Supremacy wars split governors and senators as 2022 approaches

Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika (left) with an elder at Keringet trading center during a fundraiser on August 20. Public spats between the Senator and Governor Kinyanjui are becoming common. [Kennedy Gachuhi, Standard]
Governor Lee Kinyanjui and Senator Susan Kihika might belong to the same political party but this is probably all they have in common.

The rivalry between the two leaders, who were overwhelmingly elected on a Jubilee Party ticket in the August 8, 2017 General Election, has threatened to derail the county's development agenda.

Although in public they try to show a united front, arguing that they are busy executing their mandates, a vicious supremacy battle rages behind the scenes, which observers say is fuelled by the 2022 General Election.

“The fight between Kinyanjui and Kihika is simply a battle for political supremacy - with an eye on the 2022 governorship contest,” said Peter Cheruiyot, a Jubilee Party official.

The most recent clash was triggered by two buses that Mr Kinyanjui bought to be used by schools, community groups and county employees.

The governor argued that the buses were necessary because local schools had been scrambling to buy buses at the expense of other pressing academic needs. He explained that the buses were bought using Sh10 million initially set aside to buy luxury vehicles for top county executives.

Public funds

But Ms Kihika described the purchase as a waste of public funds. She said the county executive erred in buying the two buses instead of dealing with more pressing issues affecting area residents.

She said the money should have gone towards fixing roads in Kuresoi South and North constituencies or buying drugs for hospitals in the area.

“The road network is in deplorable state. We do not enough medicine in some hospitals. A more realistic expenditure would have been the purchase of ambulances for various hospitals where the sick depend on boda bodas to reach the health facilities,” she said.

The senator has dismissed claims that her criticism of Kinyanjui’s administration was geared towards 2022 succession politics.

“Recently every comment I make is linked to my alleged plans to become the next Nakuru governor. I am yet to declare my next move and such criticism will not silence me,” she said.

Kinyanjui has accused the senator of meddling and using her oversight role to perpetuate her own agenda.

Kinyanjui’s aides maintain that Kihika has begun early campaigns to unseat him in 2022 and accuse her of distorting facts in her favour.

Positive criticism

“We welcome positive criticism but not misrepresentation of facts as the senator has been doing. She claims the buses were bought at Sh40 million yet documents available show clearly that the buses cost Sh10 million. What oversight is this?” said one senior officers who did not want to be named because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the governor.

Kinyanjui has tried to downplay the supremacy battle with Kihika, saying he has no time for sideshows.

“I have a contract with more than 600,000 people who voted for me. They need services - good roads, water, bursaries for their children, improved health services. This my focus, not politicking,” he said.

Kihika insists that she is not playing 2022 politics but discharging her oversight role.

“I was never elected to be a flower girl or to clap for anyone whenever they say anything that is not benefiting ‘Wanjiku.’ I know my role and I will continue doing what I was elected to do,” she said.

Matters are not any different in Nandi County, where differences between Governor Stephen Sang and Senator Kiprotich Cherargei have resurfaced, months after Deputy President William Ruto brokered a truce between them.

Recently, the governor and senator have engaged in public exchanges over corruption and other allegations related to the running of the county.

During a a thanksgiving ceremony for former Mosop MP David Koech in Chepterwai last Saturday, Mr Cherargei renewed his claims of corruption against Sang, alleging the misappropriation of Sh13 million meant for school bursaries.

The senator also cited items in the County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP), which he said were not aligned to the region's development priorities.

“My concern is two items in the tourism budget. There is Sh5 million that has been allocated to buying hair products for salons and another Sh6 million for the county choir,” said Cherargei.

The senator revisited a claim he had made earlier in the year that prices for trucks bought by the county were inflated to Sh15 million each.

He also criticised Sang’s administration for halting work on road repairs.

Sang hit back at Cherargei, accusing him of misleading residents.

“It is not right for a leader to utter falsehoods. We procured the trucks at Sh8.5 million each and not Sh15 million as claimed,” said Sang.

He also denied the senator's claims that Sh5 million had been allocated to buying hair products.

"A leader of Cherargei's calibre should not mistake salon kits for hair. Leaders should be honest in what they say. These are positions of responsibility where one should be sincere and straightforward in all undertakings,” said Sang.

Differences aside

In May, Sang and Cherargei had agreed to put their differences aside following intervention by Ruto. The leaders are said to have met at the Deputy President's home in Karen, Nairobi, where they agreed to iron out the emerging issues without engaging in public spats.

And in Trans Nzoia, the differences between Governor Patrick Khaemba and Senator Michael Mbito are far from over.

Last Saturday, Dr Mbito blamed the governor for stalled development projects in the county.

“I am challenging the governor to come out in the open on stalled development projects including a referral hospital and bus stages,” he said.

The senator also faulted Khaemba’s leadership style, accusing him of working in isolation.

“Residents are getting little in services and yet the county is receiving funds from the national government. The governor is working in isolation when things are going wrong. If there is a problem why is he afraid of involving other elected leaders?” Mbito said during a memorial ceremony for Kijana Wamalwa in Kitale.

Mr Khaemba was represented at the memorial by his deputy, Stanley Tarus.

The governor and senator have been at loggerheads since June amid accusations of corruption.

Concerning a planned referral hospital project, Mbito claimed it had become a cash cow and appealed to the county assembly not to approve any more money for it.

He also called for proper investigations into the procurement process of the referral hospital property. He claimed the project had already consumed Sh800 million and still required an additional Sh600 million.

But the governor has on several occasions defended the project, arguing that five probes conducted by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission on the referral hospital have not found any wrongdoing.

“My hands are clean; claims that some funds for the hospital have been pocketed are baseless,” he said.

Khaemba recently threatened to sell the facility after MCAs slashed the allocation he had requested to complete the project from Sh330 to Sh200 million.

[Reporting by Steve Mkawale, Titus Too and Osinde Obare]

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