By Adow Mohamed:
Devolution has positively affected the living conditions in the three North Eastern Counties of Garissa, Wajir and Mandera a survey carried out in the region by Nep Journal and research firm, Center for Prosperity and Research (CentRep).
According to the survey, devolution has impressed residents of North Eastern Counties with a large section agreeing the new system of governance has made life relatively easy for them.
According to the survey, 73% of the respondents said North Eastern Counties are now better than they were before. Respondents from Garissa have stated that the County is now a better place to live as compared to Wajir (73%) and Mandera (65%).
However, 90% of the survey respondents revealed that the county governments should have done better; they expected more from county governments than they realized.
On average, 66% of the respondents revealed their County is headed to the change they anticipated with devolution. Residents from Mandera have lowest level (29%) of perception that their county government is headed towards that direction while Garissa residents have the highest level (92%). Sixty six percent (66%) of Wajir people have a similar perception. This implies that a second term for the current governors is needed to enable them finalize their development agendas.
Governors Ahmed Abdullahi (Wajir), Nathif Jama (Garissa) and Ali Roba (Mandera) carried the day in the March 2013 elections are now defending their seats in this year’s hotly contested ballot.
Considered as the driving force for economic growth and development, devolution was introduced in Kenya by the promulgation of a new constitution in August 2010.
Under the new constitution, there are 47 county governments in Kenya. Three of these -Garissa-007, Wajir-008 and Mandera-009 are in the former North Eastern province of Kenya.
In total, the three counties sit on 127,358.5 km2 of arid land and close to 98% of its residents are Somalis. The new system of governance came with unprecedented merits in the distribution of the national budget. Since March 4, 2013, the three counties of Garissa, Mandera and Wajir received close to Kshs 70 billion.
Since the advent of county governments, availability and accessibility of services improved in the three counties according to 83% of the survey respondents. Wajir County has the lowest percentage of respondents with 80% reporting improvement in access to services followed by Mandera 89% and Garissa at 96%.
In education, respondents revealed that county governments have supported students in both tertiary and secondary schools with bursaries. County governments have also done better in early childhood education and employment of tutors in such levels of education. In regards to livelihoods, respondents mentioned support for youth in providing start up capitals for small-scale business as well as youth employment both in short term as well as permanent jobs in the county government.
On health, the survey respondents stated that more health facilities have been constructed in the rural areas and have been equipped. However, most of the health centers and posts are now under-staffed despite the employment of more nurses by the county health departments.
In the three counties, accessibility to passable roads has been enabled. In Wajir and Mandera, the county governments tarmacked close to 28-kilometers of roads within the county headquarters while in Garissa, more marram roads have been constructed.
Most Focused Areas
Counties in the former North Eastern Kenya have a number of development gaps that should be addressed reads the survey report.
Since Kenya gained her independence, subsequent governments have done nothing significant to align the marginalized community with the rest of the country.
In most of the areas in the region, accessibility to basic needs such as basic health care services, safe drinking water and basic education for children is hardly possible. For instance, as of 2014, 72.9% of the people in North Eastern Kenya were in the lowest wealth quantile (Kenya Demographic and health Survey, 2014). This implies that individuals lack access to basic needs such as safe drinking water, basic sanitation facilities and adequate housing.
Terror attacks in the region largely blamed on the un-manned and porous border with Somalia, school going children in North Eastern Kenya suffered a lot in 2016 after teachers fled the region following subsequent attacks on non-Somali residents in the area. The worst attacked hit Garissa University College on April 2, 2015.
With that background, CentRep Ltd focused on finding out the developmental areas that county governments focused on. In respect to this survey, accessibility to water both in urban and rural areas, health care services, basic education and roads formed the most pressing needs among locals in North Eastern Kenya.
County governments have therefore tried their best to handle these menaces despite the short-term period and nature of the political environment they worked in. With devolution being a new system of governance with its own confusion and lack of clarity, the three governors (especially Wajir and Garissa) have done their best, according to the survey report.
The report also lauds the three governors of Garissa, Wajir and Mandera for doing their best to tackle persistent developmental needs: poverty, education and care services. Sixty five percent (65%) of Survey respondents have revealed that their county governments have focused on drilling of boreholes within and out-skirts of their counties to support agro-pastoralism activities to address persistent poverty. This initiative has addressed scarcity of water in the rural areas where persistent drought has crippled pastoralism, the lifeline of Somalis in Northern Kenya.
In addition, 61% of the survey respondents have reported that the county governments have supported local students in secondary and tertiary institutions with bursaries with special focus on students pursuing education and health related courses. This is expected to boost the local capacity in education and healthcare in the next five to ten years.
On roads, 69% of the respondents said tarmacking and gravelling of county roads was improved with Wajir County government leading in infrastructural development. In its five years term, Wajir County has tarmacked 28-kilometers of the county roads mainly in the county headquarters.
Survey respondents have also set direction for the next County Governments. Supporting agro-pastoralism and entrepreneurship support to youth should be the most focused development area according to 78% of the survey respondents.
Respondents have also expressed reduced interest of focus on tarmacking or gravelling of roads, which they believed, should be the least focused areas in the next county governments. 13% less survey respondents have advised the next administrations to give higher priority to tarmacking roads. This is in line with the previous surveys that indicated poverty and reduced accessibility to basic needs were the major concerns for the residents of Northern Kenya.
Survey respondents have requested the next administrations to put more efforts on supporting the education sector which was crippled by various misadventures including lack of local capacity, exodus of teachers and teacher strikes.
Respondents have also advised the next administrations to support more local students in tertiary and secondary schools with bursaries.
The final report can be obtained on request from CentRep Ltd through their email address email@example.com