This is a summarized discussion points prepared by Billow Khalid for a two-day forum of professionals and political leaders of North Eastern Kenya organized by the Ministry of Northern and Other Arid Lands held in Garissa from 25-27th Feb, 2011. The purpose of the forum was to ensure the region has, come 2013, good start of county governance and benefits from the New Constitution and with time reduce inter-county economic inequality by promoting faster per capita growth of these counties in the potential lands.


As we all know, on 27th August 2010, the people of Kenya have promulgated a New Constitution with far reaching consequences for the leadership, political, social and economic management of our country.  Most important are the additional seats of MPs, Senators, Women MPs, Nominated Senators and the creation of 47 Devolved County Governments for the whole country.

In Northern Kenya, we shall have Garissa, Wajir and Mandera Counties. Presently we have 11 MPs.  In the New Constitution, we hope to have 18, addition of 7 more, 3 Mandera, 2 Wajir and 2 Garissa.  Each of the counties will have one Senator and one Woman MP, elected by the residents of the whole respective counties.  Besides the legislatures, there is the issue of structure of Devolved Governments.

The Devolved county governments are guided by the principles of promoting democratic culture and accountability, foster national unity, protection of interests and rights of minorities and ensuring to “have reliable sources of revenue to enable counties to govern and deliver services effectively”. (Arty 174-176).  Some counties may be delayed to take off until 2015.  Definitely, we do not want to be part of those who may be delayed to take off.  These additional legislature seats and creation of county governments can bring greater benefits to our people, but also carry the risk of making our North Eastern counties become “mirror of Somalia regions” in terms of mistrust, insecurity, nepotism and bad governance.  Thus, the New Constitution may become a Double Edged Sword.  If we are not very careful, we may hurt ourselves badly.

This brief discussion paper therefore aims at bringing forth the best way we can maximize the gains of this New Constitution for our people and how to manage and control any adverse consequences from its implementations – both at the Devolved Government level and the additional legislative seats.

County Governments

  1. A County Government will have two levels of management:-
(1)    A county executive consisting of governor, deputy governor and executive committee appointed by the governor and approved by the county assembly and not exceeding ten or one-third of the number of members of the county assembly, assuming the assembly has less than thirty members.

(2)    County assembly members from number of wards to be determined by an Act of Parliament and the Speaker who is not a member of the assembly.  The number of wards will be fixed by a legislation of parliament.

Powers and functions of county governments are provided in the Fourth Schedule, P 186.  Budgetary allocation will come from national governments, Equalization Fund, CDF and other devolved funds and allowed local revenues.  In the case of North Eastern counties, the annual revenue will be anywhere between Kshs. 2.5 bn to Kshs. 3.5 bn and growing at over 10% depending on the national budget and size of ordinary revenue.

Mandera County as an example of the three counties

Mandera county, which borders Somalia and Ethiopia has an area of 34,000km2 and a population of one million plus.  Both Garissa (43,000km2) and Wajir (56,000km2) have a population of about 650,000.  Mandera County has 6 Districts ;( Madera East, Lafey, Elwak, Rhamo, Takaba and Banisa).  Each district is a Parliamentary Constituency.  The communities there are by and large homogeneous, generous, forgiving, understanding and need sincere leadership from all levels, particularly from the Ulamas, elders, professionals, experts such as health experts, government agencies, community and political leaders anywhere and everywhere.

Development Inputs

The Pastoralists of Mandera county have according to the August census 2010, camels; 600,000, cattle; 700,000 and goats & sheep; 4 million.  Assuming the price of a camel Kshs. 50,000; cattle; Kshs. 25,000 and goat and sheep Kshs. 2,000.  The wealth of only these three categories of livestock is Kshs. 55.5 billion – camel Kshs. 30 bn, cattle Kshs. 17.5 bn and goats & sheep Kshs. 8 bn.  This comes to per capita income of Kshs. 55,500 = US $ 694, just about the national per capita income of US$ 700.

Goats / Sheep
1.8 m
2.7 m
12 m

Figure 1: Livestock population North Eastern: Source G.O.K Census 2010.

Agricultural farmlands along River Dawa and informal sector industries, retail and cross-border trade and more have the capacity to exceed the wealth of the livestock sector.  All these are “dead” potential wealth, never exploited for lack of markets, organizations, investments and poor roads. Good effective county government will unlock these huge potentials and make Mandera county to catch up quickly with the rest of the country.  The secrets are transformational leadership and public investments.  Then the world will come to us.  Our children will then perform best at the best universities anywhere. The same is true in terms of wealth of the other two counties, Garissa and Wajir.

The Double-Edged Sword

The New Constitutional arrangement for Kenya has come when regionally we are still in the “mud of clanism; ethnicism” and rivalry for non-existence resources such as public sector employment.  Our attitude, reasoning and actions appear to be guided by age old pastoralists – nomad’s narrow view of things, mean, static and never seeing that “we are because they are” and no peace, prosperity and sustained prestige for any society is possible, if it is not all inclusive, and consciously not bringing up the poor, minority, disabled, women, youths and mainstreaming the needs and interests of one and all.

In the case of our counties, first we pray that Allah (s.a.w) multiplies the resources and ability of our people.  We pray that petrol, gas and minerals, peace and prosperity be found within the borders of this county.  Having said that, we expect by 2012, there will be following elective positions in anyone of the three counties as an illustration discussion only.
a)      6 MPs
b)      1 Senator
c)      1 Woman MP
d)     1 Governor
e)      1 Deputy Governor

Total                 6 + 4 = 10

These ten elective positions do not include county Assembly members, their speaker and members of the executive committee, which together with the governor and his deputy form the county Government.  Sword, just like time, can be used to cut things and if it’s not used as desired, it can backfire and “cut” us.  To this end, these 10 elective positions, together with the members of the county assembly, the executive committee and budget allocated by the national government, if we are not careful and have the goodwill, blessings, consultations and prayers of our Ulamas, professionals, elders, businesspeople, youths and women, all inclusive, there is the risk of creating bad blood, suspicions, mistrust, envy, corruption, nepotism and conflict.  Finally we may plant seeds of destruction of our county “mirroring conflictual regions “ When most of the other counties are speeding ahead with development and social progress – health-education, water and economy, we could remain standstill or even move backwards or worse not get permission from the national government to run our own county government until 2015 or thereafter.  This is the cutting edge of the sword, which may hurt us all.

If we do not manage our county well, particularly at the start we could set bad precedence.  Most important, the senator, governor, deputy governor, woman MP, speaker and executive committee members should be selected based both on merit and fair, balanced sharing of among communities, while observing all the principles of devolved government and general good of all.  Bottom line, no single community should complain of exclusion and marginalization.  The Lebanon model might even work here.  In Lebanon, during the civil war in the 80s, they agreed the president, prime minister and the speaker of parliament should come from separate religious groups.  In our case, we could agree the senator, governor; deputy governor; woman MP and county speaker, at least four of these should each belong to separate clan groups and can become the unwritten law of the county.  Same principles can be applied in all counties.  
 The residents of our three counties in Northern Kenya should be among the most optimistic, hopeful and contented people among the 47 counties.  That should be our mission.  That way we should attract transformational projects, investments     and goodwill from within and outside the borders of our county.  That is the useful side of the sword.  Our people should and must benefit from the new arrangement of the constitution.  Since 98% of households in North Eastern are poor and over 97% of our girls do not attend schools, our counties should be the most improved counties in the country within a period of ten years. Our guide in the new counties must never be the saying “the smallest deserves beatings and strongest take it all”.

Role of all Leaders and the Professionals

Wiseman said, “The best among you is the learned” but we know also the most dangerous people of all are the educated who use their knowledge, education and authority for bad cause.  The poet asked when people become sick, they take medicine and when we feel thirsty, we take water; what happens when the medicine itself becomes ill and the water feel thirsty?  With what would the medicine be treated and quench the unusual thirst of the water? We must pull our efforts together with other professionals and leaders at all levels.  The message is security and successful, everlasting political and economic success in our counties in 2012 and for ever thereafter.  Because of our presence and work here today let the future generations say of us, “they came, they conquered and they left behind something good for all of us.  May God have mercy on them,” while remembering some 2,500 years history of our people.

We, leaders and professionals at all levels should work with love, for as Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese poet said:
Life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And whole urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain, save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love (for people
And communities),
And when you work with love, you bind
Yourself to one another and to God

To paraphrase Dr. K. Aggrey, only the best is good enough for our people, let the eagle soar.

Human Rights in the Context of our Counties

Where there are no effective human rights, there is no governance worth talking about.

Human rights are derived from the inherent dignity and worth of the human person and they are universal, inalienable and equal.

Human Rights Principles in Kenya’s Constitution

1.      The Bill of Rights is an integral part of Kenya’s democratic state and is the framework for social, economic and cultural policies.
2.      The purpose of recognizing and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms is to preserve the dignity of individuals and communities and to promote social justice and the realization of the potential of all human beings.
3.      The rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights – belong to each individual and are not granted by the state.

Quotation – Theory of self esteem and importance of Human Rights.  Leaders and professionals at all levels should pursue human rights as a hobby as the following quotation shows:

“Whatever career you may choose for yourself – doctor, lawyer and teacher – let me propose an evocation to be pursued along with it.
Become a dedicated fighter for civil rights.
Make it a central part of your life.  It will make you a better doctor, a better lawyer, a better teacher.
It will enrich your spirit as nothing else possible can.  It will give you that rare sense of nobility that can only spring from love and selflessly helping your fellow humankind.
Make a career of humanity.
Commit yourself to the noble struggle for human rights.
You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country and a finer world to live in”.  Effective Human rights builds the self esteem and confidence of individuals and communities everywhere.  Do the residents in the Arid Lands have surplus or deficit esteem relative to the national average?

Where do universal rights begin particularly in our counties?

“In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world.  Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination.  Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.  Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” Why in small and remote places?

Conclusion and Recommendations: Walking the talk

In conclusion, the Minister and his officials and other leaders deserve maximum praise and support in their efforts to this end.  The devolved governance has tremendous benefits for the country, particularly the residents in under developed regions.  In order to derive maximum advantage from the new constitutional framework in the country, the following recommendations are made:

1)      Recognize greatest challenge to Northern Kenya is poverty and way out is transformational investments e.g. – infrastructure. Causes of wealth or poverty; (1) Environmental factors (2) Historical (3) State Policies (4) Community – play winners or victims – control deficit and need surplus.

2)      Need to establish National Institute for County Development at KIA or KSMS and training of key staff immediately – locally and abroad. Develop experts as soon as possible.

3)      Affirmative Development Act be created by Parliament for the region with seed development budget of say Kshs. 50 billion (50% GOK and 50% donors) per year for a duration of 47 years. Leaders should and must lobby for special budget to bring about Big Push public expenditure in the region we are behind by about 70 years.

4)      More emphasis on public education, human rights and active and self confident citizens be put – at the lower county levels and development more robust civil societies, professional and entrepreneurs.

5)      Strong professionals with first class talents, national outlook, integrity and characters are selected for county leadership positions. People who believe in public service, who believe in hard work, who have set values and have vision for their respective counties and for the nation as a whole. It is only then we shall catch up with the world and with the rest of Kenyans and overcome multiple challenges before us. Thus answer KWS’s Director’s assertion that, “Poverty is your choice”.  We can overcome poverty trap and it is not part of our DNA.  It is never our choice to be poor.

6)      Association of Northern County Vision (ANC Vision 2036: (25 years agenda) under the umbrella of (MNK & OGLs). Why for example Housing Development Programme is not active in our counties?

7)      Brand our region – what good thing do we want to be known for and have the competitive advantage in the country?


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