New ODM Civic Leaders Expected to overhaul local government service delivery in major towns
In the not so distant future, the Orange Democratic Movement will flex its political muscles yet again when the local government elections are held for mayors, their deputies and chairmen of county councils. Local Government minister Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to announce election dates anytime before the end of next week and then political parties will be expected to nominate additional councilors and thereafter hold elections of mayors and chairmen of councils.
For many years (actually since multi-party politics returned to Kenya in 1992), Kenyans have watched with bitterness as their local authorities are rundown by inefficient councillors who are better at grabbing plots than working for the public. Most of our civic 'leaders' have been semi illiterate, corrupt and uncivilized. They are known to openly resolve differences through fistcuffs and bickering , chair fighting, name calling and all sorts of drama during official council meetings.
Councillors preside over huge budgets and make decisions that impact directly on local city/town residents when it comes to provision of water and sewerage, roads and infrastructure, primary education, health clinics and many other social institutions like markets, social halls and play grounds. For instance, during the eighties, any city resident could use their water bill to obtain a new aluminum dust-bin from Nairobi City Council. NCC run clinics were the best in the city. Sadly, these are no more. Corruption is openly conducted at city hall when contractors 'send' councillors for all-expenses paid weekend 'retreats' in coastal hotels before important council decisions or mayoral elections.
Thank God, due to their strong showing in the December 2007 elections ODM managed to get a majority in the country’s top civic bodies. Not just that. The majority means the party gets greater nomination slots which it can then use to nominate additional individuals who possess the necessary skills and experience for management of public affairs, that is just in case none of the party's own elected councillors meet the qualification criteria. It is refreshing to learn that not any other Tom, Dick, John or Harry will be sitting at the mayor’s parlour.
ODM intends to change the negative perception of Kenya’s civic bodies and has made no secret of the fact that it is targeting control of the major cities the country (Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, Nakuru) through election of professional, experienced and dynamic mayors. ODM wants to replicate the high standards of service delivery that Kisumu residents enjoyed during the reign of former Mayor Shakeel Shabir (now MP). Not only was Kisumu roads repaired, but the town was cleaned and basic services like water and garbage collection restored. During that time, Kisumu was elected the cleanest Kenyan town and it went further and achieved ‘city status’. Shabbir had been nominated and then elected Mayor through the National Development Party (NDP).
The current civic elections also give the ODM an opportunity to implement its pre-elections affirmative action proposals in that women, youth and other disadvantaged groups can be elected into positions of leadership not because of they belong to any dominant party or tribe.
Thank God Kivuitu will not be announcing these results and lets hope this time PNU will not manipulate votes in favour of its candidates.