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Let Governor Mandago Learn from Wangamati about Change Management in Devolved Governance

By Alexander Opicho
Governor Mandago
Governor Mandago

Thursday 22nd February 2018 was not a good day for the small-scale traders, media workers and County askaris in Eldoret town of Uasin GishuCounty. On this day all the shops in town remained close, electricity was switched off, and the water taps were not running. Saddening enough, 25 people were deeply injured, the deathliest injured were three county askaris, the Star Newspaper Photo-journalist that was stone-pummeled by a county askari while taking a photo of County askaris clobbering market women and then the sorriest of all was Mercy Sitienei, an Mpesa stall attendant that was shot in the upper part of her left thigh. Sitienei was shot at 3 in the afternoon by a pressured police officer that was trying to quell the violence and running battles that had been going on since 10 in the morning. The battles were between County askaris and small scale traders. The cause of violence was that Governor Mandago wants to throw small scale traders out of Eldoret town-center to unknown suburb area ten kilometers away.

The small scale traders claim that Governor is brutalizing them economically because they don’t belong to his Nandi tribe. Most of the small scale traders in Eldoret come from Luo, Kisii, Luhyia and Kikuyu communities. Governor Mandago is a Nandi, most of the Nandi’s are not in commercial business, they are in subsistence farming, athletics, and also in blue-collar jobs with the public service commission, courtesy of nothing else but political correctness.

In a nutshell, the 22nd February 2018 was a day of savage violence, primitive politics and dirty misuse of the tribe as a weapon of politics, especially when Governor Mandago ordered the motor bicycle taxi ( boda boda) riders from his Siwa village to join the overwhelmed county askaris in violence against the non-Kalenjin small scale traders. This was so sorriest state of public policy management, a governance concept which governor Mandago has to bench from his Bungoma County counterpart, Governor Wycliff Wangamati. This has to be so out of the following reasons.

Bungoma County and Uasin Gishu share the boundaries. If you are travelling Westwards from Uasing Gishu, you first cross into Bungoma County. These Counties have the same geographical size and political history. The cultures of Uasin Gishu are also the Cultures of Bungoma. Both of these Counties are cosmopolitan and partially metropolitan. They both have Luhyia, Kikuyu, Kisii, Kalenjin, Luo’s and Ateso as the major ethnic composition of their local populations. Kikuyu, Luo Kisii and Luhyia are the urban dwellers in Uasin Gishu County, whereas, Kikuyu, Luo and Kisii are the urban dwellers in Bungoma County, most of the Luhyia families in Bungoma County are in subsistence farming. These features are too common to both the counties to an extent that we expect the same quality ofpeaceful inter-cultural relations in the devolution process for both the counties.

Unfortunately,Uasin Gishu County devolution process under Mandago is based on the political authenticity of some sort,in that Governor Mandago is using devolved governance as an opportunity to exclude the minorities and favour the majority who are his kinsman, Mandago has boldly favoured his own kinsmen with economic and political opportunities to an extent that the ministers and chief officers of Uasin Gishu County government are from the Nandi community, this is so regardless of the fact that non Nandi communities make over 40% of the local populations of Uasin Gishu County . The issue of hiring County government ministers and chief officers solely from the Nandi community was protested through a high court action by Ken Wafula, the late human rights activists. Bad lack, he died before the court decision over the same is made. Thus, Mandagohad built his popularity among his kinsmen by using politics of chasing away the minorities which he calls Lumindet, a derogatory Kalenjin word for an outsider.Twocases in point about this are; first, when he staged a public demonstration against Laban Ayiro who had been hired as a vice Chancellor of Moi Univeristy.Ayiro is a Luhyia.Secondly, Mandago also executed massive and forceful transfer of more than 500 street families from Eldoret town to Busiatown, a border town on Kenya-Ugandaborder. According Paul Njenga, a human rights crusader for the street families in Eldorettown,Mandago believes that all street families are not Kalenjin.

A misfortunate coincidence is that, given the harsh conditions of scarcity of the resources, national politics of tribalism and high level of unemployment, the Nandi community members are tempted to be lured by such political brutality practiced by one of their own. In their mistaken judgement, they believe that politics of Mandago which is concerned with chasing out non-Kalenjin will create economic advantages for the Kalenjin.

Contrastingly, in Bungoma County, the situation is different. The communities coexist in peace and harmony. The majority in Bungoma have their say as the minorities enjoy their way in peace. Any change in policy affecting public structure is done through consultation, dialogue with the stakeholders but based and constitutional requirements. Authenticity of County governance in Bungoma is based on the constitution, firmness against corruption, respect of human dignity and respect for other counties but not politics of exclusion. These are political virtuosities that Mr. Wangamati has so far achieved.

Currently, devolved governance in Kenya is still new and thus it is all about managing change. Change which aims at involving the locals or serving the citizens from their local point. It involves extensive structural changes in terms of manpower, infrastructure and policy orientation. This is a management process that requires cautious practice of risk management-both technical risk and human risk.For example, a decision by Governor Mandago to relocate small traders from city center to a new destination is not a complex change process, it can be designed and be implemented smoothly as along as the change-leader is a trustworthy person that always consults, appreciates dialogue and readily involves the change-stakeholders in the change process. This approach is in fact the requisite transparency and accountability constitutional perspectives of devolved governance that must be upheld by County parliament legislators in Kenya. Good-luck, Wangamati has very much tried in an exemplary way, to uphold these virtues as pillars of the management process of devolved political and social processes in Bungoma County.

The key lesson is that devolved governments are not tribal machineries to be used by politicians in achieving their nasty agendas. The constitutional logic behind the 2010 dispensation of devolved governance was to create political opportunities for all human beings living in Kenya to be able to access government services with convenience. The vision in this constitutional logic was to achieve a country known as Kenya that can possibly be a home to the most satisfied and united citizens. Thus, some misfortunate miss-legislations like the one in Turkana County which requires all job applicants for county government jobs to speak fluent Turkana vernacular or like the one that was recently promoted by Ferdinand Waititu, the Governor of Kiambu County requiring almost 90% of business licenses to be given only to the Kikuyu traders in Kiambu County share the state of social putrefaction with what Governor Mandago is doing in Eldoret. It is a sum total of what we can dismiss as selfish politics hiding behind a tribal cocoon giving itself a shape of a snake biting its own tail.

Alexander Opicho - Mail; [email protected]


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