Devolution: The Kenyan Parliament And Politics Of Deceit

“All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.” – Friedrich Nietzsche.

When German scientist, satirist and Anglophile Georg Lichtenberg (1742-1799) wrote; “men still have to be governed by deception”, he could have been more right about modern-day politics.

Kenyan politicians have perfected the art of deception  and will go out of their way to ensure that they have things their way in pretext of public interest. Case in point, in the recent past, has been the MPs’ salaries and what has been branded by the politicians as “safe-guarding devolution” and by those outside Parliament as “supremacy battle”.

The war of words between the Senate and the National Assembly over some 48 billion shillings that was added to and removed from the Division of Revenue Bill as it sailed between the two houses was nothing more than power-play. A clear manifestation of deception.

These are my reasons on why I see the drama we have been treated to as mere show of might between the Senators and members of the National Assembly. They failed to offer proper leadership and cannot now blame the President for assenting to the Bill since they failed to agree.

It is clear that the Senate and the National Assembly were both created as unit with two branches and both have clear and distinct roles. When it comes to devolution, there are specifics on what each House should do and also areas where this unit referred collectively as Parliament must work together.

In particular, when it comes to the financing of the devolved units, the Constitution in Article 218 makes reference to Parliament even though Articles 95 and 96 specify which House does what. Article 95 talks of the National Assembly determining the division of revenue between the National Government and the County Governments. Article 96 talks of Senate determining the division of revenue among County Governments.

Depending on who is interpreting, all these Articles when read to together create some sort of confusion and this is why it is necessary for the Supreme Court to give an interpretation. Remember the issue of whether invalid votes can be used in a final tally of a presidential election. That is the kind of advisory that we will be getting.

But legal issues aside, Kenyans have been treated to some politics of deceit from both Houses in competition for who holds more power.

“A deception that elevates us is dearer than a host of low truths.”– Marina Tsvetaeva

Both Houses knew that the final say on the Bill lies with the Presidency and whoever won the President’s signature would have the bragging rights of who is superior. The National Assembly clear knows that the President is aware that it holds more power to frustrate his administration than the Senate and can easily arm-twist him.

Having lost the battle, Senate was not ready to declare the war lost just yet and thus the decision to go to Supreme Court to seek an advisory opinion on the matter. Such an opinion will not change the status quo but will definitely have an impact on how the next budgeting process for the Counties is handled.

And the Senate also knows that it cannot win the war without mobilising the public and thus the narrative that on the amendment of the Constitution to “strengthen devolution”. It is not clear how devolution has been weakened but it is clear that the Senate is playing to the public gallery and appear to be right.

A good example of this is that Leader of Majority in the Senate Kindiki Kithure told Kenyans that the amount to the Counties should be a portion of Sh1.6 trillion (which is the current budget). Article 203 of the Constitution is clear that the portion to the Counties is a percentage of the most recently audited revenue. The Senate is also trying to play the victim card on behalf of the Counties by mobilising the Governors who had already agreed to the amount that had been proposed by the Commission on Revenue Allocation.

As Chinese military general Sun Tzu once said; “all warfare is based on deception.” This remains true even with this war between the Senate and the National Assembly. Kenyans must rise against this kind of deception and urge the two Houses to drop their egos and come to a common understanding.

Kenyans must force the two to stick to the spirit of Article 6(2) of the Constitution; ” The government at the national and county levels are distinct and inter-dependent and conduct their mutual relations on the basis of consultation and cooperation” 

Finally, devolution is not under threat as the narrative now has become. It will actually be under threat if the County Governments cannot absorb the current allocations as not all structures and roles have been devolved as yet.



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