Kenya: Inside Kenyatta Plan to Take Capital Under State's Wing

21 September 2020

Last week's elevation of Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) Director-General Mohamed Badi to the Cabinet was the last step by President Uhuru Kenyatta in implementing the 2017 proposed bill to make Nairobi a ministry.

The Bill, proposed by then Senate deputy Speaker and Murang'a Senator Kembi Gitura, sought to place Nairobi under the national government in an attempt to streamline the city's management, as President Kenyatta tried to balance politics with service delivery.

The Bill proposed an amendment to the Constitution to abolish Nairobi City County and create a "national capital city known as Nairobi, which shall be the seat of the national government."

On February 25, Governor Mike Sonko signed a deed of transfer with the national government, handing over some core functions. Three weeks later, President Kenyatta established the NMS under Maj-Gen Badi.

Under the deal, Mr Sonko ceded health, planning, transport and public works to NMS, which was placed directly under the Executive Office of the President.

With a stroke of the pen, President Kenyatta had quietly implemented part of Senator Gitura's bill proposals, without seeking any constitutional amendment.

Executive order

In the proposed bill, the President would have the powers to nominate a Cabinet secretary, with the approval of the National Assembly, to head the city. But in the new order, President Uhuru last week, through another executive order, elevated Maj-Gen Badi to sit in the cabinet, which saw him last Thursday take an oath of secrecy as required for all persons who attend Cabinet meetings

"The Director-General shall henceforth attend all meetings of Cabinet and its Committees, pursuant to Executive Order No. 3 of 2020," State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena-Mararo said.

Mr Gitura said that his bill was to ensure Nairobi is funded through the national government as a parent ministry, hence the need to have a Cabinet secretary.

While urging the retention of the 47 counties, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) team, citing the fact that the county was home to the third global headquarters of the United Nations, and was the seat of government, suggested that the government "must take into consideration this special status of Nairobi."

As it is, once Mr Sonko terms lapses, the current term of NMS will remain in limbo given that the goodwill to transfer the function remains with the incoming governor in 2022.

The Nairobi City bill had also proposed to do away with the country assembly, opting instead to have the city's residents represented by the Members of Parliaments, with the estates reverting back to local councils, with councilmen who report to a mayor appointed and answerable to the Cabinet Secretary.

"This has been done in other jurisdictions including London in the United Kingdom where we have boroughs and also in several cities in America," Mr Gitura said. The running of the city by the national government mirrors the situation in Washington DC, which is run by an elected mayor, a thirteen-member council and the United States Congress. The Congress exercises all legislative power over the capital.

India's New Delhi is administered by a municipal council consisting of a chairperson, three members of a legislative assembly, two members nominated by the chief minister of the national capital territory of Delhi and five members nominated by the central government.

Created new positions

Closer home, Kenya has followed in the footsteps of Uganda, which ten years ago placed the management of Kampala under the central government when it enacted the Kampala Capital City Act 2010.

The law created new positions of an executive director and deputy directors at the apex of the technical wing, while the initial political structure provided for a minister (since expanded from the May elections to add a minister of state), a city resident commissioner (RCC) and deputies appointed directly by the President. The president also appoints the technical team. Kampala City also has a mayor.

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