News / Africa

Fighting for Space: Kenya Faces Devolution Challenges

County assembly member Karungo wa Thang'wa meets with constituents at a market outside Nairobi every Tuesday as he waits for the government to pay for an office, Kenya. (G. Joselow/VOA)County assembly member Karungo wa Thang'wa meets with constituents at a market outside Nairobi every Tuesday as he waits for the government to pay for an office, Kenya. (G. Joselow/VOA)
x
County assembly member Karungo wa Thang'wa meets with constituents at a market outside Nairobi every Tuesday as he waits for the government to pay for an office, Kenya. (G. Joselow/VOA)
County assembly member Karungo wa Thang'wa meets with constituents at a market outside Nairobi every Tuesday as he waits for the government to pay for an office, Kenya. (G. Joselow/VOA)
TEXT SIZE - +
Gabe Joselow
— Behind the vegetable and fruit sellers, in a quiet corner of the Kwamaiko market outside Nariobi, Karungo wa Thang’wa sits behind a wooden desk. He’s wearing a suit and a tie; a laptop is open in front of him next to a small sign bearing his name.
 
A line of people are waiting to see him on a Tuesday morning and each takes a turn in a plastic chair next to his desk. “Welcome to my office,” he said.
 
Thang’wa is a member of the Kiambu county assembly, a body created by Kenya’s 2010 constitution as part of a system of devolution, meant to redistribute power and wealth from the central government to the newly-created 47 counties.
 
A former radio announcer, Thang’wa has a flair for performance, although he has set up his desk in a market stall out of necessity.
 
“I decided to come to this market every Tuesday because one thing,” he says. “I don’t have an office.”

Paying the Rent
 
Thang’wa is caught up in a nationwide power dispute between county assemblies and the central government.
 
Governors, who took office last month, have boycotted opening sessions because of disagreements about pay, grinding to a halt local legislative activities before they could even begin.
 
Thang’wa said the government should pay for his new office, but the head of a transitional authority set up to smooth the devolution rollout has said that is not the case.
 
Ekuru Aukot, one of the lead architects of the constitution, said a lot of local representatives may be exaggerating what they should get from the government, though he said Thang’wa does have a point.
 
“In a way the guy is right,” he said. “Because he’s not really expected to work under a tree, I mean this is really simple logic.”
 
Who’s in charge?

Aukot said devolution first started going off track when former president Mwai Kibaki appointed County Commissioners to coordinate between the county assemblies and the national government. Governors saw the appointments as a direct challenge to their authority and unconstitutional interference from Nairobi in county affairs.
 
Aukot says governors and county assemblies are wrongly being treated as if they are just managers there to distribute resources as instructed by the central government.
 
“Let the governor be the CEO of the county and therefore make determinations as to how the county is being run, but in collaboration with the central government,” he said.
 
Meantime, back at the Kwamaiko market, Thang’wa had just finished talking with Naomi Njeri, who came to seek help paying for her deaf daughter to attend school.
 
She said that while she appreciated the representative meeting people in the market, she thinks it would be better if he had an office.
 
“He’s a big man,” she said. “And the market is only a place for things to be bought and sold.”

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid