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ODOTE: Kenya must develop all the regions




Citizens queue to vote. A sense of entitlement has permeated the body politic of the country. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Former president Daniel arap Moi used to quip that regions that wanted development were expected to take that into account in their voting decisions. In his view, bad politics resulted to poor development. As a consequence, regions that voted for the opposition suffered from reduced investments in public projects.

The agitation for constitutional reform was geared towards addressing inequalities in development across regions. The adoption of devolution was meant to ensure that every citizen benefit from taxes paid by the public through investments in various projects and provision of varied services. The essence was to promote equity.

In addition, changes were made to the system of governance and the electoral system with a view to doing away with the winner-takes-all approach to politics and eradication skewed distribution of national resources. The expectation was that political power would be used responsibility for the benefit of the nation and all its people.

Against the above context, it came as a surprise for politicians to engage in public discourse whose essence was to argue with a very basic statement from President Uhuru Kenyatta restating that all regions of the country are entitled to development irrespective of whom they voted for during elections. The essence of the debate was a sense of entitlement that if the president hails from your region, community or political party, then you are entitled to a greater proportion of development than those who do not share these characteristics.

Despite the clear provisions of the Constitution promising equity in the distribution of resources, political leadership has continued to distribute public positions and resources in a skewed manner based on political considerations. Consequently, it is not surprising that a sense of entitlement has permeated the body politic of the country.

It is not possible to transform the country without addressing the skewed allocations, feelings of marginalisation and inequities in the country. A cohesive society is possible when we address all the issues that divide us as citizens. Equity on development is a fundamental aspect of that process.

However, it takes more than just dealing with brick and mortar issues. From the discussions amongst the political class and the consternation by some of them to the suggestion that development is a right of every citizen and region of the country, there is need to deal with the software of the country.

This takes deliberate efforts. The Building Bridges Initiative offered the country a unique opportunity to discuss some of the software issues and set the framework for reengineering away from just legal and institutional reforms. While that opportunity still exists, sadly the past one year of engagement has not generated as much support for the initiative as would have been expected.

The initiative’s timelines have been difficult to follow as they keep shifting. Their public engagements have also been few and far between. A basic rule of life is that the lack of or limited information hampers development and creates space for rumours.

The Building Bridges Initiative currently suffers from this problem. Very few Kenyans are fully aware of its operations and progress. With a mandate of delivering some tangible proposals in one year, one wonders when the public will get an opportunity to comprehensively input into the nine-point agenda identified during the 9th March Handshake event.

It is important that as we start the year 2019, concerted efforts are made to have Kenyan converse amongst themselves and recognise that the solutions to its myriad developmental challenges lies in recognizing the diversity of its people and harnessing this for the betterment of the entire country.

Kenya’s progress will require the realization that it is only by supporting development in all parts of the country, embracing one another as brothers and sisters and living the spirit of the national anthem that we shall make strides as a country.