Close your eyes.
Image the change in your community after five years.
What do you see?
Electric trains, smooth roads, endless clean water supply, street lights, shopping mall, clean roads without dust, green park without street children.
Where are these things going to appear? Nanyuki, a small town where you can see the snow on the mountain Kenya from the moment of sunrise to sunset. Where do these images come from? Nanyuki municipal councillors, when they were describing about their own community in 2013, during the beginning of a 2-day workshop about local government’s strategic planning held by one of the Vital Voices’ Global Advisory Councils in Kenya, Abby Muricho.
Are these dreams familiar to you who live in developing countries? Here are more.
Skyscrapers, better bank, green environment, happy bouncing children, well-planned residential neighbourhood, council with better technology and resource centre. Except the last one, all the great pictures in the twenty local governors’ minds are about their community. The revised vision of Municipal Council of Nanyuki demonstrated this core value of community-oriented:
“An empowered community with (increased access to an) improved quality of life.”—Compared with the vision 5 years ago—“To be a leading local authority in Kenya in provision of quality of services.”
Now, open your eyes!
Dreams are always beautiful. In reality, however, are the changes mentioned above supposed to be done by the local governments? If yes, do local governments have the autonomy to achieve these goals?
The political structure in Kenya inherited from the Great Britain, but the recent constitution still keeps silent on the subject of local government. Even the local authorities are charged with the responsibility for providing services such as health, primary education, water and sanitation, etc, the service delivery capacity of local authorities has deteriorated to the extent that even the most basic services are not always provided.
How bad is the basic service delivering here?
During my visiting to St. Joseph Waroza Polytechnique High School located on the root of Mt. Kenya, I witnessed the local life without the basic service. There is no electricity in the village and students have to study with the light of kerosene lamps or even candles. There is no public bus or school van so some students have to walk towards their schools since the daybreak. An hour walking distance from home to school is common. At most, students have to bike 15 Km per day to commute between home and the school. The road is super bumpy and only private buses (Matatu) or private motorcycles run most routes from village to village and town to town. Even the Matatu’s price is not expensive, but the cost is endless waiting for more passengers and more goods until the car space is over filled. Furthermore, there is no enough funding for public education. Some public secondary schools in this area have no money to pay teachers’ salaries. The public library does not have any book.
Why, why and why, especially when there have been enormous international organizations settled in this country with tremendous amount of donation –there are just so many that every time you see a village along the highway from Nairobi to Nanyuki, you see several signs that guide you to different charity/ development organizations funded by churches, foundations, NGOS, etc.
“Reasons vary but in three sentences, the central authority (Members of Parliament) is corrupt, the local governments (local councils) lack autonomy and the communities are generally weak.” Someone participated in the workshop addressed the slow development in Kenya like so.
Dream is called as dream as it is hard to be realized. Politicians actually may have even higher and prettier dreams than normal and therefore face to wider and tougher real situations. When President Obama published his first book, he called it as “Dreams From My Father” but now he is the president who moves the dreams towards “Yes, we can”. A good workshop targeted on governors, as what Abby did about strategic plan to municipal councillors, is to keep them passionate about the ideals but rational to the realities.
Yes, we can, but we need more effort and patience.
* Introduction of Local Authority in Kenya
The main piece of legislation about local government is the Local Government Act. There are 175 local authorities including 67 county councils, 43 municipal councils, 62 town councils, and three city councils as Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombassa. The city and municipal councils are led by a mayor, whereas the Town and County Councils fall under the leadership pf a chairperson, elected by the local councillors following the local election. The Minister of Local Government is responsible for all local authorities.
Posted By Luna Liu
Posted Jul 8th, 2009