The strained relations between national leaders and governors played out during the opening of the third Annual Devolution Conference in Meru County after Senators and MPs made good their threat to boycott the event.
President Uhuru Kenyatta did not also attend the function but was represented by Devolution Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri.
Only Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro and three nominated senators, Dr Agnes Zani, Mrs Zipporah Kittony and Godliver Omondi attended the opening of the conference at the Meru National Polytechnic.
Tigania West MP David Kariithi was the only legislator present at the opening ceremony. But members of county assemblies from all the counties attended in large numbers.
Legislators present were asked to stand up and were duly recognised by Council of Governors chairman Peter Munya who is also the Meru governor. Criticism of governors over issues ranging from huge debts and corruption has caused the frosty relations between the two groups.
Some said their absence was proof enough of their (senators) disinterest in helping devolution succeed . Senators are key to the success of the devolved units. The President was expected to open the Meru County Assembly that has been upgraded at a cost of Sh130 million.
Mr Kenyatta was expected to open the conference that started Wednesday alongside Namibia Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa.
Speaking to the Business Daily on the sidelines of the conference, Tharaka Nithi Governor Samuel Ragwa said the event featured various stakeholders who discussed issues of national interest.
“The conference seems to have been politicised. I believe some people have mis-advised the President on the conference. We expected him to come but it seems he listened to the wrong advice because this is not a governors-only conference. We hope the Devolution and Planning Minister will tell us what happened,” Mr Ragwa said.
The governor also accused senators of failing to understand their role, leading to their decision to skip the conference.
“Senators seem to be fighting their own wars. They have failed to understand their constitutional role. They should have come to the conference and raised the concerns they have about devolution here,” he said.
Mr Ethuro pleaded with leaders in the “devolution family” to work together so that they could own the success of the counties. He described devolution as a game- changer that is part of good governance, saying, “It is possible and we can do it. While the Senate can claim to be the guardian angel of devolution, I want to say this cannot be performed alone.
“We need an inclusive process where the county governments, the national government and the national Parliament through the Senate can find a nexus in which we can deliver these promises to Kenyans. It is not a personal business but the duty we have for the nation,” Mr Ethuro said.
Mr Munya criticised legislations passed by the National Assembly and the Senate which he said belittled devolution.