A proposal for the establishment of regional governments could be gaining popularity among second term governors because it gives them yet another shot at a powerful post. Some 22 governors are constitutionally barred from running for office again and the prospects of constitutional reforms that create another high-profile post are welcome, given vying for MP position would not be admirable as it is perceived as a lesser office.
Complicating matters for them is that not all have the political clout to run for the presidency in 2022. The envisaged regional governments will control the billions currently under county governments, which would essentially help the governors circumvent term limits, unless there is an express provision barring them were the reforms to be implemented.
Now in their last term, some governors feel that their aspirations to remain in active politics is if Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) could offer them a “soft landing” through the creation of more elective or appointive positions in the next constitutional dispensation.
Although most of the second term governors are pro-regional governments, some of the county bosses in their last term are opposed to it, arguing that it would breed dictatorship and erode the democratic principles.
Governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a), Ali Roba (Mandera), Cornel Rasanga (Siaya), Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Hassan Joho (Mombasa), all serving their second term, have thrown their weight behind the establishment of the third-tier government.
In a 16-point resolution read by Kingi recently, Coastal governors resolved that there was need to establish a federal system of government, where there will be regional governments while retaining county governments.
In addition, they resolved that funding to regional and county governments should take up 70 per cent of the national revenue and that there should be created an Upper Coast Region, which would consist of Kilifi, Lamu and Tana River counties, while the Lower Coast Region would comprise of Taita Taveta, Mombasa and Kwale counties.
“We want to strengthen devolution in this country. I have seen here in Coast you have resolved you want a regional government. Even us in Western Kenya we want a regional government,” Oparanya said during the Mombasa BBI rally recently.
Mandera’s Roba, while supporting the proposal, said lots of devolved functions were still left with national government, adding that certain aspects of community policing needed to be handled at the regional level.
He proposed Kenya Rural Roads Authority, Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) and water agencies as some of the functions that should be a preserve of the regional governor.
Machakos’s Dr Mutua said the creation of regional governments would result in efficient management of cross-cutting development projects like roads that traverse various counties, revenue collection and mega housing and dams projects.
His Siaya counterpart Rasanga said regional governments should be crafted in such a way that it would not be expensive for tax payers.
But governors Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Paul Chepkwony (Kericho) and Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo Marakwet) are opposed to creation of the positions, saying such a move would be selfish.
They argued that the focus in the second phase of BBI should be strengthening devolved units and encouraging growth of regional economic blocs to be managed by technocrats, not politicians, as is currently the case.
According to Mr Mandago, counties should be allocated more resources so that services reach villages where economic blocs should spur development.
He said the governors fronting the creation of regional governments were power-hungry. [Rawlings Otieno and Fred Kibor]
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