Machakos: One of the Kenyan Counties Worth Watching
Machakos is set to be one of the three Ukambani counties, under Kenya’s new devolved government system. It is my feeling that Machakos will be one of the counties to watch. In arguing that way, I am persuaded by at least four factors:
- The Nairobi proximity factor: if the old borders hold, then it will emerge that a very substantial part of Machakos county is in fact part of what can be referred to as the ‘wider Nairobi.’ Under the classic borders, Machakos county starts just after JKIA (near KAPA Refineries), meaning the emerging Nairobi suburbs of Mlolongo and Syokimau are actually to be counted as part of Machakos. So is Athi-River, and even a part of Kitengela. These are highly urbanized areas, effectively Nairobi estates, but which administratively fall under the Machakos county.
human capital factor: Machakos happens to be one of those parts of Kenya where education
penetrated over a century ago, and a part of the country with a considerable
number of well read professionals, and a reasonably well educated general populace. Machakos is also home to two private
universities (Daystar and Scotts Theological University). A huge population, empowered with some sort of education, becomes an asset.
- The climate factor: while much of Ukambani is known to be dry semi arid land, the truth of the matter is that very little of Machakos would qualify to be termed as such. It is mainly Kitui and Makueni counties that strictly qualify for the arid/semi-arid tag. Indeed, for many people traveling this way for their very first time from Nairobi, questions usually abound as they pass through the green Makutano-Katelembo-Kenya Israel stretch as to whether that is the ‘dry Kambaland’ they always hear about. Much of Machakos’ land is agriculturally viable: whether you are looking at the land in Kangundo area or Machakos town area, or even Yatta. If Machakos has food security problems, it is largely on account of management problems and land fragmentation, rather than lack of rainfall per se.
- The political factor: I mention this out of appreciation for the fact that, under the new dispensation, it is the counties with the best leaders that are likely to do best. And Machakos county happens to have a very substantial number of professionals, who can be tapped for professional management of its resources. The fierce competition in Machakos politics is, itself, likely to make the people who are put in leadership positions to prove their worth, or risk being humiliated. While it is true that as Machakos residents we have made poor political choices in the past, that seems to be unlikely in the future, as people here are getting enlightened at a remarkable rate. It helps too, that under the new dispensation, people will be in a position to see the relationship between their political choices and economic well-being. That is unlike the case in the old dispensation, where folks could hardly see the nexus between their political choices and their economic well-being.