It is common knowledge that almost every aspect of life – from the quality of the roads to the quality of the schools, from the number of doctors to the number of settlements within reliable electricity – Northern Kenya is still far below the national average. Whilst a lot needs to done moving forward, the future is not certainly bleak for the region. There were also many opportunities and thanks to the new dispensation and devolution to the Counties.
With two years of devolution, no doubt significant gains have been made by many of the Counties from Marsabit to Mandera- so much has been achieved that has not been achieved in the many years after independence. The achievements are without challenges and even allegations of misuse of resources, lack of public participation and misplaced priorities and cases of mega scandals that involve the leadership of the Counties.
Obviously, Northern Kenya Governors have an uphill task and should not compare their achievements with any of the other Governors. Simply because the starting point and the play field are not equal and level, it calls for additional effort, extra miles and strategic and well calculated approaches.
Whilst every Governor can make individual efforts to deliver to the Counties, they can pull resources and create platforms for exchange of ideas and resources from other Counties in the region. While the County Governments have a fair share of blame, we also need to challenge how people think about the region and the opportunities and how we regard ourselves in reforming the way in which we all go about our business overall and say it is business unusual. I have the following ideas moving forward for the Counties;
Number one quick gain for the Counties is to enhance more public participation which currently almost absent in all Counties. It is a constitutional requirement that every Governor shall submit an annual report to the County Assembly on citizen’s participation in the affairs of the County Government. Furthermore, Governors must realize that this mandatory constitutional requirement and that leadership is the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations and common vision. Better, quality life in a great, competitive, united country is a shared aspiration for all Kenyans. The management of our Counties should not be the preserve of the few but a common vision and participation by all. This is the only way communities will understand how the County Government work and development agenda.
The second thing is to review the County Integrated Development plans (CIDP) and prioritize on activities in the plans. Perhaps it will be time for the County Governors to find out if the monitoring units are really doing what they need to do in terms of the quality of the projects and provide feedback. A number of this CIDP were done in a haste to beat certain deadlines by the national Government and do not have concrete and practical approaches and how to confront the challenges facing the region.
The third and perhaps most important is for the citizenry, members of the County Assemblies (who unfortunately are not doing their watch dog role bur running after Governors for favors), other leaders and the professionals from the Counties to positively critic the management of our Counties. We are proud of the many efforts going on in the name of #WalkofHope, #NEPEducationCrisis, #LetsBeTheSolutionInNEP #HealNEP, Wajir Good Governance Initiative etc., all with the sole aim of changing the mindsets of the inhabitants that the region can begin this long but fruitful journey and provide watch dog role.
A deeper interaction with some of the social media sites reveals a watch and impressive role that the youth are leading in all the Counties. We urge our youth, people living with disabilities and women to take their rightful place in society and provide positive criticism devoid of unnecessary attack on personalities. This group must of necessity ask for their rightful share (30 %) and allocation and pressurize the Governors to deliver.
Finally, the Northern Counties share so many things in common and it is only reasonable that some platform is created so that the region can come together and agree on a road map. I like one brilliant idea that involves working within the framework of Frontier Counties Development Council, an initiative that aims to unite and promote collaboration between the Northern Counties This approaches is not new as the Coastal Counties and other Counties in West Nyanza are doing this. We need to work together towards the betterment of the inhabitants from the region and define a common vision for the north of Kenya. Thanks to this initative spearheaded by Mohamed Guled who is the Deputy Governor of Isiolo and others but we need to have all the Governors from the region on board and have they support the idea. It is only when we have the support from the Governors, the political leaders and other stakeholders that such initiatives can succeed. The next step will be for the Counties to organize bigger forums that will enable people exchange ideas that will culminate into the developing a master plan that borrows heavily from the individual County Integrated Development plans.
I have to single out and laud the recent initiative and work by professional from Marsabit County, mainly university lectures to join hands with the County leadership and other stakeholders to refine the Marsabit CIDP. I will challenge professionals from other Counties to borrow a leaf from what has just happened in Marsabit and further challenge North Eastern Professional Association take this role beyond the mere political statement and press statements. We challenge our Governors to accommodate such initiatives and make good use of this free internal and useful resource/asset as Governor Ukur Yattani has done. The master plan will guide the efforts of working towards transforming the quality of services and infrastructure in Northern Kenya. All the Counties can meet annually to review the implementation of the master plan and share any other experiences. In the long the initiative can be structured with a fully-fledged secretariat that spearheads the entire process and feedback Governors and other stakeholders on the progress.