Understanding the politics and process of decentralisation in Kenya

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Decentralisation has been a hot topic in studies of democratisation and development in recent years. The devolution process in Kenya, however, has received relatively little academic attention to date. In this post, Dominic Burbidge pulls together some of the emerging research on this important issue.  Dominic is a Departmental Lecturer in African Studies at the University of Oxford.

The World Bank has described Kenya’s switch to devolved government as ‘among the most rapid and ambitious devolution processes in the world’, yet very little is known so far about what changes have taken place on the ground.

I have been visiting Kenya since 2009 to carry out research into local government and decentralisation, and when the 2010 constitution redefined local government as a democratic entity with full discretion over 14 key government functions, I jumped at the chance to know more about how this novel process was going to unfold.

There have been many challenges in implementation, as well as the risk that local politics might prove too divisive. International institutions are, however, supportive of the new governments, and the Kenyan state is constitutionally committed to providing at least 15% of national revenue to them each year.

Nevertheless, there has been scant independent research thus far that can scrutinise and evaluate how things are playing out. To meet this need, Nic Cheeseman and I have consolidated some our latest academic writings on Kenya’s devolution process.

Our aim in doing so is to inform key stakeholders and Kenyan government administrators of the help that scholars can provide, and to enrich debate in the media.

You can find the research brief here. If you know of any more work on devolution in Kenya, post up your comments below. We would love to expand this network of knowledge.

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