The fourth annual devolution conference has kicked off in Nakuru in a three-day event that is expected to bring together about 6,000 international and national stakeholders across the 47 counties with all eyes focused on senators if they will be in attendance after boycotting one that was organized last year.
The conference, which was officially opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to come to an end on the 9th with remarks both from the Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga where this year’s theme has been centered on people telling their stories on devolution.
The conference comes just less than five months to the next general election which is set to be held on the 8th of August this year. This also comes at a time when a good number of members of the Senate have vowed to run gubernatorial positions in the upcoming general elections.
The conference comes amid concerns among many Kenyans as to whether devolution has worked or failed. Many Kenyans have been accusing county Governors as well as members of the County Assemblies of living lavishly at the expense of their electorate.
But according to the Executive Director of the County Governance Watch (CGW), a Kenyan Non-Governmental Organization, that works closely with the county governments, Mr. Kevin Osido, devolution, in his view, has worked. According to Mr. Osido, devolution has brought many benefits to Kenyans on the ground, though he acknowledged that there have been many challenges that were to be addressed and issues that are yet to be dealt and should not be carried over to the next government.
“Devolution is working. People only need to open their eyes and see. There are challenges that need to be addressed though. We should acknowledge that this is the first time we are having this kind of system and we can only tell whether it is working after the next five years in terms of putting in place effective systems that also ensure checks and balances and serious public participation frameworks to make the voices of the citizens to count in the management of their resources and the leadership of their affairs,” he said. He added that devolution must be about transforming the people’s lives and county governments should accept other people’s stories because the Conference is about ‘Tell Your Story” and recommendations made by other development actors, especially the Civil Society.
County Governance Watch or CGW works closely with county governments on key service delivery areas that are closest to the hearts of the citizens such as water, education, health, agriculture and infrastructure. Most importantly, CGW assesses governance levels through the County Governance Index which is a tool that asses the levels of service delivery in those key areas. Last year, the NGO organized a National Youth Conference in Siaya County to try and enlighten the youth on matters to do with the prevention of violent extremism and radicalisation.
The County Peace and Security Programme has been helpful in generating youth policies at the County level and informing county security policy frameworks and citizen engagement. Some of the NGOs work has influenced CVE policies and youth engagement in the Coast, North Eastern, Nairobi, Western Kenya and Central regions. Just last week, County Governance Watch in collaboration with Council of Governors and other partners held a successful Children’s Conference whose recommendations will be read at this week’s Devolution Conference and will inform county children policies and engagement