Only 1,000 delegates who are fully vaccinated will participate in the 7th devolution conference in Makueni County later this month.
Over 6,000 delegates were expected at the event, dubbed “Multi-level governance for climate action” but due to a surge in Covid-19 cases, the Council of Governors (CoG) and the Ministry of Devolution have scaled down the numbers to ensure compliance with health protocols.
Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, CoG vice chair and Kisii governor James Ongwae said they engaged the Ministry of Health and resolved to proceed with the event scheduled for August 23 to 26.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to address the forum on August 24, plant the two millionth tree and unveil a historic monument in Makueni marking the final conference as a symbol of unity, strength and prosperity.
Already, 1,999,999 trees have been planted in Embu, Kajiado, Kitui, Makueni and Kajiado counties, an initiative of the steering committee that led CoG to begin a devolution forest to conserve the environment in line with the conference’s theme.
“We anticipate to physically host 1,000 delegates in Makueni High School. We will adopt a hybrid approach. Each head of delegation, whether ministries, the Senate, county governments will be responsible to ensure all their members are fully vaccinated and have test certificates,” said Wamalwa.
“The national steering committee will visit the venue on 21st before the event starts on 23rd alongside the Senate to ensure all protocols are in place,” the CS added.
He said Kenya has faced a lot of challenges ranging from Covid-19, climate change, drought and the locust invasion.
“Our resilience has been tested. The main challenge in preparing for the important conference is the surge in Covid-19 cases. Climate change is also a crisis,” said Wamalwa.
“We must confront matters of climate finance, deal with financial issues and the intervention measures. It is going to be a big platform,” he added.
The CS said the conference will go on as planned citing the Olympics which took place in Japan amid Covid-19 fears.
“A lot has gone in for the preparation of the conference. Postponing the same could mean it’s deferred indefinitely,” he said.
Governor Ongwae said the CoG secretariat is working closely with the Ministry of Health and will verify from its data base, the list of attendees, to ensure they are vaccinated.
“We have held a number of engagements after the event was postponed in April to ensure it goes on in strict adherence to health protocols and also roll out massive vaccination programme,” he said.
He clarified that the forum will not be a walk in event.
“This is a protected meeting. Devolution family empathize with the journey in the contest of the pandemic. The general agreement by the organisers and consensus is that despite the Covid-19 fears, government events with serious impact on climate change action should discussed,” he said.
He said the doom tent which was set to hold 6,000 delegates will be retained to ensure social distancing.
The annual event which going forward will now be held after two years, will be officially closed on Thursday by Deputy President William Ruto, with ODM leader Raila Odinga being the keynote speaker on Wednesday.
Host Governor Kivutha Kibwana said Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka will address the conference on climate change.
“This is a special meeting. The president’s attendance as well as a platform for Raila and DP to reflect on devolution and climate change issues, is very pertinent,” said Prof Kibwana.
He added: “We will not have politics, people will come quietly not to excite crowds and put us in danger. We did postpone the meeting and had incurred expenses, we must have it.”
He said they have ten ambulances to be stationed at the event, 20 isolation beds, 28 ICU and 20 HDU.
The delegates will include NGOs and speakers address will form part of the communique resolutions.
“It’s an action oriented event to form the regulatory framework. Makueni was the first to pass the law and the budget and form groups among citizens who have activities around climate change,” said Kibwana.
Wamalwa also said the meeting will call out the counties yet to pass the climate change regulation, inline with the national government climate change law.
“In Africa, Kenya was among the first to pass the climate change Act and the action plan. We will showcase what we have done. Makueni has done a lot. It is among counties to pass the climate change Bill. Some 41 counties are yet to pass the Bill and will make public the list of shame,” the CS said.
He said the meeting will take stock of resolutions made in the past six devolution conferences, the challenges and the future plans, especially on the Big Four Agenda.
Kibwana said they target to vaccinate 5,560 service providers, like boda boda riders, saloonists, hawkers, hoteliers among others. So far, they have vaccinated 2,674.
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