Kisumu was abuzz with activity Monday as it received hundreds of delegates who are attending the second annual national devolution conference, which will be opened Tuesday morning by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Event organisers registered those arriving for the event in which devolution stakeholders are expected to take stock of the progress made so far as they also confront challenges that have slowed down key aspects of the new system. The meeting will bring together dignitaries comprising, among others, governors, deputy governors, senators, MPs and members of the county assemblies (MCAs) from all 47 counties. The conference marks the second anniversary since the establishment of a devolved system of governance and provides an opportunity to take stock of successes and challenges in the devolved units. Security has already been beefed up ahead of the President’s arrival, with about 200 police officers deployed from the neighbouring counties to help their counterparts in Kisumu. “We have ensured every place – from the conference venue to the accommodation areas – is safe,” said Nyanza Regional Police Co-ordinator Willy Lugusa. “We are up to the task and all visitors are assured of their safety.” The police officers could be seen patrolling areas perceived to be security hotspots in town to curb any security breaches. The meeting will be closed officially by Deputy President William Ruto on Thursday. Thanks to the many visitors, there were traffic snarl-ups, a rare phenomenon in the lakeside town. “We are doing good business since yesterday evening (Sunday). The only problem is traffic congestion, which is limiting the number of trips we could be making to different destinations,” said taxi driver Wilson Omollo. The town is now ‘glittering’, after a major clean-up by 1,000 youths deployed by the county government. This was followed by decoration of major social places and busy streets. Western region chairman of the Kenya Association of Hotel keepers and Caterers William Orondo said that most hotels and guest houses were fully booked. Guests who had not booked their accommodation were forced to venture into towns neighbouring Kisumu, some going as far as Kakamega and Eldoret.
Food outlets were packed to capacity, with fish – the most popular dish in the town – registering high on the menu. Preparations for the event to be held at Tom Mboya Labour College were finalised Monday. Meanwhile, arriving delegates were accredited at Victoria Primary School. Governor Jack Ranguma, the host, said the conference comes with good tidings for Kisumu residents. “It is a great honour for Kisumu County to host the event since the other 46 counties would also have wanted to do so. Our people must seize the opportunity and provide the services our guests require,” Ranguma said. “By the end of the conference, it is estimated that local residents shall have benefited from around Sh1 billion that will be flowing in town.” Apart from benefiting from the financial windfall, the event is also significant for the residents because they will be hosting President Kenyatta for the first time since he became the Head of State.