“Before this Constitution, a pastor would mess around, like sleep with people’s wives and no one questions because they felt he is closer to God hence is above the law. Today, when they make mistakes, people walk up to them to inform them of their mistakes and many are changing. It is quite open and progressive,” asserted Pastor Michael, a local pastor in Mbubuni town, Mbooni sub-county, Makueni County.
These comments resonate with many issues and people in Makueni, perhaps a positive note but the move by the residents who made precedence by being the first County to petition the President to dissolve the County government over what they term ‘greed’ from Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) who were aggrieved by the refusal of the Governor to approve the 2014/15 Budget speaks a different script.
Makueni politicians have over the period used the poor roads infrastructure as an election pledge, an issue which the residents hoped will come to an end with the Constitution. They have four main issues they want urgently addressed; roads, water, land tussles and education, which under the current governance stand-off in the County will not be realized.
“We are better off removing this County government now, have an election and get new leaders, whom even if they have just one year to work for residents, will ensure we get better services for that one year, than bicker for five years,” stated Joseph Syoki, an activist in the County.
The residents who are proud of the move to petition for the dissolution of the county say the MCAs are only concerned about foreign trips in far flung countries and in subjects which they are not conversant with neither will they be of benefit to the residents. Anne Karimi, a chairlady of several women groups in the County asked “how can an MCA claim to be learning something in Israel yet they do not know basic English as they quit school in class two?”
To them, the county assembly has refused to ensure that the county realizes development. They are however in praise of the Constitution stating that it has had some tangible differences in the people since its promulgation on 27th August 2010. They explain that power now belongs to the people unlike before, the government is nearer to the people through the offices of the Governor and Ward Administrator and people awakening through various civic education forums.
Last week, the Senate approved the nomination of commission of inquiry into the affairs of the County. The commission that holds the fate of the County will be chaired by lawyer Mohammed Nyaoga. Other members include National Police Service Commission (NPSC) Chairman Johnston Kavuludi, Emily Gatuguta, former Mombasa Mayor Taib Ali Taib, Alice Wairimu Nderitu and Harrison Maithya.
The President picked the commission after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) verified the names of the 50,826 residents who petitioned him over the dissolution of the county. This followed a unanimous decision by the Council of Governors who blessed the process to take its rightful course. The team has since been sworn in by the Chief Justice.
During the vetting process, some nominees like Nyaoga and Gatuguta told the Senate that while they have six months to hand over their report to the President, they expect to finalize within two months. “The ground rules have been laid. We will take two months to complete this process and if anyone has any intentions to delay this process, he will not be tolerated,” Nyaoga asserted.
Makueni County residents say they have had their issues drag for too long. They lament that the divisions between the executive and the assembly have delayed budget making process such that during the first financial year, it delayed by six months while in the second year, it delayed by nine months.
Moreover, they were taken aback by the President’s decision to drag his feet to appoint the commission. Neither the Constitution nor the County Governments Act provides timeline for the President to nominate the Commission, a lacuna which the residents say needs to be filled.
Makueni County is setting precedence that people have a right and power to determine their political leadership. How this case is decided will have ramifications on the future of counties especially in terms of dispute resolution, management and general governance of devolved units. However for the residents, their hope is that the commission will quickly get down to business and wrap up its work fast enough to ensure that they go back to the ballot and elect a new County leadership that they know will safeguard their interests. They are confident that new people, especially MCAs will have taken a lesson from the current members and not repeat their mistakes.