KENYA: 2 YEARS OF DEVOLVED GOVERNANCE SPARKS HOPE
THIS week, Kisumu City raptured in song and dance. The venue was Tom Mboya Labour College and the occasion was the Second Devolution Conference. The weight of the national and county governments descended on the lakeside city and the residents did not disappoint. They lined up the streets of Kisumu and gave President Uhuru Kenyatta and his entourage a heroes welcome.
It was hard to believe six months ago, in the neighboring county of Migori, unruly youth had rudely disrupted a public meeting addressed by the president, even throwing shoes at the presidential podium and creating a major security scare around the president.
At that meeting, Uhuru Kenyatta held his cool as he dismissed the hecklers, saying the government would continue visiting counties to address issues facing wananchi. Back in 1969, many people were killed and others injured in a similar incident during a visit by Jomo Kenyatta, the country’ founding president, and father of the 4th Kenyan president.
This week, the country sighed with relief when President Uhuru Kenyatta shared the stage with Opposition Leader Raila Odinga as they joined Kisumu County Choir in dancing Kenge Kenge, the popular Luo traditional music. This symbolic gesture by the two sons of Kenya’s foremost political families summed up the current mood of the entire nation.
Two years down the line from the last general elections in March 2013, and faced by the ravages of ongoing war in Somalia, home-grown and Al-Shabaab-inspired terrorism, general insecurity, famine, unemployment and disease, the country wants these critical issues addressed now with the urgency they deserve.
The successful hosting of the Second Devolution Conference would not have been possible without the strong support of Governor Jack Ranguma of Kisumu County who is now basking in the national limelight for showing Advantage Kisumu to the world. Only time will tell whether the momentum gained from the conference will solve or accelerate the power struggle between Governor Ranguma and his deputy Ruth Odinga who is a sister to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Kisumu is Kenya’s third largest city after Mombasa and Nairobi in that order. It is also the largest city on the shores of Lake Victoria which is the world’s largest fresh water lake. The city is the headquarters of Kisumu County which has a population of more than 1 million people.
The county sits by the enormous potential of fishing industry based on Lake Victoria. Unfortunately, old-hat fishing technologies and the menace of water hyacinth hinder full development of the fishing industry for local and export markets.
Kisumu county also has the potential of becoming a major producer of sugarcane backed by sugar factories in Chemelil and Miwani. Along the Kano Plains, rice is grown by irrigation with water from the River Nyando which seasonally breaks its banks destroying homesteads and displacing huge numbers of people. Well utilized, the fertile soils of Kisumu County would feed the whole country and the Eastern Africa region with maize, beans, sweet potatoes, poultry and fresh vegetables.
Despite the usual hard fists and angry outbursts that mark the country’s political landscape, the successful hosting of the Second Devolution Conference in Kisumu was a clear manifestation of the progress made in implementation of the New Constitution of Kenya which introduced devolved governance.
As the dust settles from the conference, the focus now shifts on whether the country’s 47 governors and the national government are up to the task of revitalizing the infra-structure, institutions and supporting industries that create jobs and wealth while safeguarding the health care and security needs of Kenyans. These are the shared aspirations that will define the future of Kenya including deciding who will be the next generation of leaders, from the president to the MCA and from the corporate CEO to the village headman. Watch this space.
By Leonard Njoroge, Diaspora Messenger Contributor, Email: [email protected]