(MEDIA: Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati. PHOTO/FILE).
A post by the Bungoma County Executive in charge of Agriculture and Fisheries Department Mr. Mathews Makanda requesting Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati to dissolve the devolved unit has generated mixed reactions and tension among key players.
According to Mr. Makanda, there’s a click of political cartels who have always been blackmailing the Governor for business deals, failure to which they use the media to soil the Governor’s name.
Mr. Makanda, who later addressed a press conference in Bungoma town, cited sabotage as the reason Bungoma County should be dissolved.
“We had a very cordial relationship with the County Assembly but the latest sabotage and changes are aimed at undermining our service delivery,” he said.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
The whole saga started last week when the members of the ruling Ford Kenya party ousted Majority Leader Florence Wekesa (Maeni Ward) for allegedly “co-operating” with the Executive and replaced her with her Deputy Joseph Juma Nyongesa (Tuuti/Marakaru Ward – FORD K) whose position was taken by the Tongaren Ward representative Tindi Manasseh of Ford Kenya Party.
The MCAs accused Mrs Wekesa of working hand-in-hand with the Governor and failing to provide credible oversight role especially in the jerrycans saga where the County Government was accused of exaggerating the price of equipment meant to fight Covid-19. No one has so far been arrested in connection with the procurement process even though the EACC officials have questioned several officers.
Additionally, close to 60 MCAs are have reportedly been summoned to appear before the EACC on allegations that they were compromised on the jerrycan scandal.
Bungoma Senator and also the Ford Kenya party leader Moses Wetang’ula has been vocal accusing Governor Wangamati of graft and is understood to be the man behind the new County Assembly leadership.
It’s understood that the stand-off between Governor Wangamati and his Senator fueled the changes in the County Assembly where Florence Wekesa was replaced.
Others MCAs who were replaced for being close to the Governor include Majority Whip Everlyne Mutiembu (Malakisi/South Kulisiru – FORD K) who was replaced by the Mukuyuni Ward MCA Meshack “MusevenI” Wekesa of FORD K.
Mutiembu’s Deputy Luke Opwora (Nominated) was also replaced by Joseph Magudah (Township – ODM).
Sources privy to the latest developments in Ford Kenya party have revealed that Senator Wetang’ula is expected to use the new leadership to sabotage the Governor’s development bills, among them, ousting the Speaker Emmanuel Situma and his Deputy Simiyu Wamusai (not related to Simiyu Wakajuaness).
DISSOLVING BUNGOMA RISKY
But as if the Governor has sensed danger ahead, many political analysts now claim that the move to devolve Bungoma County will have a negative implication on the MCAs as it will require seeking fresh mandate from the electorate amid hard economic times.
Others claim that the Makanda threats are a strategy to scare away the MCAs whose vote base back home is not guaranteed.
“The threats by Waziri Makanda could have negative implication on the Governor himself especially coming from a serious scandal like the jerrycan allegations,” responded Mr. Isaac Wanjekeche, a renown political analyst and journalist.
Mr. Wanjekeche also added that Makanda’s proposal is mere hot air, basing on the fact that no devolved unit has ever been successfully dissolved despite efforts to.
“So far, no County Government has ever been successfully dissolved, looking at Taita Taveta and Makueni Counties as examples,” said Mr. Wanjekeche in a telephone interview with Wakajuaness.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
Article 192 provides for only two circumstances which can trigger a suspension: In an emergency arising out of internal conflict or war, or in any other exceptional circumstances.
The County Government Act defines exceptional circumstances as actions by the county government that are against the common needs and interest of the local citizens.
After he receives a petition signed by not less than 10 per cent of the registered voters in the county, the President should table the petition to the Summit for approval and, if approved, appoint an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations.
If satisfied, he forwards the petition, recommendations and the report of the commission to the Senate for its approval, upon which he gazettes the suspension of the county government.
Interestingly, the Senate has the power to lift the suspension in 90 days. If not lifted, election of a new county government are held. Then, the county executive stands suspended and the county assembly prorogued. The County Speaker and the MCAs remain in office on half pay. The President then appoints an interim county management board.
Taita-Taveta Governor Granton Samboja became the second Governor in Kenya to initiate the suspension of the county government over a 2019/2020 budget impasse between the executive and the county assembly.
Before that, his Makueni Counterpart Prof. Kivutha Kibwana tried a similar move in 2015 but the process was turned down by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Ironically, Professor Kibwani won the following election, therefore successifully defending his seat as the Governor of Makueni.
In his appeal, Governor Samboja reckoned that the MCAs’ decision to allocate Sh830 million to the development fund out of a Sh5.3 billion budget would imperil the operations of the county.
Back to Bungoma, it’s well known that the majority of elected MCAs could easily lose their seats should there be an abrupt election contrary to the 2022 general election and therefore no MCA would want to risk their positions.
RISKY SUPREMACY BATTLES
Consequently, a fresh election would again put Senator Wetang’ula in a tight corner as he fights supremacy battles with the Governor.
A number of residents have questioned Senator Wetang’ula’s development record in Bungoma County, having enjoyed politics for almost three decades.
Those within the Senator’s camp and who have spoken to us on condition of anonymity due to the fear of being victimized have revealed that Senator Wetang’ula is bitter man after being reportedly denied major contracts at the County Government.
‘Wetang’ula, being a party leader, expects total respect and favours from Governor Wangamati. Things like major tenders and other favours are not being given to him,” said the source.
Some officials who worked under former Governor Kenneth Lusaka also accused the Senator of forcing business deals, criminal favours and appointments to key positions, the same demands he is also accused of imposing on Governor Wangamati.
In his song Kumwaka Kumubi (The Bad Year), popular singer and Kimilili Ward MCA David Barasa aka Webuye Juakali mentions the irony of Senator Wetang’ula imposing Governors on the people of Bungoma, only to lead an onslaught against the same same leaders he proposed.
However, Makanda’s proposal is seen as a direct message from the Governor himself to test waters.
If initiated, the question will be, who will vie against Governor Wangamati? Two possible solutions to this will be Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka who will have to ditch his current post in the Senate to gamble on the ground.
It should be remembered that Lusaka has reportedly lost ground with a good number of residents who support Deputy President William Ruto. This follows Lusaka’s controversial ruling that ousted Senator Kipchumba Murkomen as the Senate Minority Leader. The move was seen as a betrayal to the DP who commands a massive following in Mt Elgon, a region that has close to 60,000 registered voters.
Another option could be Wetang’ula himself up against Wangamati but that would be too obvious to the residents where Wangamati could now justify why the Senator has been on his neck.
That imagery alone will most likely work against Wetang’ula who may not entirely be trusted with public funds following his name’s numerous appearances in various scandals among them the sale of the Tokyo embassy land and the Fake Gold scam that also involved the Saudi Arabian Prince.
Whether it’s true or not, most MCAs risk losing their seats as most of them have nothing to show off back home.