell you that most of the IDPs were business people in major towns. That is why the Government has decided that rather than wait to buy land and give it to somebody who had a big supermarket in town, it would give such individuals Kshs400,000 to start businesses. So, not all the IDPs had land. Some of them were businessmen. Some had land for which they did not have title deeds”

The IDP Act became operational in 2013 but the constitution of the National Consultative Co-ordination Committee (NCCC), the body tasked with implementing the Act, was only gazetted in October 2014 and the Chair of the committee appointed in November 2014. Patrick Githinji, who had been appointed to the committee as one of the two IDP representatives foreseen in Section 12 (3)(i) of the Act, and with whom I spoke at length on the 3rd of August 2022, explains that the committee commenced its work in April 2015, and its first task was to vet the internally displaced still living in 65 camps across the country with a view to compensating them and shutting down the camps. This task was accomplished by mid-2016 and—with the exception of Muhu Camp in Nyandarua County and Donga Farm in Subukia in Nakuru County, because the land bought by the government for the resettlement of these IDPs is in dispute—all the camps were closed and 11,000 households were paid 200,000 shillings each, the government having argued that it could no longer afford the 400,000 shillings it had paid to Wanjĩra’s family and others in 2014.

While the IDP Act requires it to ensure “access to effective mechanisms that restore housing, land and property”, the government seems to have thrown in the towel even before it has started.

The next task of the committee was to ensure the compensation of the so-called Integrated IDPs (that is, those living dispersed among communities, whether with relatives or friends or in rented accommodation in urban or peri-urban areas) who numbered 193,000 households according to government records. They were offered a paltry 10,000 shillings in compensation which they turned down. Further negotiations raised the sum to 50,000 shillings but in the end, the government reviewed the list, reducing the number of integrated IDPs to be compensated to 83,000 households. Of these, 30,000 households were never paid, the government having recalled the funds from the disbursing banks. As it turns out, Wanjĩra and Waithiageni are the lucky ones.

According to an undated confidential report of the Refugee Consortium of Kenya available online, the NCCC is no longer operational. This is confirmed by Githinji who says that although the term of the first NCCC was to end in December 2017, by September of that year the NCCC secretariat had been shut down and seconded staff recalled to their respective ministries.

Together with other members of the National IDPs Network-Kenya, Githinji eventually petitioned the Senate in October 2020, alleging that there were attempts to repeal the IDP Act. In their petition, the group also claimed that land bought by the government to resettle IDPs had been illegally allocated to non-IDPs or grabbed by individuals, and that many IDPs continue to languish in makeshift tents. They also accused the government of refusing to release the funds due to Integrated IDPs because of identification errors introduced into the records by the government’s own officials, and lamented that there was no government authority at whose door they could lay these claims.

Further negotiations raised the sum to 50,000 shillings but in the end, the government reviewed the list, reducing the number of integrated IDPs to be compensated to 83,000 households.

Upon receipt of the petition, the Senate invited the group to appear before the Senate Committee on Lands, Environment and Natural Resources chaired by Sen. Mwangi Githiomi in November 2020, where, following a two-hour meeting, they were advised to table a fresh petition using the Senate’s guidelines. This they did and it was agreed that the group would again meet with the Senate Committee after the Christmas recess, in February 2021. They have no news since.

By the time the IDP Act was enacted in December 2012, another 112,000 people had joined the ranks of the internally displaced, followed by a further 55,000 in 2013, over 220,000 in 2014 and over 216,000 by mid-2015 (even as the NCCC was finally sitting down to its task), most of them victims of inter-communal violence. Meanwhile, as recently as October 2021, members of the National IDPs Network-Kenya were appealing to President Uhuru Kenyatta to finalise the resettlement and compensation process for those IDPs that were forced to flee their homes in 2007/2008 before the end of his term. Both President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto had made numerous promises on the campaign trail in the run-up to the March 2013 general election—while facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in the Hague—that all the displaced would be resettled within the first 100 days of their administration if they were elected.

In the face of government inaction, some of the Integrated IDPs who were denied compensation in 2017 have converged on Kianjogu, in Laikipia County, occupying land that was purchased by the government for IDP resettlement but never subdivided. They arrived in March/April of this year from Nyeri, Nairobi, Uasin Gishu and other counties across the country and are living in Kianjogu much as they did when they were first forced to flee their homes, massed together in unsanitary conditions and refusing to yield to threats from the government.

It would appear that the IDP Act was cynically enacted for the sole purpose of creating a vehicle—the NCCC—to facilitate the closure of the tens of camps strewn across the country and disband their residents; out of sight out of mind. If that is the case, then the government has circumvented its duty not only to address the plight of generations of IDPs, but to also provide assistance and protection to the newly displaced, and to put in place structures and measures to prevent further internal displacement. The outgoing government of Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto has instead chosen to perpetuate the generational suffering of Kenyans who were first forcibly evicted or were caused to leave their homes by the brutal and inhumane rule of the British colonial government.

Over the century since the Maasai were forcibly removed from their lands in the central Rift Valley in 1904/1905 to make way for white settlers, successive regimes have overseen the destitution of hundreds of thousands of Kenyan families. In the post-independence era, many have been forced to leave their homes by politically instigated violence where community is set against community, or by drought, famine, man-made disasters such as the Solai Dam tragedy and development-induced displacement. These hundreds of thousands of our co-citizens exist in the shadow of our lives and many lie in unmarked graves awaiting increasingly illusive justice.

The new government must, therefore, and with great urgency, operationalize the IDP Act and revive and properly reconstitute the NCCC so that it can continue with the arduous task of ensuring that durable and sustainable solutions are found for all the internally displaced. In finally beginning to properly address the plight of the internally displaced, the incoming government will not be without resources: in particular, a policy paper drawn up by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre dissects the IDP Act and makes concrete recommendations that, if applied, will equip the nation with an internal displacement response system that is fully operational.

It is unacceptable that over the almost sixty years of Kenya’s independence, successive leaders have built on the colonial legacy of dispossession and destitution of Kenyans. Whoever takes the helm after the 9 August general election must find the moral courage to put an end to the suffering of these Kenyans who, as much as anyone else in this country, have a right to expect a life lived in safety and in dignity.

Continue Reading

Trending