The seventh devolution conference got underway in Makueni County yesterday, with dozens of exhibitors sprucing up their stalls and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho calling on the regional governments to do more to fight terrorism.
Speaking at a forum convened by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission on the sidelines of the conference at Makueni Boys High School, Mr Joho challenged the national government to help counties combat violent extremism.
“The conversation today here is based on the fact that, for far too long, it has been believed that security as a function lies squarely in the hands of the national government. But we feel that we have a critical role to play and particularly now that we are heading towards the electioneering period,” he said.
“We want to see counties involved in what we call a soft approach to enable us to create some kind of seamless structure for us to participate actively in achieving peace and security within our counties for sustainable development.”
His call came as the country remained on high alert over terrorism fears sparked by the recent twin attacks in Kampala, Uganda, as well as a foiled prison escape by convicted terrorists at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison.
Themed “multi-level governance for climate action”, the four-day meeting takes place at a time when most parts of the country are experiencing a prolonged and severe drought. Anxiety has gripped farmers in Kitui, Machakos and Makueni counties following delays in the onset of the short rains season last month.
Kisii Governor James Ongwae, who is the chairman of the committee that planned the conference, took note of the prolonged drought being experienced in Ukambani counties. He said the conference should motivate concerted action towards managing adverse climate change effects.
“We expect that this conference will probably heighten public responses from the leadership of the Ukambani region on management of climate change,” he told reporters in Wote.
The meeting has spurred brisk business in Wote and the neighbouring townships.
A spot-check by the Nation revealed that traders in Wote town were cashing in on the event, with hotels and lodges doubling their rates.
“All our 25 rooms are fully booked. We have raised our rates from Sh5,000 to Sh10,000 and hired more workers,” said Mr Alex Ndetei, the general manager at Fort Hotel.
The authorities have urged caution as the conference is taking place at a time when the country is facing a double threat of Covid-19 and terrorism.
Although the Health ministry has been reporting lower infections recently, the organisers of the conference said they could not take any chances.
“Every participant must have received full Covid-19 vaccination,” Mr Ongwae said.
Makueni County Police Commander Joseph Ole Napeiyan assured participants of adequate security. He urged locals to report suspicious individuals to the police.
More than 3, 000 delegates are expected to attend the meeting that will bring together governors, senators, MPs and MCAs, according to Mr Ongwae.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to officially open the conference today ahead of a speech by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga tomorrow. Deputy President William Ruto is scheduled to close the ceremony on Friday.