Blog Post

22 Apr
By: Remmy Butia 0


The Government descended on Kisumu with a bang Tuesday as the Second Devolution Conference got under way in Kenya’s third largest city. Opposition kingpins were not left behind. The lakeside city hosted the crème de la crème of the country’s political, commercial and diplomatic circles radiating with smiles. Ordinary Kenyans were also out in large numbers to witness the new face of Kisumu. The agenda on the table was that most polarising new governance structure that forms the grinding edge between the national and county governments: Devolution. The conference brought together clusters of leaders who have been squaring off in rallies over the level of powers and financial controls and which side should wield them. There was the President and his Executive team, the most conspicuous being Anne Waiguru, the Devolution Cabinet Secretary on the one hand, and the Opposition leaders who have been lobbying for a referendum to tame the Presidency and empower counties by funnelling of additional cash from the National Treasury. Of course, the outstanding face on the Opposition side was that of Coalition for Reforms and Democracy(CORD) leader Raila Odinga, who directly addressed the President on the need for withdrawal of the Kenya Defence Forces troops from Somalia and to crack down on rampant insecurity in the country. The President did not respond to Raila’s concerns, but trained his guns on another group in the room – governors – who have for the last two years had running battles with the Executive over issues of budgetary allocation and perceived extravagance and imprudence in the management of public funds. They too have come up with a parallel referendum initiative aimed at loosening the grip of the national government on the purse to ensure more funds go to the counties. Representing them was the Council of Governors Chairman Isaac Ruto, whose battle with the Executive has earned him a removal bid from his Bomet County Governor’s , the President had a strong message, “I am busy fighting corruption in the national government. I do not wish any governor to ever have that problem on their hands. Devolution is two years old now. Let’s make the people of Kenya proud by rejecting corruption and embracing integrity.” Also confronting the truth on devolution two years later were the Members of Parliament from both Houses, who have had their own run-ins with the governors and even among themselves – again most of these motivated by turf wars and the wish to claw more control on finances from the governors. Then there were the Members of County Assemblies, with whom the governors have had depressing relations as they pressurised the county chiefs for finances from the county kitty or face impeachment. The conference, which enters its second day today, with more than 3,000 participants, was indeed the meeting point for leaders who have had serious disagreements on devolution to come together at the moment of truth and confront the fact that it is an idea that has taken off, and there is no turning back. That was the story of Kisumu Tuesday as it too got an opportunity to shake off the ghosts of the 2007-2008 post-election violence, where businesses and lives were destroyed, and rise from the ashes to national glory.
The grand meeting could not have come at a better time for Kisumu, which is now reported to be witnessing a surge as a preferred investment destination. For the town, founded in 1901 as Port Florence or ‘Sumo’ (Dholuo for a place of barter trade), the opportunity to host the conference, the biggest ever in recent times, was a stamp of approval on her own revival. But it was also a lot more about the unfolding of a Kenyan story, marking progress in the Devolution Revolution. For after all, in last year’s first conference in Kwale, the Executive pulled out the Cabinet secretaries from attendance over another rant with the county units. Proud family Tuesday’s ceremony was markedly different, the mood buoyed by the cordiality between leaders symbolised by Uhuru, Raila and Isaac Ruto’s joint jig to an Orutu dance as the rest of the hall cheered, radiating the face of a Kenyan proud family finally united at the communion table, where only one menu was served; Devolution. In his address, President Kenyatta said, “I want to reassure everyone that my commitment and that of my Government to the success of devolution is absolute. We will not waver, hesitate or flinch when it comes to delivering it to our people.” See also: Ethuro wants full transfer of functions to counties “In 2013/2014, when my government assumed office, 32 per cent of national revenue was allocated to county governments. In 2014/2015, we allocated 43 per cent. This will cause profound economic transformation of our rural areas,” he added. Ads by Go HD 1.1 Ad Options Raila listed several achievements by county governments across the country, which he attributed to the devolved resources, saying the development strides should not be frustrated by “enemies of the system who want to satisfy their selfish interests”. “We are now looking at an economy that is firing on all cylinders. The transformation being noted in many counties in areas of education, health, agriculture, roads and general development must not be frustrated,” Raila said.

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