Kenyan Citizens Embrace Devolution Despite Challenges, Survey Reveals

In a recent survey conducted by Twaweza East Africa, Kenyan citizens expressed overwhelming support for devolution, with 75 percent believing that it has significantly improved service delivery across the country. The study, titled “Power to the People: Kenyans’ Experiences and Opinions on Ten Years of Devolution in Practice,” sheds light on the perceptions and experiences of Kenyans regarding the decentralized system of governance.

The survey, conducted in July with 3,746 respondents through Computer Aided Telephonic Interviews, revealed that a majority of citizens, across various demographic groups and regions, are positive about the impact of devolution on their lives. Notably, 58 percent of respondents noted positive economic development within the devolved units.

Support for devolution cuts across major demographic groups, with particularly strong endorsement from men, older citizens, and those with a deeper understanding of the term “devolution.” Counties such as Tana River, Marsabit, Turkana (combined), Makueni, and Elgeyo Marakwet stand out with a higher percentage of residents supporting the decentralized system of governance.

The positive perception of devolution is attributed to tangible improvements in healthcare services, enhanced road networks, and increased proximity of the government to the people, as cited by supporters. A significant majority of citizens, 75 percent, believe that devolution has led to improvements in public services such as health, water, education, and infrastructure.

The survey also indicated that half of the respondents feel more involved in county-level decisions since the implementation of devolution, and 49 percent believe that it has increased transparency and accountability in governance. Additionally, 53 percent of citizens agree that devolution has contributed to a more equitable distribution of resources among counties.

However, the survey highlighted challenges faced in the implementation of devolution. Six out of ten Kenyans identified corruption and misuse of funds as major hindrances, emphasizing the need for stronger measures to address these issues. Poor financial management ranked second, with 32 percent of respondents pointing to this as a significant challenge.

File photo; Preparations for The Promulgation of The Constitution of Kenya in 2010

Despite the positive sentiment towards devolution, a considerable portion of Kenyans, 47 percent, remains uncertain about its overall impact. This uncertainty is consistent across different demographic groups, indicating the need for ongoing efforts to enhance communication and understanding of the benefits of devolution.

Furthermore, the survey revealed that 51 percent of Kenyans are dissatisfied with their county’s revenue collection, while only 33 percent express satisfaction. Thirty percent of the population believes they are paying excessive county taxes, signaling a need for better fiscal management at the devolved level.

Twaweza East Africa Country Lead, Dr. James Ciera, acknowledged the challenges but highlighted signs of increased citizen engagement and better services. He emphasized the need to address financial issues, including control, allocation, and lost funds, for both citizens and government at all levels.

Devolution Principal Secretary Teresia Mbaika echoed the call for collective action, emphasizing the importance of collaboration between the national and county governments to address citizens’ concerns effectively. She underscored the need to involve the youth in the devolution journey, recognizing their crucial role in shaping Kenya’s future.

Despite the challenges, the survey paints a picture of a nation embracing the positive aspects of devolution, with citizens actively participating in decision-making processes. The findings suggest a growing sense of inclusion and engagement, with an increasing number of citizens attending county meetings and expressing their views on governance.

As Kenya marks the first decade since the advent of devolution, the survey provides valuable insights into the experiences and opinions of its citizens. The road ahead involves addressing challenges, fostering transparency, and ensuring that the benefits of devolution continue to reach all corners of the nation.


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