International Development Law Organization

Kenya: Documenting Devolution

In their efforts to consolidate national rather than local identities, African countries have historically privileged highly centralized models of governance. In recent years in Kenya, however, a consensus has grown that this model is no longer suitable for addressing regional and ethnic fault lines – and that instead of weakening the State, devolution of power can strengthen policymaking, legitimacy and the provision of services. Kenya’s 2010 Constitution, to which IDLO contributed technical assistance, thus brought in a system consisting of a national government and 47 devolved governments.

While rich with promise, the process of devolution has also added complexity to the act of governance. It has created a need for interpretation, adjudication, and analysis of the jurisprudence that has accrued in the past five years. With this in mind, IDLO, in collaboration with Kenya’s Judiciary Training Institute, Council of Governors and Katiba Institute for constitutional studies has published two books which – it is hoped – will greatly contribute to the body of practical research on Kenyan devolution.

In one of the books, Kenyan legal experts explore the mandate of the judiciary in ensuring that devolution meets its stated objectives: the content emerged from judicial seminars that brought together scholars and practitioners - including judges from Kenya and other countries that have devolved systems of government. In the second - the first Law Report on devolution - relevant court decisions have been compiled into a case digest, which will serve as a practical tool for county governments and will assist legal practitioners, scholars and others.

“The objectives of devolution in Kenya were borne out of the real challenges that ordinary Kenyans face, like underdevelopment, ethnic conflict, and lack of accountability in the use of state power and resources,” said Enid Muthoni, IDLO’s Kenya Country Director. “As conflicts have arisen over aspects of the devolutionary process, we have seen Kenya's judiciary increasingly playing a critical role at the heart of the nation’s transformation.”

Publication for viewing or download:

Animating Devolution in Kenya: The Role of the Judiciary