Governance: Ethnic angle in Taita Taveta conflict unfortunate

Monday, August 26th, 2019 00:00 |
Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja.

Suba Churchill       

The proverb ‘what’s good for the goose is good for the gander’ is one of the most often used axioms.

In the history of Taita Taveta county, a paraphrased form could be more appealing: “Deep drinketh the goose than the gander,” for Governor Granton Samboja seems to want to drink deeper than his predecessor John Mruttu.

Samboja is at loggerheads with the County Assembly over division of revenue between the Executive and the Legislature.

Never mind that the resources the governor and the MCAs are fighting over are yet to leave the National Treasury,  where, just like Samboja and his Assembly,  the National Assembly and the Senate recently turned what was supposed to be negotiations into a shouting match.

County governments have become the focus of development  since the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution.

But rather than apply themselves to the ethos of servant-leadership and principles of public service as espoused in Chapter Six of the Constitution, the first and now second generation of governors are more interested in the dazzling motorcades and other trappings of power that they have acquired, subverting in the process, the noble objects and principles of the devolution.

Chapter 11 of the Constitution is clear on what Kenyans had in their minds when they installed the devolved system. Top on the list is the desire to achieve for themselves and posterity democratic and accountable exercise of power, and entrench the long-held aspiration to manage their own affairs and to further their development at the local level.

Ethnic minorities and traditionally marginalised groups had hoped that with the devolved units being overseen by elected governors and proximate county assemblies, their rights and interests would be more secure. 

It is the same story in Taita Taveta, one of the few counties where a good number of MCAs — 13 to be exact — got re-elected in 2017. 

Given that pioneer governor John Mruttu is from the minority Taveta ethnic community, it was normal then to demand that resources be allocated to the ward development kitty as a guarantee for equitable development in the county. 

The majority Taitas did not trust that Mruttu would be fair in his distribution of development projects and priorities. That was the only way to insulate the Taitas from possible exclusion and discrimination. 

In came Samboja from the majority Taita ethnic group, and out goes the need to allocate more resources to the ward development kitty. While it used to be inter-ethnic during Mruttu’s tenure, it is now an intra-ethnic competition for control of county resources. 

What was once good for the goose, is no longer good for the gander! The MCAs, used to drinking deep during Mruttu’s time, are now being told that they should concentrate on their core mandate of representation, legislation and oversight.

That is as it should be. I am one of those who believe that corruption would be dealt the heaviest blow if law makers at the national and county levels got contented doing what they are supposed to . 

What is particularly concerning in Taita Taveta is the narrow ethnic considerations that are now threatening to paralyse county government operations. This is how primitive politics can become in Kenya! — The writers is the convener Civil Society Reference Group — [email protected]

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