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One Man, One Shilling Politics: A Return to Inequitable Development, Marginalisation and Exclusion

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Since assuming office in 2013, Uhuru Kenyatta has done everything that he could possibly do to undermine the 2010 Constitution, and the politics of “one man, one shilling” now being touted as a formula for revenue sharing is a complete reversal of the principle of equitable development for an equitable society enshrined therein.

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One Man, One Shilling Politics: A Return to Inequitable Development, Marginalisation and Exclusion
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As public finance advisor to the Committee of Experts (COE), I was the principal author of the “layman’s draft” of Chapter 12 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.

On the matter of revenue sharing, the 2010 Constitution uses the word “basis” as opposed to “formula.” There is in fact no reference to “formula” anywhere in the articles on revenue sharing. This is on purpose. The reason is as follows: There are two basic models of fiscal equalisation, namely the formula and the institution model. Systems that use formulas do not have standing institutions such as the Commision for Revenue Allocation (CRA). Formulas are developed by ad hoc technical teams and passed into law. When the law is due for revision, another ad hoc team is constituted to do so. Formulas are problematic for the very reasons that are playing out now. Once enacted, they put the country in a straightjacket that it is forced to live with until the next revision is due.

We were alive to the fact that the history of inequitable “sharing of the national cake” as we call it, is a highly emotive and divisive issue and, indeed, one of the core grievances identified in the Agenda 4 items of the National Accord. We recognised that the country would be on a learning curve for a considerable period and, anticipating that the allocation process had the potential for exacerbating instead of healing ethnic divisions, we felt that we needed a credible authoritative team of “honest brokers” to navigate the country through the transition. The “original sin” of the current standoff is that the CRA adopted the very formula for which it had been envisaged as an alternative.

The current dispute centres on whether to put more weight on population or on geography in the formula. This dispute, as far as the spirit and letter of the constitution is concerned, is completely misplaced.

The overarching principle to be used as a basis for revenue allocation is spelled out in the Principles of Public Finance (Article 201), specifically 201(b) which states that “the public finance system shall promote an equitable society” and 201(b) (iii) which says that “expenditure shall promote the equitable development of the country, including by making special provisions for marginalised groups and areas”. (emphasis mine).

“Equitable society” and “equitable development” are defined by outcomes such as income per person, life expectancy, school enrollment and education outcomes, access to healthcare, etc. Put differently, this part of the “social contract” that we entered into in August 2010 obliges the state to redress the legacy of inequitable development, marginalisation and exclusion, and to pursue development convergence across the country. While development disparities may persist for different reasons, no community or part of Kenya is entitled to more development than the other using public money. Any distribution of public resources which portends reinforcing these disparities, or creating new ones, is unconstitutional.

We envisaged the “basis” as a goal-oriented process that would arrive at five-year development convergence targets followed by estimation of the resource distribution required to meet those targets. To illustrate, according to the last Demographic and Health Survey (2014) the national under-five mortality rate was 52/1000, lowest in Central at 42/1000 and highest in Nyanza at 82/1000. The mortality rate in North-Eastern stood at 44/1000, slightly above that in Central. Nyanza and Central are equally populous. It is evident that neither population nor geography captures the health inequality that needs to be addressed. The correct “basis” for allocation in this case is the resources required to bring Nyanza’s child survival rate to the national average.

Similary we know that Northern Kenya is grossly underserved in terms of infrastructure. Marsabit County (66,000 km2, Pop. 460,000) is 45 times larger than Kirinyaga (1,500 km2, Pop. 610,000). What would be the rationale for allocating infrastructure money in Marsabit and Kirinyaga based on population?

At 16,000 km2, the amount of land classified as of high agricultural potential (1000mm rainfall p.a.) in Marsabit is one-third bigger than the five counties of the old Central Province (12,000 km2). This potential is underexploited, while that of Central is more or less exhausted. Where, then, should more agricultural development money go?

We envisaged the CRA as a think tank that would provide technical support of this nature to the Senate and also facilitate building a consensus not just within parliament but with the citizenry as well. This, however, does not preclude the process using models and formulas as technical tools but the final product tabled in the Senate for adoption should be a consensus document. This must necessarily begin with objectives, that is, what we are setting out to achieve. For instance, if we set a target of a maximum child mortality rate of 40/1000, then it follows that the gap between the baseline and the target should be the basis for revenue allocation. If we are not agreed on the destination, then it is doubtful that we can agree on the route.

This crisis, then, provides an opportunity for the Senate to abandon the formula straightjacket. We now have seven years of data on the cost of providing services in different parts of the country. We also have good enough socio-economic data to evaluate progress on equitable development.

The politics of “one man, one shilling” is a complete reversal of this principle. It is an attempt to return the country to the trickle-down paradigm of Sessional Paper No.10 of 1965, to wit, “development money should be invested where it will yield the largest increase in net output. This approach will clearly favour the development of areas having abundant natural resources, good land and rainfall, transport and power facilities, and people receptive to, and active in development” (emphasis mine).

We have seen the National Government spend over Sh30b on a transmission line to evacuate wind power from Marsabit to serve these so-called “high potential areas and people”. The people of Marsabit get nothing for their wind resources, and when it comes to sharing revenue, the contribution of the wind resource to the revenue counts for nothing. We have seen the national government rush to Turkana to develop infrastructure to exploit oil, but when it comes to revenue allocation, the investment the oil has brought into the country counts for nothing for the people of Turkana. We have seen the national government pour billions into the Galana-Kulalu Irrigation scheme—notwithstanding the fact agriculture is a devolved function—to meet the food deficit of the high potential areas, yet when it comes to revenue, the envisaged contribution of Tana River people’s land and water resources to national food security counts for nothing. This model of controlling and exploiting the resources in the periphery for the benefit of the centre is called colonialism.

Since assuming office in 2013, Uhuru Kenyatta has done everything that he could possibly do to undermine the 2010 Constitution. He has sought to pass retrogressive security laws. He has led the impunity of disobeying court orders. He has bankrupted the country through reckless borrowing in the quest to overshadow the county governments in development spending, including the medical equipment mega-corruption racket that we now know was executed and controlled from State House. Pronouncements by both the Kenyatta and Odinga camps on this conflict have revealed that the Building Bridges Initiative is a Trojan horse for this nefarious agenda. It is this Kikuyu supremacist ideology and hegemonic agenda that brought Kenya to the brink in 2007/8. Uhuru Kenyatta has tempted fate once. He seems to have learned nothing.

At the core of our constitutional dispensation is a covenant to uphold the dignity of every citizen, every community, every region. The overarching principle of public finance, namely an equitable society, enunciated in Article 201 and also enshrined in Social and Economic Rights (Article 43) represents the consummation of this covenant.

More fundamentally, it is the political bargain underpinning Kenya as a unitary state. If Kenyatta and his Kikuyu supremacist cabal feel it is intolerable, there is always the alternative of a full federal system. Mombasa and Lamu get to keep their ports. Turkana gets to develop its oil resources. Marsabit gets to charge for its wind resources. The Tsavo National Park reverts to Taita-Taveta County.

Tyranny of numbers, domination of the weak by the strong, and ethnic superiority complexes, this is not an option. Without a commitment to equitable development, there is no social contract, which is to say that, sooner or later, there will be no Kenya.

Divorce is also an option.

David Ndii
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David Ndii is a leading Kenyan economist and public intellectual.

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What Kenyans Have Always Wanted is to Limit the Powers of the Executive

As Kenya’s political class considers expanding the executive branch of government, no one seems to be talking about restricting its powers.

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What Kenyans Have Always Wanted is to Limit the Powers of the Executive
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The tyranny of numbers, a phrase first applied to Kenyan politics by one of Kenya’s most well-known political commentators, Mutahi Ngunyi, was repeated ad nauseum during the week of waiting that followed Kenya’s 2013 general elections.

In ads published in the run-up to the 2013 elections by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), people were told to vote, go home and accept the results. Encouraged by a state that had since the 2007 post-electoral violence dominated public discourse and means of coercion, the military pitched camp in polling stations. Many streets in Kenya’s cities and towns remained deserted for days after the polls closed.

According to Ngunyi, the winner of the 2013 elections had been known four months earlier, that is, when the electoral commission stopped registering voters.

In a country whose politics feature a dominant discourse that links political party and ethnicity, the outcome of voter registration that year meant that the Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto-led coalition, the Jubilee Alliance, would start the electoral contest with 47 per cent of the vote assured. With these statistics, their ticket appeared almost impossible to beat. For ethnic constituencies that did not eventually vote for Uhuru Kenyatta – the Jubilee Alliance presidential candidate in 2013 – a sense of hopelessness was widespread.

For them, a bureaucratic, professionalised, dispassionate (even boring) discourse became the main underpinning of the 2013 elections.

This was not the case in 2017.

Uhuru Kenyatta, pressured by opposition protests and a Supreme Court ruling that challenged his victory and ordered a re-run, met with Raila Odinga – his challenger for the presidency in the 2013 and 2017 elections – and offered a settlement. It became known as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

In his 2020 Jamhuri Day speech, Uhuru reiterated that the purpose of the BBI process is to abolish the winner-takes-all system by expanding the executive branch of government.

As he explained it, the challenge to Kenya’s politics is the politicisation of ethnicity coupled with a lack of the requisite number of political offices within the executive branch that would satisfy all ethnic constituencies – Kenya has 42 enumerated ethnic groups.

The revised BBI report that was released on 21 October 2020 (the first was published in November 2019) has now retained the position of president, who, if the recommendations are voted for in a referendum, will also get to appoint a prime minister, two deputy prime ministers and a cabinet.

Amid heckles and jeers during the launch of the revised BBI report, Deputy President William Ruto asked whether the establishment of the positions of prime minister and two deputy prime ministers would create the much sought-after inclusivity. In his Jamhuri Day speech, the president conceded that they wouldn’t, but that the BBI-proposed position of Leader of Official Opposition – with a shadow cabinet, technical support and a budget – would mean that the loser of the presidential election would still have a role to play in governance.

One could not help but think that the president’s statement was informed by the fact that Odinga lost to him in both the 2013 and 2017 presidential elections –  this despite Odinga’s considerable political influence over vast areas of the country.

The 2010 constitution’s pure presidential system doesn’t anticipate any formal political role for the loser(s) of a presidential election. Raila held no public office between 2013 and 2017, when he lost to Uhuru. This did not help to address the perception amongst his supporters that they had been excluded from the political process for many years. In fact, Raila’s party had won more gubernatorial posts across the country’s 47 counties than the ruling Jubilee Alliance had during the 2013 elections.

While Raila’s attempts to remain politically relevant in the five years between 2013 and 2017 were largely ignored by Uhuru, the resistance against Uhuru’s victory in 2017 wasn’t.

The anger felt by Raila’s supporters in 2017 following the announcement that Uhuru had won the elections – again – could not be separated from the deeply-entrenched feelings of exclusion and marginalisation that were at the centre of the violence that followed the protracted and disputed elections.

The reading of Kenyan politics that is currently being rendered by the BBI process is that all ethnic constituencies must feel that they (essentially, their co-ethnic leaders) are playing a role in what is an otherwise overly centralised, executive-bureaucratic state. This is despite the fact that previous attempts to limit the powers of the executive branch by spreading them across other levels of government have often invited a backlash from the political class.

Kenya’s independence constitution had provided for a Westminster-style, parliamentary system of government, and took power and significant functions of government away from the centralised government in Nairobi, placing significant responsibility (over land, security and education, for instance) in the hands of eight regional governments of equal status known in Swahili as majimbo. The majimbo system was abolished and, between 1964 to 1992, the government was headed by an executive president and the constitution amended over twenty times – largely empowering the executive branch at the expense of parliament and the judiciary. The powers of the president were exercised for the benefit of the president’s cronies and co-ethnics.

By 2010 there was not a meaningful decentralised system of government. The executive, and the presidency at its head, continued to survive attempts at limiting their powers. This has continued since 2010.

As Kenya’s political class considers expanding the executive branch of government, no one seems to be talking about restricting its powers.

Beyond the minimum of 35 per cent of national revenue that the BBI report proposes should be allocated to county governments, it is less clear whether the country’s leaders are prepared to decentralise significant powers and resources away from the executive, and away from Nairobi.

Perhaps the real solution to the challenges of governance the BBI process purports to address is to follow the prescriptions of the defunct Yash Pal Ghai team – it went around the country collecting views for constitutional change in 2003-2004.

According to a paper written by Ghai himself, the Ghai-led Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC) had no doubt that, consistent with the goals of the review and the people’s views, there had to be a transfer of very substantial powers and functions of government to local levels.

The CKRC noted – much like Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga now have – that the centralised presidential system tends to ethnicise politics, which threatens national unity.

Kenyans told the CKRC that decisions were made at places far away from them; that their problems arose from government policies over which they had no control; that they wanted greater control over their own destiny and to be free to determine their lifestyle choices and their affairs; and not to be told that they are not patriotic enough!

Yes, the BBI report has proposed that 5 per cent of county revenue be allocated to Members of County Assemblies for a newly-created Ward Development Fund, and that businesses set up by young Kenyans be exempted from taxation for the first seven years of operation. However, this doesn’t amount to any meaningful surrender of power and resources by the executive.

In emphasising the importance of exercising control at the local level, Kenyans told the CKRC that they wanted more communal forms of organisation and a replacement of the infamous Administration Police with a form of community policing. They considered that more powers and resources at the local level would give them greater influence over their parliamentary and local representatives, including greater control over jobs, land and land-based resources.  In short, Kenyans have always yearned for a dispersion of power away from the presidency, and away from the executive and Nairobi. They have asked for the placing of responsibility for public affairs in the hands of additional and more localised levels of government.

This is what would perhaps create the much sought-after inclusivity.

But as the BBI debate rages on, the attention of the political class is now on the proposed new positions within the executive branch. And as the debate becomes inexorably linked to the 2022 Kenyatta-succession race, questions centring on political positions will likely become personalised, especially after the political class cobbles together coalitions to contest the 2022 general elections.

Meanwhile, ordinary Kenyans will be left battling the aftermath of a pandemic, and having to deal with the usual stresses brought on by a political class seeking their votes for another round of five years of exclusion.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

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Democracy for Some, Mere Management for Others

The coming election in Uganda is significant because if there is to be managed change, it will never find a more opportune moment.

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Democracy for Some, Mere Management for Others
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Western powers slowly tied a noose round their own necks by first installing Uganda’s National Resistance Movement regime, and then supporting it uncritically as it embarked on its adventures in militarism, plunder and human rights violations inside and outside Uganda’s borders.

They are now faced with a common boss problem: what to do with an employee of very long standing (possibly even inherited from a predecessor) who may now know more about his department than the new bosses, and who now carries so many of the company’s secrets that summary dismissal would be a risky undertaking?

The elections taking place in Uganda this week have brought that dilemma into sharp relief.

An initial response would be to simply allow this sometimes rude employee to carry on. The problem is time. In both directions. The employee is very old, and those he seeks to manage are very young, and also very poor and very aspirational because of being very young. And also therefore very angry.

Having a president who looks and speaks like them, and whose own personal life journey symbolises their own ambitions, would go a very long way to placating them. This, if for no other reason, is why the West must seriously consider finding a way to induce the good and faithful servant to give way. Nobody lives forever. And so replacement is inevitable one way or another.

But this is clearly not a unified position. The United Kingdom, whose intelligence services were at the forefront of installing the National Resistance Movement/Army (NRM/A) in power nearly forty years ago, remains quietly determined to stand by President Yoweri Museveni’s side.

On the other hand, opinion in America’s corridors of power seems divided. With standing operations in Somalia, and a history of western-friendly interventions in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and even Kenya, the Ugandan military is perceived as a huge (and cut-price) asset to the West’s regional security concerns.

The DRC, in particular, with its increasing significance as the source of much of the raw materials that will form the basis of the coming electric engine revolution, has been held firmly in the orbit of Western corporations through the exertions of the regime oligarchs controlling Uganda’s security establishment. To this, one may add the growing global agribusiness revolution in which the fertile lands of the Great Lakes Region are targeted for clearing and exploitation, and for which the regime offers facilitation.

Such human resource is hard to replace and therefore not casually disposed of.

These critical resource questions are backstopped by unjust politics themselves held in place by military means. The entire project therefore hinges ultimately on who has the means to physically enforce their exploitation. In our case, those military means have been personalised to one individual and a small circle of co-conspirators, often related by blood and ethnicity.

However, time presses. Apart from the ageing autocrat at the centre, there is also a time bomb in the form of an impoverished and anxious population of unskilled, under-employed (if at all) and propertyless young people. Change beckons for all sides, whether planned for or not.

This is why this coming election is significant. If there is to be managed change, it will never find a more opportune moment. Even if President Museveni is once again declared winner, there will still remain enough political momentum and pressure that could be harnessed by his one-time Western friends to cause him to look for the exit. It boils down to whether the American security establishment could be made to believe that the things that made President Museveni valuable to them, are transferable elsewhere into the Uganda security establishment. In short, that his sub-imperial footprint can be divorced from his person and entrusted, if not to someone like candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, then at least to security types already embedded within the state structure working under a new, youthful president.

Three possible outcomes then: Kyagulanyi carrying the vote and being declared the winner; Kyagulanyi carrying the vote but President Museveni being declared the winner; or failure to have a winner declared. In all cases, there will be trouble. In the first, a Trump-like resistance from the incumbent. In the second and the third, the usual mass disturbances that have followed each announcement of the winner of the presidential election since the 1990s.

Once the Ugandan political crisis — a story going back to the 1960s — is reduced to a security or “law and order” problem, the West usually sides with whichever force can quickest restore the order they (not we) need.

And this is how the NRM tail seeks to still wag the Western dog: the run-up to voting day has been characterised by heavy emphasis on the risk of alleged “hooligans” out to cause mayhem (“burning down the city” being a popular bogeyman). The NRM’s post-election challenge will be to quickly strip the crisis of all political considerations and make it a discussion about security.

But it would be strategically very risky to try to get Uganda’s current young electorate — and the even younger citizens in general — to accept that whatever social and economic conditions they have lived through in the last few decades (which for most means all of their lives given how young they are) are going to remain in place for even just the next five years. They will not buy into the promises they have seen broken in the past. Their numbers, their living conditions, their economic prospects and their very youth would then point to a situation of permanent unrest.

However, it can be safely assumed that the NRM regime will, to paraphrase US President Donald Trump, not accept any election result that does not declare it the winner.

Leave things as they are and deal with the inevitable degeneration of politics beyond its current state, or enforce a switch now under the cover of an election, or attempt to enforce a switch in the aftermath of the election by harnessing the inevitable discontent.

Those are the boss’ options.

In the meantime, there is food to be grown and work to be done.

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Uganda Elections 2021: The Elephant Website Blocked Ahead of Poll

For about a month now, some of our readers within Uganda have been reporting problems accessing the website. Following receipt of these reports, we launched investigations which have established that The Elephant has been blocked by some, though not all, internet service providers in the country.

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Uganda Elections 2021: The Elephant Website Blocked Ahead of Poll
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Dear Readers/Viewers,

For four years now, The Elephant has been one of the premier online sources of news analysis in the East African region with a fast-growing readership across the African continent and beyond.

For about a month now, some of our readers within Uganda have been reporting problems accessing the website. Following receipt of these reports, we launched investigations which have established that The Elephant has been blocked by some, though not all, internet service providers in the country.

We have further ascertained that the directive to do so came from the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) and was implemented beginning 12 December 2020, when we noticed a sudden traffic drop coming from several providers in Uganda, including Africell and Airtel. A forensics report, which provides technical details on the blocking, is available here.

We have written to the UCC requesting a reason for the blocking but are yet to receive a response.

The Elephant wholeheartedly condemns this assault on free speech and on freedom of the press and calls on the Ugandan government to respect the rights of Ugandans to access information.

We would like to assure all our readers that we are doing everything in our power to get the restrictions removed and hope normal access can be restored expeditiously.

As we do this, to circumvent the block, a Bifrost mirror has been deployed. Readers in Uganda can once again access The Elephant on this link.

Thank you.

Best Regards

John Githongo
Publisher

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