By PAUL MUTUA
The contest for Kitui County’s governorship is expected to have undertones of regional supremacy tussles between Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Water Minister Charity Ngilu.
Those who have declared interest in the position are allies of the two Ukambani rivals and campaigns for the seat could be a sub-plot for the wider supremacy battle.
Kalonzo’s Wiper is in the Cord Alliance with ODM of Prime Minister Raila Odinga. After brief flirtation with the alliance, Ngilu bolted to the Jubilee Alliance of Deputy Prime Ministers Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto.
The contest is spiced up by the Kalonzo-Ngilu rivalry with cheerleaders taking positions in respective camps. Those in the race are MPs Kiema Kilonzo (Mutito) and Isaac Muoki (Kitui South) who are allies of Ngilu and Kalonzo, respectively.
Dr Julius Malombe, the former chairman of the devolved government taskforce and a nephew to former Cabinet minister Nyiva Mwendwa, and Kennedy Ngumbau are also seeking Wiper’s ticket.
Nzamba Kitonga, the former chairman of the Committee of Experts, who is running as an independent candidate, has chosen to avoid the political wars.
The contest could rekindle the historic duel witnessed in the 1960s throughout to the 1990s involving Paul Ngei, Mulu Mutisya, Mbolu Malu and retired General Jackson Mulinge in the former Machakos District.
Kiema, a former diehard supporter turned critic of the VP, is allied to Ngilu. He is telling voters he will safeguard the region’s mineral wealth.
His supporters have painted walls, trees, rocks and signboards in the entire county with pro-Kiema and Ngilu graffiti.
But Kiema faces criticism over the poor performance of the Mutito Constituency Development Fund with residents questioning non-existence projects. He faces a court case filed by a voter in his constituency, Bernard Samuel Kasinga, earlier this year on integrity and accountability of public funds. “I have been an MP for 10 years and I believe I have served the constituents well. I have managed using CDF monies, build more schools and dispensaries. In every location in Mutito there is a dispensary. This is a big achievement,” says Kiema.
He adds, “I have also ensured that no child is at home due to lack of fees whether in secondary, university or any tertiary institution. Despite being one of the county’s poorest county, it is nevertheless a sleeping giant, sitting on mineral wealth. As the pioneer governor I will shape up the county to become Kenya’s mining hub”.
Muoki, also faces criticism on the management of the Kitui South CDF kitty. At one time during a visit by Prime Minister Raila Odinga to Mutomo town, the MP was forced to defend his record.
Area councillor, who was then the Kitui County Council Vice-Chairman Jackson Mwanduka, had petitioned the PM to launch investigations into allegations of misuse of the CDF.
Stung by the attack by the civic leader, Muoki flew into a rage.
On his governor aspirations, Muoki says, “Under my leadership I anticipate the tarmacking of Kibwezi-Kitui-Mwingi-Maua road to unlock the potential of the county to become one of the richest regions. I want also the huge irrigation potential provided by two permanent rivers-Athi and Tana-fully exploited to fight food and water insecurity in the county and also export food to other regions.”
Kitonga, the son of former Mutito MP Chief James Kitonga, is riding on his achievements as the chairman of CoE that drafted the new Constitution that was eventually ratified by Kenyans in a referendum and promulgated in August 2010.
“I want to guide Kitui County in realising the fruits of devolution. I will give priority to the exploitation of natural resources in the county like iron ore and cement production,” he says. “I will also use my knowledge in law in fighting corruption and tribalism which have hurt the country’s image. Further I will use my wealth of experience to bring about meaningful development in the county if people give mandate to be their governor.”
He is seen to be acceptable across the county in areas such as Mutito, the larger Mwingi region, Mutomo, Kitui West and Kitui Central owing to his credentials in Constitution making.
Malombe is citing his long career as director in the Ministry of Housing and Planning. His campaign clarion call is Utongoi waw’o tutonya kuikiia na kuwitikila (Time for leadership we can trust and believe in).
“My blueprint is a demonstration of the status I want to the county to be once I am elected. My clarion call Utongoi waw’o tutonya kuikiia na kuwitikila is a true reflection of my leadership.
“I stand for an inclusive well managed, people-centred and service oriented county government. A county government that uses her human, natural, financial and other resources sustainably in a transparent and accountable manner. If elected, voters would have placed the county development in the hands of a knowledgeable, exposed, visionary and experienced leader,” he says of himself.
Mulwa prides in impressive academic credentials. He, however, has to overcome the track record trend other are selling.
He says, “My big responsibility will to address challenges that face our county including unemployment, food, water, insecurity, health care, education, housing and shelter for the elderly, infrastructure, mobilization and equal distribution of resources among others.”
He adds, “I have engaged GT International from US, through their office in Nairobi, to create enough finances for the County development. The funds are estimated to be $300 million (Sh24 billion). My manifesto is action, organisation, equity, prosperity and success. ”
Rated the fourth richest county, management of natural resources and how the proceeds benefit Kitui residents, has understandably taken centre stage.
Professionals and politicians are arguing the inaugural county boss should be either a technocrat with proven managerial skills or a career politician with experience in mobilisation and supervision of public-funded projects.
The county has massive deposits of coal, iron ore, limestone and gypsum. However, mining is yet to be done and the county is impoverished despite sitting on the precious resources.
Residents expect the first governor to facilitate mineral exploitation. But among the pressing problems is food insecurity and lack of water. The county is among those ravaged by perennial drought and is largely dependent on Government relief during dry spells.
The semiarid county has been hit by persistent water shortage and residents hope the county government will guarantee clean drinking water.