Mr. Sam Okello is the Mayor of Kisumu City, located some 365 kilometers west of Nairobi.
As the mayor of the biggest city in the western part of Kenya, Okello says he has to look for ways of staying ahead since the rest of his peers look up to him as a role model. “That is why I like attending meetings and conferences where I can learn new skills to help serve my town better. And attending a meeting like the World Urban Forum gives me the opportunity to do just that,” he said in an interview on the last day of the Forum.
According to the mayor, this year’s forum was quite participatory and he learnt a lot from it. “It was quite an interactive forum and the other good thing about it was the timing in that it is neither too long nor too short. This makes concentration of the delegates a lot much easier,” he said.
As the political honcho of a big town, the mayor knows that learning is a continuous process. “I loved the agenda which was quite contemporary. As a mayor I must admit that my thinking has changed because of what I learnt at the Forum,” he said.
Flanked by the Managing Director of Kenya’s National Housing Corporation Mr. Patrick Bucha, Mr. Okello said According this paradigm shift in thinking will see urban planners playing a bigger role in the way they conduct their business. “It is time we stopped looking at urban planning as an elitist undertaking. We must take urban planning down to the people who are in any case our employers,” he said.
His greatest wish for as many mayors as possible to attend the World Urban Forums to learn more. Mr. Okello also attended the Fifth Session of the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2010.
On his part Mr. Bucha, a Building Economist said he was impressed by the way the meeting was organized. “What impressed me most was that at the end of it all there were even recommendations read and given out to the conference participants. This is a very good move,” he said.