President Uhuru Kenyatta's attendance of devolution conference could mend fences with governors

President Uhuru Kenyatta

NAIROBI: President Uhuru Kenyatta is scheduled to attend the second devolution conference in Kisumu County this week after his Executive snubbed a similar event last year.

The forum, dubbed ‘Appreciating and strengthening devolved governance, working together to realise the objectives of devolution’, will seek to establish synergies among various stakeholders.

Kenyatta’s administration has been on the spot over claims of trying to undermine devolved units by starving them of funds, withholding county assigned functions at the national level and legislating laws aimed to negate the gains made in devolution.

Despite the president’s re-assurance to the nation that his Government is committed to ensuring devolution works, governors and members of county assembly (MCAs) are of the opposing view.

Recent executive orders by the Head of State to governors mentioned in the sensational ‘list of shame’ by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to step aside has further complicated issues, with governors maintaining that counties are not appendages of the national government and not bound by such orders.

Council of Governors (CoG) Chairman Isaac Ruto has welcomed the President to this year’s conference, stressing that for devolution to succeed as envisaged in law, all stakeholders must play a key role.

“Devolution does not belong to an individual. It belongs to everybody and requires the participation of all stakeholders to ensure its success.

“The National executive’s attendance at this year’s devolution conference is a positive move.

“It is significant in evaluating our progress as a country on devolution and establishing if we are on the right path,” said Ruto.

The Bomet governor emphasised that this meeting is vital in deliberating on the direction, progress, challenges and achievement of the country under devolved governance.


The chairman reiterated that the national government and the various institutions through which transition has been managed must play a key role to ensure devolution becomes a reality.

“Even though the transfer to devolved units has not been seamless, it requires a joint effort of all key stakeholders to see through that proper structures are put in place to have functional county governments,” stressed Ruto.

He noted with concern that some of the milestones reached by counties had been made possible by technical assistance received from development partners, who continue to provide the impetus required to forge ahead.

The Bomet governor faults the Government for failing to devolve all functions assigned to counties like roads, forestry, electricity, gas and energy reticulation, cultural activities, public entertainment and amenities.

“All these functions are contained in a notice that is yet to be gazetted. During this forum, we hope Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru will shed some light on the delay,” said the chairman.

Uhuru is expected to give his keynote address on the progress of devolution and what his administration has done for the past two years, while the DP will close the function.

“We want this push-and-pull every year on allocation to stop. The national government is not doing counties any favour by allocating funds to them, it is in the law. The President must strongly commit to support devolution,” said a governor who declined to be named.

“All these bad laws he has assented to will plough back the gains of devolution. He must give us this undertaking going forward, he will not sign them. Parliament has also let us down.

“Some county executives and assembles are not ion good terms and this is not healthy for devolution, and this meeting will give them an opportunity to dialogue,” added the county boss.

The Head of State has already appointed an independent commission chaired by Mohammed Nyaoga to look into the Makueni petition to dissolve the county government following what have been termed as ‘irreconcilable differences’.

Parliament speakers Justin Muturi (National Assembly) and Ekwe Ethuro (Senate) and Ms Waiguru, are among key speakers during this high-level meeting.

About 6,000 participants, including the 47 governors, senators, MCAs, independent institutions and constitutional commissions, the national government and experts will attend the conference that started today and will run until April 25 at the Tom Mboya Labour College.

Organising Chairman Governor Salim Mvurya (Kwale) said the meeting was an opportunity for devolution stakeholders to reflect on the two years since officials were sworn in.

The meeting comes at a time when county governments are dealing with leadership wrangles, corruption, allegations of encroachment of core mandates and claims of non-commitment by the national government to supporting devolved structures.

There is no doubt the meeting is expected to be charged, as governors, MCAs, senators and the Executive take stock of challenges and achievements, including stand-offs on accountability and allocation of resources to counties.

“Jubilee has continued to take MCAs for a ride. It makes promises whenever there is a crisis to scuttle the process, then fails to fulfill them,” said a county legislator from Rift Valley who declined to be named.

During the first devolution conference held in Kwale County last year, President Kenyatta, his Deputy William Ruto and senators, except for Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki and Senator Gideon Moi (Baringo) gave the event a wide berth.

Last year, Uhuru dismissed the meeting as a waste of public resources and his utterances angered county chiefs who accused his administration of scheming to derail the forum. Senators and cabinet secretaries who were scheduled to chair various sessions cancelled their trips.