Is government closer to the people? Kenyan views on devolution

When it comes to both national and county governments, only 1 in 10 citizens think their opinions are considered in decision making to a large extent. Further, 5 out of 10 think their opinions are only considered to a small extent by county governments (55%) and national government (53%).

Nonetheless, 9 out of 10 citizens are strongly (55%) or somewhat (33%) in support of devolution. This is consistent across demographic groups including gender, age and location. Close to half of citizens (44%) say that devolution is their favorite aspect of the new constitution.

These findings were released by Twaweza in a research brief titled Is government closer to the people? Kenyan views on devolution. The brief is based on data from Sauti za Wananchi, Africa’s first nationally representative high-frequency mobile phone survey. The findings are based on data collected from 1,704 respondents across Kenya between April and May 2017.

Despite the strong support for devolution, 7 out of 10 citizens find it hard to meet county leaders (72%), influence county decision-making (69%) and to access information on county activities (73%). Urban residents appear to find all of these much more difficult than their rural peers.

While Kenyans report finding it difficult to participate actively, one in four report having attended a county government meeting (27%). This is higher among men (33%) than women (21%). This number is also higher than those who reported attending these meetings in December 2015 (19%). The main reason that citizens give for not attending the meetings is that they are not informed of them (30%).

When attending these meetings, half of citizens report raising an issue (52%) or asking a question (52%). Again men are more likely to participate actively than women (58% raised an issue and 59% asked a question compared to 42% of women who raised an issue and asked a question). In 2015, 41% of men and women reported asking a question at a meeting again showing a positive trend in terms of participation.

At the meetings, water (55%), roads (52%) and education (38%) are the topics most likely to be discussed, although more rural citizens mention water being discussed while urban citizens are more likely to mention roads.

Further, 4 out of 10 citizens (41%) say that the issues discussed at the meetings contributed to local planning and 3 out of 10 say the projects discussed have been initiated or implemented (34%).

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