Proposal to rename counties with tribal names apt

Thursday, September 12th, 2019 00:00 | By
Constitution. Photo/Courtesy

Simon Mwangi   

Recent proposal by the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) to rename counties with tribal names should be supported if indiscrimination is to be realised. 

This would also effectively eradicate politics of division and marginalisation and promote impartiality. 

Some critics would, however, argue otherwise especially going by one of Shakespeare’s famous lines; What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Truth is that in a setting that is so ethnically ordered such as ours, names mean everything.

Article 174 of the Constitution provides that the objectives of devolution include fostering national unity by recognising diversity; recognition of the right of communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development; and protection and promotion of the interests and rights of minorities and marginalised communities. 

On the reverse, devolution has resulted in the emergence of intra-county ethnic minorities. Pundits agree that devolution has decentralised ethnic politics and promoted the emergence of county majorities and minorities in terms of tribes.

When counties bear names that belong to dominant tribes, residents born and bred there but whose names indicate they may not be from that tribe lack sense of belonging.

 Article 56 (C) of the County Government Act provides that minority and marginalised groups be accorded special access to employment in the counties.

And as things currently stand it is not uncommon to find a majority of county employees, especially at the top level, coming from the dominant tribe. A random look at composition of County Executive Committee members gives insight into that arrangement.

Perhaps it is out of ignorance on the requirement of this law that most county appointments have not been rendered null, but the NGEC’s various surveys have indicated the spirit of that legislation has not been followed. 

The Kenya Human Rights Commission published a report—Ethnicity and Politicisation in Kenya—last May which found that the politicisation of ethnic identity has the effect of deepening tensions between national and ethnic identities. 

To understand the historical genesis of ethnic mobilisation in Kenya one needs look no further than the nature and composition of political parties.

The present-day major political parties   primarily engage in ethnic, as opposed to issue-based politics. 

Minority communities residing in counties whose names resemble those of the dominant tribe are in principle discriminated against even when county jobs are advertised. This is basically due to the fact that they have the intrinsic feeling that they stand no or slim chances of even making it to the shortlist. 

 At the ideological level, renaming the counties bearing ethnic names will  boost the mindsets of both the leadership and inhabitants of those counties to assume a more nationalistic approach to issues.

Nairobi, for instance, continues to prove that a cosmopolitan approach can produce leadership that is not necessarily ethnically-driven. This move will also  enhance inclusivity by way of promoting a sense of belonging. - The writer is a communications specialist

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