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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Is Majimbo Good For Kenya?

It is instructive that the World Bank has declared that it is in favor of a Majimbo (devolved government) system for Kenya. But today the Catholic church in Kenya has declared that it is against Majimbo in what I consider one of the most irresponsible things the Catholic church in Kenya has ever done. The reason is that the move is an open provocation on Muslims most of whom are in favor of Majimbo and with the tensions in the country at the moment it is very easy for this issue to degenerate into a duel between Christians and Muslims which is the last thing any Kenyan would wish for.

The PNU (Party of National Unity) which has hardly shown any initiative in this general election has very quickly pounced on the issue of introducing a Majimbo system in Kenya sensing that it is ODM’s soft under belly where they can quickly accumulate votes in their favor and reverse the current situation. Many ODM supporters also fear that the party and its’ presidential candidate will lose votes on this issue.

Yet this is a classic issue pitting the two real tribes in Kenya against each other. Namely the filthy rich and the rest of Kenya. A Majimbo system is definitely not in the interest of the rich tribe because many of them have taken unfair advantage of resources in certain parts of the country to enrich themselves while conveniently hiding behind the skirts of the centralized government. In sharp contrast the system would be godsend for the other tribe—the majority of Kenyans who would be empowered for the first time to really be in control of their destiny.

What many Kenyans have also forgotten is that in the course of their work, Ghai’s commission, which was mandated to give the country a new constitution went all over the country and they then incorporated the views and aspirations of the majority into the Bomas Draft which was a majimbo draft, only that the word that was being used a lot then was “devolution.” Both words mean the same thing. So it is safe to say that the vast majority of Kenyans are in favour of Majimboism.

Still the naked truth is that devolution in Kenya has its’ real dangers. However one can say that those dangers are the same as those that the country faced in going back into a multi-party politics with the current of selfish politicians we have. Indeed the re-introduction of multi-partyism has done a lot to balkanize the country and reverse any gains we may have made against tribalism in the past, such that we no longer have any true national political parties in the country. What we have are alliances of various tribal chiefs. This truth applies to all political parties in the country.

So was it a mistake to re-introduce multi party democracy into Kenya? Of course NOT. And in the same way the possible dangers of Majimbosim are not a valid reason to trash this idea and just like the country will one day soon mature it’s multiparty democracy, Majimboism too will work very well in the end. After all, the wise man said that you cannot climb the ladder of success with cold feet of fear. The problem in Kenya currently is that we have too many old men with old ideas (including the Njues of the Catholic Church) determined to have the country solving the unprecedented problems of today’s world using yesterday’s thinking. Not only is this absurd, but it is a recipe for chaos.

We must get out of this time warp where we insist on the same old ideas that have failed us miserably in the past. The time to try out new solutions and to think out of the box is long overdue and this Majimbo thing is a classic example.

Still let us examine in great detail the pros and cons of a devolved government system in Kenya, without fear or favour. Please see my next post.

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