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Citizen Weekly

Tuesday 21 April 2015


KENYA: 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 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 Office. See also: Ethuro wants full transfer of functions to counties FIGHTING CORRUPTION To the governors, several of whom, like Ruto, are on the list of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission’s graft investigations, 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.

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