Home NEWS Local News The shift in Kenya’s governance systems 60 years on

The shift in Kenya’s governance systems 60 years on

Another visible shift was the transition from 175 Local Authorities to 48 County Governments.

Kenya’s Constitution promulgated in 2010 heralded the end of the powerful provincial administration that had existed for more than 50 years dating back to colonial rule.

Initially established by the British colonial government to facilitate administrative control and governance, the provincial administration continued to be powerful and influential even after Kenya gained her independence.

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Before Independence, Kenya was divided into eight provinces, each led by a British administrator. The aim of the provincial administration was to maintain law and order, collect taxes, and implement government policies at the local level.

After Kenya gained independence in 1963, the provincial administration continued to play a crucial role in governance. The provincial administrators were called Provincial Commissioners (PCs) and were appointed by the president.

PC’s were responsible for coordinating development activities, and maintaining security in their respective provinces wielding centralized powers over local affairs which led to criticism that the system was overreaching and abusing power.


In 2010, Kenya adopted a new constitution that introduced Devolution which translated to channeling power and resources to the county level.

As a result, the provincial administration was replaced by county governments. Owing to the existence of the system for years, there were renewed calls for redefining the roles of the provincial administration leading to the change of their name and are now referred to as the National Government Administration Officers.

Though they do not yield massive powers as they used to and are now appointees of the Interior Ministry, Regional Commissioners and County Commissioners chair security committees in their respective jurisdictions and are the link between county governments and National government particularly on functions that have remained with the National Government and other residue functions.

Devolution also marked the end of the Local Government set up which consisted of 175 local authorities otherwise known as councils.

The authorities were classified as City Council, Municipal Council, Town Council and County Council. The City and Municipal Councils were led by a mayor as the political figurehead, the town clerk as the administrator, and councilors as legislators.

The County councils on the other hand were headed by County Chairman with County Clerk being the lead administrator.

They were responsible for the administration and development of urban centers as well as planning, housing, traffic management, and other aspects of urban governance with Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa being among the first to have municipal councils.

Over time, the councils became autonomous in their decision-making with residents having the opportunity to elect their representatives.

The councils were however criticized for their centralized nature and limited citizen participation necessitating the shift to county governments.

John Jacob Kioria
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