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Why Creation of Mt Elgon County Satisfy the Criteria Envisaged in Kenya’s Constitution - Opinion

Kuria East MP Marwa Kitayama has made and drafted a radical bill to increase the number of counties to 52. He has proposed the creation of five new counties of Kuria, Teso, Mount Elgon, East Pokot and Mwingi. The Constitution of Kenya outlines the parameters to be used in alteration of county boundaries as follows: population density and demographic trends; physical and human infrastructure; historical and cultural ties; the cost of administration; the views of the communities affected; the objects of devolution of government; and geographical features. 

Mt Elgon County.

Merging of Mt Elgon Constituency (in Bungoma County) together with the upper parts of Saboti Constituency and Endebess Constituency (in Trans-Nzoia) will indeed satisfy the criteria envisaged in the Constitution. This is why

1. Historical and Cultural Ties

Majority of the residents of these constituencies are Sabaots who are tied together historically and culturally. The Sabaot community is divided into six sub-dialects: Bok, Somek, Mosop(Ogiek), Kony, Sabiny and Bong’omek. There is need to bring these community members who are tied historically and culturally under one administrative organ. Current county boundaries place members of this one community in two different counties (Trans-Nzoia and Bungoma) yet they all majorly occupy the slopes of Mt Elgon and are tied culturally and historically.

2. Geographical Features.

Mt Elgon is a unique and significant geographical feature which the Sabaot community identifies with. One part is in Trans-Nzoia, while the other is in Bungoma. The name originates from the Sabaot word Elgoony and the community traces its ancestral and indigenous origin in and around this feature. The sentimental value attached to this geographical feature is evidenced by the fact that the community largely inhabits its slope from both the Kenyan and the Uganda fronts where the same people are identified as Sebei/Sabiny. 

3. Objects of Devolution of Government.

There is a need to bring services closer to the people. That was the intended core purpose of devolution under our supreme law. Creation of Mt Elgon County will automatically zoom out regions which have been disadvantaged and neglected for the past ten years of devolution. Primary and basic services such as health care must be cascaded down to reach all citizens. In my village within Matumbei ward, Tranz-Nzoia, we still have cases of lives being lost and women delivering on the roads due to poor road networks and inadequate, far-flung medical facilities. Creation of Mt Elgon County will hasten the realization of better and closer government services.   

4. Views of the Communities Affected.

There are real and perceived notions of marginalization and discrimination among the minority communities residing in these targeted counties. Members of the Sabaot community have expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which recruitment and appointments to public office are made in both Bungoma and Trans-Nzoia counties. In Trans-Nzoia, between 2013-2022, only one Sabaot was appointed to the County Executive Committee and another one to the position of Chief Officer, despite the community being the second largest in the county in terms of population. The same trend obtains in the 2022 appointments. Trans-Nzoia County has five constituencies, but Endebess sub-county/constituency as a region is not represented in the recently constituted CEC at all. This partly informs the communities’ desire to have a new county. 

5. Population Density

According to the 2019 population census, Mt Elgon sub-county had a population of 78,873; Endebess had 111,782; while Tran-Nzoia West(Saboti) had 202,377. The proposed new county will therefore satisfy this parameter, even if only 70% of the population of the respective sub-counties is curved out to form the new county. From the foregoing arguments, it is clear that the clamour for creation of new counties, especially Mt Elgon County, is justified.

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Bungoma Marwa Kitayama Mount Elgon Mt Elgon Constituency Teso

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