Governor Okoth Obado testing a road construction machine. PHOTO/COURTESY
By MATIKO BOHOKO
More often than not in internecine wars, mediators are killed world over for being mistaken for conspirators or spies. Such messengers of good will have encountered cruel deaths while on a noble mission of either wanting to save lives or stop an eminent destructive war that could have far reaching ramifications on lives of citizens of nations.
Friendly fires have also claimed lives of these well intended men and women, ostensibly attempting to pre-empt or stop catastrophic conflicts.
A court battle is looming between the Kuria people and the county government of Migori. A forth night ago a section of the Kuria people moved to the high court in Migori petitioning against implementation of about Ksh.530 million World Bank funding for Kenya Urban support programme ( KUSP) citing discrimination of two major towns of Kehancha and Isebania all situated in Kuria.
The KUSP initiative aims at improving link roads, drainage, garbage collection, street lighting and water supply in urban centres.
In their petition, they have listed the World bank, the treasury, the department of lands, the county government of Migori, the Migori County Assembly and the department of housing and physical planning and transport and infrastructure cabinet secretary as respondents.
They argue in the suit that the spirit of fairness and equitable distribution of resources has not been heeded in the allocation of World Bank funds which have been ear marked for Migori, Rongo and Awendo towns all in the Luo side of the county.
They say in the petition that if the program is allowed to continue as planned by the county government, the Kuria community will have been side-lined as development is channelled to only one region of the county.
They lament that the community remain marginalised and prejudiced contrary to the provisions of the constitution which recognizes the existence of minorities in their peculiar environment and seeks to empower them through asymmetrical provision of resources and affirmative action.
As to the merits and demerits of the petition, both the legal teams will certainly argue in the court when the case comes up for hearing in mid-February.
I elect to play the goodwill messenger and voice of reason in a feud that will by and large have adverse socio-political and economic consequences on the entire Migori citizenry. I propose for dialogue between the Okoth Obado led – county government and his constituents from Kuria region.
The consequences of this case will no doubt be dire to the county government, the people of Migori and the political standing of the person of Governor Okoth Obado.
I propose with clarity of vindication for negotiations between the warring groups to avert an unnecessary prolonged litigation. Scenarios emerging from the petition are unpleasant and unconducive for cordial coexistence of the two communities of Migori County. Kuria and Luo communities have lived harmoniously, intermarried and traded in businesses peacefully without heightened tension for many decades.
Governor Okoth Obado speaking after launching a road project in Migori. PHOTO/COURTESY
If the case is allowed to continue to its fullest, three possible scenarios with unpleasant aftermath are evident. They will impact negatively on the economic, infrastructural and political development of the county.
Scenario one; The World bank’s policy of non-discrimination and fairness to all could apply in this case if proven to be true that there was short-change on the allocation of the funds hence withhold or stop the grant. Migori as county will have lost greatly in terms of upgrading of her infrastructure, water and drainage systems. The World Bank could also feel cheated and therefore black list Migori county in future developmental funding engagements. Regaining confidence of the bank for future funding of the county’s development programs will have been drastically punctured.
Scenario two; The High court presided over by Justice Anthony Mrima, could also rule against the petitioners. This will have opened up a pile of endless appeal litigations in the court. This kind of ruling could also rekindle in the minds of the petitioners, an era of absolute injustice witnessed in the 1960 and 1970s during the South Nyanza county council. There was blatant discrimination of minorities where there was no meaningful development activity carried out in far flung marginal areas.
Scenario three; the high court could rule in favour of the petitioners. This way, there is a likelihood of the judge referring the matter back to county government. To consider allocating the word bank grant to at least one town in Kuria. In a nutshell the court will have directed the Kuria people to sit on a round table with the Obado- led government and decide on which town between Isebania and Kehancha to receive the grant.
This kind of ruling albeit good for the petitioners, provides another exclusive challenge. The petitioners will have been referred back to the Obado led government, which they had initially refused to dialogue with. The county government could decide to go slow in implementing the court ruling and therefore sabotage the process. Thus compelling the petitioners to again seek legal redress.
Conditions attached to the World Bank grant require that the funds are given only to areas with municipal status. A governor of a county gives charters to towns which qualify or under special terms for municipal status after recommendation by a committee appointed by him. The urban area and cities Act 2011 gives direction under which conditions a governor can confer a special municipality to an area.
In this context, sobriety is required in both parties. This is in realisation that the constitutional right which is being demanded by the petitioners will finally be delivered to them through the respondent. It is that same political whip wielded by governor Obado that will eventually be cracked to let go the World Bank grant.
A quid pro quo (give and take) approach here is key. A decision of live and let live has to be taken with precision to avert a crisis.
Governor Obado could soften his stand and call for dialogue with Kuria leaders. After all, they are his “in-laws”.
He could simply upgrade Isebania to a municipal status (like he did to Awendo and Rongo) or restore the Kehancha municipal council and request infrastructural funding from the World Bank. Kehancha remained a municipality until inception of counties.
The governor could also choose to quickly restore Kehancha municipality and sign a charter for Isebania town and provide funding through his county government supplementary budget. This will have provided a win-win situation envisaged in conflict resolution.
Essentially this will mean that Rongo, Awendo and Migori will be developed by the World Bank grant while Kehancha and Isebania will have been catered for by the county government development budget awaiting subsequent funding from the donor after mid-term review of the program that lasts for six years. Litigation is certainly, antagonistic, alienative, expensive and stressful. Over to you Governor Okoth Obado.
Matiko Bohoko is a former communication director for Governor Okoth Obado
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