10 January 2017

Kenya: Governors Move Conference From Maasai Mara to Nakuru for Public Participation

Governors have moved their fourth annual devolution conference from Maasai Mara to Nakuru, a move they said was to offer a chance for the public to participate.

The conference to be held between April 24 and 28 will be the last of such meetings before the inaugural county governments that have gobbled more than Sh1 trillion in four years go for the elections slated for August 8, this year.

"It will be a citizen oriented conference where every citizen will have a chance to tell their story about transformation through devolution," said Governor John Mruttu (Taita Taveta), the conference's steering committee co-chair.

And while the Maasai Mara meet was planned for February 24-28 in the wild of Narok County, the Council of Governors on Monday adopted an April date, at the same time the other three conferences have been held.

The conference's overall theme is "The devolution transformation" while the guiding theme will be "Devolution - transforming lives: tell your story!" and is expected to be opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Last year's conference was held in Meru at a time when the national government and the devolved units were at loggerheads on what the governors said was an attempt to roll back the gains of devolution.

Also, senators had boycotted the past meetings protesting what they said was exclusion.

But Senate Devolution Committee chairman Prof Wilfred Lesan said that unlike past conferences, the Senate was fully involved in the Nakuru meeting.

"We expect a smooth and very inclusive conference. The senators have been involved right from the start and most of the past problems have been addressed," Prof Lesan, the Bomet senator said.

The senators had consistently accused the county bosses of using the conferences as a campaign platform and a field to "massage their egos."

The legislators have also complained of not being involved in the planning stages, not being included in the numerous panel discussions.

The past three devolution meetings have been held in Kwale, Kisumu and Meru in 2014, 2015, and 2016 respectively.

Last year, the senators boycotted the meeting in Meru protesting what they said was a plan by the governors to use the conference as a campaign platform and a venue to attack the legislators.

At that time, the Senate and the governors were locked in a bitter war on grilling of the county bosses on audit queries.

In the Kisumu meeting, the senators beat the drums of accountability to the governors in a highly-charged meeting that also saw a spirited discussion on the two-thirds gender rule.

The Nakuru meeting will come at a time when the inaugural counties will be preparing to hand over to the next administrations.

"Transition is a subject we keep discussing, whether in the devolution conference or out of it. We want very peaceful transitions," said Governor Mruttu.


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