Kenya’s public service commission proposes ethnic quota system

By on 04/03/2018 | Updated on 24/09/2020
The entrance to Kenya's Parliament Buildings in Nairobi (Image courtesy: Jorge Lascar).

Kenya’s Public Service Commission (PSC) has drawn up an ethnic quota system for recruitment to the civil service, in a bid to promote diversity and inclusion.

The quota system, which has been devised as a guide for recruitment, sets limits on the number of civil service jobs that can be held by the country’s ethnic groups based on their share of the nation’s total population.

Kenya is one of Africa’s most diverse nations, with some 47 ethnic and linguistic groups.

Divvied up

The formula would cap recruitment at 17% of public service posts for the Kikuyu community; 13% for the Luhya ethnic group; 12.8% for the Kalenjin community; and 10% for the Luo group.

The quota system was presented to lawmakers on the National Assembly’s Committee on Administration and National Security on 20 February by PSC chief Patrick Gichohi as part of his submission on the commission’s 2018-19 budget.

Gichohi asked the committee to look at the formula with a view to formalising it or developing legislation to address complaints about the domination of the public service by some ethnic groups, The Nation newspaper reported.

Balancing the service

The move comes after a 2015 report by an intergovernmental steering committee showed that 77% of all public service positions in Kenya were held by members of its six largest ethnic groups.

The Capacity Assessment and Rationalisation of the Public Service (Carps) report found the Kikuyu held more than 25% of the total, while the Luhya had 12.2%, the Kalenjin 11.4%, and the Luo 10.4%.

Other ethnic groups with significant representation included the Kamba with 10.3%, the Kisii with 8%, the Embu with 1.9%, the Mijikenda with 2.3% and the Maasai with 1.4%.

Building on foundations

Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Act 2008 bars public institutions from employing more than a third of their staff from any one ethnic group.

Audits of ethnic diversity conducted by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission in 2016 found that 93% of independent commissions met that requirement. Only one arms-length body, the Judicial Service Commission, failed to meet the benchmark.

According to Kenya’s 2009 census, the largest native ethnic groups in order of magnitude are the Kikuyu, the Luhya, the Kalenjin, the Luo, the Kamba, the Kisii, the Mijikenda, the Meru, the Turkana and the Maasai.

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London. She worked on daily newspapers for more than 16 years as an education correspondent, section editor and general news reporter. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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