Resident Associations Have a Role in Public Service Delivery
By Henry Ochieng
Published May 5, 2017
As the number of people living in towns continues to swell and with it the demand for services, urban residents must be encouraged to form associations that will enable them find solutions to the challenges they face at the neighbourhood level.
It is estimated that the population of Kenya will stand at 63 million by 2030 and that 33% of this population will be living in urban areas. The Kenyan capital, Nairobi, will be home to more than 14 million people by then. With the expected high urban population, provision of acceptable standards of services will require joint efforts from not just government but other players like the private sector and ordinary citizens. But the citizens can only be effective in their role if they are well organised and have well established mechanisms such as Resident Associations (RAs) as tools for engaging the
government on service delivery.
Over the years, Kenya has seen growth of RAs as more citizens become aware of their rights, roles and responsibilities and demand better services from the authorities. The concept of RAs started gaining ground in the 1990s when majority Kenyans were frustrated by the poor services from the government and felt that they needed to develop structured ways of advocating for better services. There are now more than 3000 registered RAs spread across Kenya with a larger concentration of them in the urban areas.
These associations have been instrumental in advocating for better services and demanding compliance with the rule of law. Residents are no longer willing to sit back and lament about poor services or wait for the government to avail services. Through these groups, residents are actively involved in ensuring that they can access services such as garbage collection, security, water supply, and protection of open spaces within the neighbourhood.
These RAs have also been instrumental in protecting the property value and aesthetic appeal of their neighbourhood by demanding that any new development taking place within the neighbourhood must conform to the planning and zoning laws governing the area.
The place of Resident Associations in the achievement of inclusive cities and communities envisaged by United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 11, therefore, cannot be over-emphasised.
The Constitution of Kenya has elaborate provisions for public participation in decision-making and RAs have emerged as one of the most effective ways of promoting public participation at the neighbourhood level.
Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations (Kara), the national umbrella body of RAs that I head, helps in supporting and strengthening the work of these organisations that require an enabling environment to thrive. For instance, a Resident Associations Bill formulated by Kara is currently at the National
Assembly awaiting debate; it seeks to provide RAs with the legal framework by which to hold the government accountable.
Like Nairobi City County that has Nairobi City County Community & Neighbourhood Associations Engagement Act, Kiambu County, on the northern part of the Kenyan capital, has Kiambu County Community and Neighborhood Associations Promotion of Participation and Engagement Act to provide a legal framework for the engagement, promotion and facilitation of community and neighbourhood associations in their support, co-operation and collaborative efforts with the County Government in the delivery of services.
Henry Ochieng is Chief Executive Officer of Kara. This article is an edited version of his article in the Kara monthly newsletter.