Why Jubilee must embrace rule of law and employ governance

Kenya Defence Forces at Nginyang in Baringo County during a security operation on November 6 to flush out bandits and recover guns stolen from slain Administration Police officers on the Kapedo-Lokori Road. Kenyans cite insecurity as the major issue of concern in 2014. Failure to enforce the law and instead creating new laws has been blamed for the lack of accountability in government. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA |

What you need to know:

  • Corruption is on the increase and blatantly open if media reports are anything to go by.
  • Related to corruption and failure to act on re-invention of political cartels in procurements, is a weak rule of law.

The year 2014 has been quite challenging for many Kenyans. This year saw increased concerns over crime and insecurity in many parts of the country.

This has since become a major worry for many Kenyans.

Although in the last few years Kenyans have been citing increasing cost of living as a major problem facing the country, recent surveys show that many are now worried about increasing crime and insecurity.

There are concerns about management of our politics and several issues around governance. Notably, leaders at both the national and county level have increasingly undermined the values and spirit of the Constitution. Some have demonstrated lack of integrity and have brought dishonour to the positions they occupy. The behaviour of some leaders, whether the Members of County Assembly (MCAs), or Members of Parliament – Senators and National Assembly members – has brought national leadership into disrepute.

In addition, the opposition is continuing to weather away. Close to two years after the General Election, the opposition is yet to develop an agenda of what it represents. Internally, the parties are weakened by different kinds of disputes that their leaders are afraid of solving.

All in all, governance and political challenges appear to be the main issues of concern thus far. How did we find ourselves here? What has the government done right in addressing some of these governance problems – and what was not been done right?


What the Jubilee government has done right, or not done right, is traceable to the internal character of the Jubilee Alliance. It is a coalition comprising of four political parties. Two of these parties, The National Alliance (TNA) of President Uhuru Kenyatta, the United Republican Party (URP) of Deputy President William Ruto, are the most visible in the alliance.

The Jubilee Alliance campaigned on a platform of social development. Its three pillars largely depict infatuation with delivery of development more than governance.

In fact, the Jubilee Alliance is the first government to come to power since 1992 without campaigning on a governance reform platform.

Even if the government of President Moi in the 1990s gave governance reforms lip service, he put governance reforms high on the agenda of his pronouncements.

President Kibaki’s National Alliance Rainbow Coalition (Narc) government of 2003-2007 also campaigned and prioritised governance reforms in the early years before abandoning these to embark on social development.

Also the Coalition Government of 2008-2013 was specifically formed to undertake governance reforms to prevent recurrence of a crisis similar to what followed after the December 2007 General Election.

Fighting corruption, undertaking institutional reforms, promoting accountability and transparency in the conduct of public affairs and specifically holding leaders to account, and embedding a culture of the rule of law, have been some of the governance reforms associated with past governments.

Of course the challenges associated with undertaking some of these reforms led to past governments, such as Kibaki’s, to abandon them in favour of social development and improvement of infrastructure.

These did not give him a headache; they did not evolve political divisions. Neither did they lead to stepping on toes of strategic supporters like what happens when you begin holding your supporters to account.


The Jubilee government has not been emphatic on governance and political reforms. There are concerns that the government has re-invented governance approaches of the 1980s and the 1990s that resulted in increased corruption and limitation of fundamental rights and freedoms.

Corruption is on the increase and blatantly open if media reports are anything to go by.

The space for civil society engagement is also becoming increasingly constrained if judged on basis of the pronouncements by national politicians and pronouncements accompanying the debate on amendments of the law on Public Benefits Organisations (PBOs Act).

The failures in governance and politics are a stark contrast to what is happening in social development. In fact the government’s agenda has been emphatic on social development and improvement of infrastructure. Surveys in the last one year bare this out.

People cite development as an achievement of the Jubilee government specifically because of this: The launch of the mega infrastructure projects such as the Lamu Port South Sudan and Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor; the Standard Gauge Railway; and making pronouncements on improving access to basic services, empowering the youth to access credit services, among others.

Of note here is that some of these projects by the national government are not coherently synced with the development programmes by the county governments.

Some of the county governments have their local specific needs and development programmes that are poorly linked to the national agenda.

The Standard Gauge Railway line and Lapsset will, separately, pass through many counties. It is a matter of debate whether these county governments have developed an approach to link to the mega projects.

Of course the mega projects, on their own, cannot deliver development. They are not an end in themselves. Without a clear link to a coherent development agenda, they will not deliver development.


What has the government not done right? There are concerns that there is rebirth of the 1980s and 1990s. The mega projects that are at the centre of the Jubilee government’s development agenda have witnessed an increase in different forms and levels of corruption similar to what used to happen in government in the 80s and 90s.

Cartels have re-emerged with vigour and have lodged in government to milk State contracts. The media reports on government procurement in the last one year are replete with stories about cartels of political elite that are causing fear among parastatal heads and bureaucrats because of their appetite to plunder government resources.

They are using funds from inflated contracts to run politics similar to the way politicians used to plunder state resources to run and manage politics in the 1990s.

This form of corruption is the Achilles heel of the Jubilee government. It is a coalition government in which one party is pointing fingers at politicians on the other side as the most corrupt.

One side is increasingly viewed as having come to power for the purpose of grand accumulation. However, there have been no efforts to hold these cartels to account.

In fact, President Kenyatta himself did admit at one time that there was corruption in Harambee House, the Office of the President, but no one has been held to account.

Related to corruption and failure to act on re-invention of political cartels in procurements, is a weak rule of law.

The government has not been enforcing laws that would strengthen the culture of accountability within and outside of government.

Instead, we have gone ahead to pass new laws when we know quite well that we do not enforce the laws we have. For instance, the bandits who killed police officers in Kapedo in Turkana County returned some of the guns and uniform stolen from the police. They are yet to be arrested and prosecuted.

Failure to enforce the law and specifically failure to cultivate conditions for a strong culture of rule of law remain a major failure of the Jubilee government.

Prof Karuti Kanyinga teaches at the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi, [email protected]


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