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Trust must be built through institutions

by August 21, 2017 General

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The word trust has been used a lot in the past few weeks.

The European Union Election Observation Team in the recent elections summed it up well that no amount of technology can replace trust.

It is evident from the way election results were received that we, as a nation, have serious issues of trust and yet there cannot be unity in an environment of mistrust.

Also, we have no confidence in our institutions and we view people that of a different ethnic group with great suspicion.

Trust is the glue that binds any relationship.

In fact, trust is the social lubricant that builds solidarity, cohesion, consensus and cooperation.

Mistrust, on the other hand, does not create a conducive environment for economic development.

In Kenya mistrust seems to be highly correlated to issues of ethnicity.

It has been noted that countries that are more culturally homogenous such as South Korea and Singapore, are more likely to develop faster because there is less ethnic strife that undermines development.

Our inability to trust is well-founded, given our history with regimes where elections were not conducted transparently or credibly.

The executive arm of government was supreme leading to many human right abuses and an inability for institutions to work independently.


The 2010 Constitution carefully provided institutions that would prevent an autocratic system by ensuring that every arm of government would be regulated or monitored by another arm or institution.

This system, though not perfect, prevents an individual from becoming a despot.

More importantly, it prevents the abuses witnessed in the past when elections were controlled by the Executive.

This mistrust is not a unique Kenyan phenomenon.

Several studies have been conducted on race and trust, particularly in the United States.


Most of these studies show that ethnic minorities tend to have less trust in government because of previous experiences of discrimination and a lack of inclusivity.

Due to this experience, even when arms of government are acting in good faith, these groups remain distrustful.

In addition, studies done by the Pew Research Centre show that people’s trust in government is greatly affected by how they are affiliated with the political party in power.

For example, US Democrats are more likely to trust the government when a Democratic President is in power and likewise Republicans are more likely to trust the government under a Republican President.

In order for President Uhuru Kenyatta to build trust, it will be crucial for him, not only to form a government that is inclusive, but also begin to correct those areas that have been unsatisfactory to the public.

He will need the support of institutions mandated to do certain things.

They include the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, and the Gender Equality Commission.

Countries that are able to manage their diverse populations perform better.

The Constitution and the County Government Act give clear guidelines on how we need to manage our diversity by ensuring inclusivity through affirmative action, minority inclusivity, two-thirds gender rule and the Equalisation Fund for marginalised regions.

Unfortunately, there are no sanctions to ensure full compliance.

The Commission for Revenue Allocation can use the diversity and gender compliance to determine annual revenue allocations to the counties.

These can be considered when employing at the national and county government levels to create a more diverse country that will strengthen our unity.

This will diminish the political strife that galvanises the populous along ethnic lines.

Ms Gachire is the Kenya School of Government trainer in gender and diversity management. [email protected]