Kenya could soon have 10 more counties if a proposal by 25 MPs is endorsed by a team formed by President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga to look into a range of issues, including possible constitutional amendments.
While increasing the number of counties from the current 47 would require a referendum as it touches on the structure of devolution, an endorsement by the bipartisan talks team could go a long way to ensure its success.
The new proposed counties are Kuria (to be curved from Migori County), Teso from Busia, Mount Elgon from Bungoma and Trans Nzoia, East Pokot from Baringo and West Pokot, Mwingi from Kitui, Gucha from Kisii, Suba from Homa Bay, Ijara from Garissa, Nakuru West from Nakuru, and Wajir South from Wajir.
“The constitution outlines recognition of diversity, the right of communities to manage their own affairs and further their development and the promotion of the interests and rights of minorities and marginalised communities as the foundational objectives of devolution. All the elements must be balanced into equipoise when determining the establishment of counties. It is on this basis that Counties such as Tana River, Taita Taveta, Isiolo, Tharaka Nithi, Embu, Kirinyaga and Elgeyo Marakwet were established. The proposed new counties share similar characteristics with the aforementioned counties,” the MPs say in their memorandum.
The 25 MPs are Marwa Kitayama (Kuria East), Mathias Robi (Kuria West), Oku Kaunya (Teso North), Mary Emaase (Teso South), Fred Chesebe (Mt Elgon), Robert Pukose (Endebess), William Kamket (Tiaty), Peter Lochakapong (Sigor), Gideon Mulyungi (Mwingi Central), Paul Musyimi Nzengu (Mwingi North), Charles Nguna (Mwingi West), Irene Kasalu (Kitui County) and Senator Enoch Wambua (Kitui).
Others are Alfa Meruka (Bomachoge Chache), Sylvanus Osoro (South Mugirango), Innocent Obiri (Bobasi), Nolfasson Barongo (Bomachoge Borabu), Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Abdi Ali Abdi (Ijara), Umulkher Harun Mohammed (nominated MP), Joseph Tonui (Kuresoi South), Alfred Mutai (Kuresoi North), Paul Chebir (Rongai), Samuel Arama (Nakuru Town West), Liza Chelule (Nakuru County) and Mohammed Adow (Wajir South).
The existing boundaries, the MPs argue, promote political marginalisation since the people who share social identities and belong to groups that have a smaller representation within the counties are denied participation in decision-making.
“This has resulted in unequal access to political processes, limited representation in government, and a lack of influence in policy-making. The division of the larger ethnic communities into several counties is meant to territorially accommodate the ethnic diversity of Kenyans without balkanizing the country into ethnic enclaves,” they say.
The legislators have also observed that the basis of the argument is based on the report of the Committee of Experts that recommended the review of county boundaries and the counties increased to address issues that may arise.
“It is to be noted that whereas electoral boundaries change frequently, those for devolved units do not. However, given that the new constitutional dispensation would be in the initial phase of devolution, there may be some fluidity in respect of the boundaries of the devolved units,” stated the report.
The proposed changes somewhat mirror those contained in the Building Bridges Initiative, which proposed the creation of 70 more constituencies in a bid to ensure representation.