On Tuesday, leaders from the Teso community in Western Kenya submitted their request to be granted their own county.
Appearing before the National Dialogue Committee, these leaders expressed their feeling of being marginalized under Busia County.
Speaking on their behalf, South Teso Member of Parliament, Mary Emaase, highlighted that as a minority group, the Teso community in Busia County has been denied significant opportunities in education, employment, healthcare, water, and infrastructure since independence, and particularly after the adoption of the 2010 Constitution.
“We have not been given opportunities in education, economy, employment, water, health, and infrastructure,” she said.
She added that the Teso community has struggled to preserve their cultural values, language, and customs.
“It has not escaped the attention of members of this Cohesion Dialogue Committee the current claims by former and current political elites that the Western Region is a Luhya Nation… This is very discriminatory,” Emaase emphasized.
Emaase argued that these claims were indicative of the Teso people being silenced, threatened, and suppressed in the region.
She also noted that the Teso community fulfills the criteria for having its own county due to its population size.
“We have counties like Lamu and Tana River with fewer residents,” she added.
According to the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census, Busia County had a total population of 893,681, out of which 306,150 are Teso, representing 34.3% of the entire Busia County.
North Teso Member of Parliament, Oku Kaunya, pointed out that Busia County has 35 wards, and therefore, there are 35 elected members of the County Assembly.
“However, only 12 of them are from the Teso community,” he said.
He added that out of the proposed 18 nominated members of the County Assembly, only one is from the Teso community.
This means that regardless of their efforts, no Teso community agenda can be passed in the County Assembly.
He also highlighted their underrepresentation in key county positions.
“Out of the 10 county ministers, only two are from the Teso community. Among the 12 Chief Officers, only two are from the Teso community,” he stated.
Emaase urged the dialogue committee to recommend the establishment of Teso County.