Debate in Kenya’s Senate over sharing of funds among the 47 counties pits two opposing views. One side argues that population size should be the main consideration in the allocation of funds. The other advocates that land size be the basis for division of funds.
The formula recommended by Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) is based mainly on the principle of population.
Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga, in support of this principle, has argued that population size has implications for services such as health, education and infrastructure.
The opposing side argues that the principle of population size disadvantages marginalised counties inhabited mainly by pastoralist communities. They argue that this marginalisation is not incidental but has been a key feature of development policy since Sessional Paper No. 10 of 1965 which advocated for the rapid development of areas deemed to have advantageous economic potential.
These two opposing views are valid and that is why Odinga, while supporting the principle of population size, also says that arguments advanced by members from pastoralist communities should be factored in a future revenue sharing formula. For now, in order not to totally cripple county governments, a consensus should be found.
If debate on revenue allocation in the Senate was solely based on the objective and reasonable considerations of population size, marginalisation and land area, it would not be a zero-sum game.
In a process of give-and-take, each side can get some of what it wants, not everything it wants. But behind the veil of educated debate lurks a subjective and deeply ingrained factor – tribalism. The senators, engaged in what should be a debate based on science and fact and reason, are influenced by tribal whispers and calculations.
When Kenya was formed from different ethnic ‘nations’ by the British in 1895, we did not automatically become Kenyans. We remained different ethnicities in an administrative unit called Kenya. At independence, the most urgent project should have been nurturing a Kenyan consciousness.
Unfortunately, those who took power invoked ethnic consciousness as political strategy. As a result, in Kenya today, we see a road built in, say, the northeastern as benefiting the Somali community, not as a project that benefits Kenyans of all ethnicities who make and will in future make) that region their home. Even more bizarrely, Kikuyu or Luo or Kalenjin who live there will not see it as their road. Yes, they live there, but they would have wanted the road built in their “home” regions where they do not live!
Our pre-1895 ethnic nations are gone forever. We must begin to nurture a Kenyan consciousness so that a Somali or Luo who has made Kiambu his home begins to see a development project there as a benefit to him, or as his project and not a project for Kikuyus. Then the debate on revenue allocation will be conducted purely on the basis of reason and fact.