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Report: Kenyans from minority tribes face employment discrimination in counties

Kenyans from 29 small communities hold less than 1% of jobs in county public service across the country, according to a new report.

In Kenya, the pursuit of equal opportunities in employment remains a persistent challenge, particularly for individuals hailing from minority tribes. Recent revelations and reports have shed light on the systemic discrimination faced by members of these communities when seeking jobs, especially within various county governments.

In a country known for its rich cultural diversity, the issue of tribal discrimination continues to mar the fabric of social inclusivity and equal representation in the workforce. Despite constitutional provisions guaranteeing equal rights and opportunities for all citizens, the unfortunate reality suggests a starkly contrasting scenario.

A decade after a new constitution that introduced county governments to help enhance equity in resource distribution and ensure service is closer to the people, Kenyans from small tribes continue to face ethnic favouritism and discrimination when it comes to securing jobs in the devolved units.

In the latest report by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), a public body aimed at addressing and reducing inter-ethnic conflicts in Kenya, citizens from large tribes namely Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Luhya and Luo continue to dominate employment opportunities in the majority of the 47 counties, with over 90% ethnic dominance against the smaller tribes.

Kenya has more than 40 tribes.

Ethnic enclaves still exist in the 21st century

According to the County Government Act of 2012, all counties should not employ more than 70% of the workforce from one tribe, to ensure inclusivity, and fairness to all the ethnic groups in a particular county.

“This shows we are still ethnic enclaves as a country. Loyalty is first to the ethnic group and then to the country.  Minorities are being marginalised,” said Danvas Makori, from the NCIC.

In July, another report by the National Assembly’s Committee on National Cohesion and Equal Opportunity stated that apart from counties, public institution jobs are dominated by the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities.

Only 13 counties out of the 47 have complied with the existing legal framework on ethnic diversity, with the cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, and Nakuru reported as the most ethnically diverse, with more than 30 ethnic groups represented in each of the county’s public service.

Instances of preferential treatment towards individuals from dominant tribes, predominantly in the allocation of employment opportunities within county governments, have surfaced, sparking outrage and concerns among advocacy groups and civil society organizations.

One of the primary grievances highlighted is the prevalence of nepotism and tribal favoritism in the hiring process within county administrations. Reports indicate that candidates from minority tribes often encounter biased recruitment practices, where meritocracy takes a back seat to tribal affiliation or connections.

Moreover, the lack of representation from minority communities in decision-making positions exacerbates the issue, as individuals from these tribes face significant barriers when aspiring for higher-ranking roles within county bureaucracies. This entrenched bias not only affects individuals’ livelihoods but also perpetuates a cycle of exclusion and inequality.

The implications of such discriminatory practices extend beyond mere employment statistics. They strike at the core of Kenya’s aspirations for unity, social cohesion, and inclusive governance. The exclusion of qualified individuals based on tribal background undermines the nation’s efforts to foster a harmonious society founded on the principles of equality and diversity.

Efforts to address these concerns are underway, with civil society groups advocating for transparent and merit-based recruitment processes. Calls for the implementation of stringent measures to curb discriminatory practices and ensure compliance with constitutional provisions have gained momentum.

Furthermore, initiatives promoting diversity, cultural sensitivity training, and fostering an inclusive work environment within county administrations have been recommended as essential steps toward eradicating systemic discrimination.

As Kenya progresses towards achieving its developmental goals, it is imperative to confront and dismantle the barriers hindering equal access to employment opportunities. Embracing diversity, promoting inclusivity, and upholding the principles of fairness in employment practices within county governments are vital steps towards fostering a truly united and prosperous nation.


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