Senior Gusii leaders clash over ‘failure’ to support Matiang’i

Kisii Governor James Ongwae gives a piece of cake to his deputy, Joash Maangi, during celebrations at Kisii School to usher in the new year. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]
Two Gusii politicians clashed on New Year’s Eve over support for Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.

Trouble started during celebrations held at the Kisii High School grounds when Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka accused Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi of opposing Dr Matiang’i’s forays into the region to bolster his leadership credentials.

The accusation prompted Mr Maangi to issue a statement denouncing individuals he said were keen on driving a wedge between Gusii leaders and those from other communities.

During the event, Mr Onyonka singled out the deputy governor as being among leaders who were undermining the Cabinet secretary.

“It is now time for us to sit at the high political table with Dr Matiang’i being the community leader. The majority of elected leaders in Kisii and Nyamira counties are behind Matiang’i and I would like to tell Maangi and others who are fighting him that we are ready for a political face-off this year,” said Onyonka.

In his response, Maangi called for sincerity among Gusii leaders.

“Those supporting the Interior CS should be made to understand that there is a big difference between liking and supporting a particular individual.”

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The deputy governor, who has shown his preference for Deputy President William Ruto in his bid to woo the Gusii community to back his 2022 presidential ambitions, also warned that they risked turning into an inward-looking community.

Political alliances

“We need not politicise every move that leaders make. As a community, we need to make alliances that suit our people. Our association with leaders from other communities should not be portrayed as a move to undermine sons and daughters from our community with political interests,” said Maangi.

He added: “We shouldn’t hide behind other leaders who want a stake in our local politics. Decisions affecting our community should be made in a consultative manner.”

The deputy governor, who appeared to be stung by Onyonka’s remarks, stated that he was not opposed to Matiang’i’s political ambitions.

He said that he had been good friends with the CS since their university days when he was at the University of Nairobi and Matiang’i was studying at Kenyatta University.

Maangi also rejected claims that he had spoken ill of the CS in a public forum, adding that his hesitancy stemmed from some of the reasons Onyonka and his allies were giving to rally behind Matiang’i.

The deputy governor urged leaders to shun politics of hatred and work for the good of the people. He also said, without elaborating, that the county would experience major political changes in the coming days.

Major stake

“The Gusii community is poised to have a major stake in the country’s political landscape but we can only achieve that by respecting elected leaders and appreciating those serving our people.”

Two camps have emerged in the region and have coalesced around Matiang’i and Ruto.

Maangi and Onyonka both have political ambitions to succeed Governor James Ongwae in 2022, which would explain their acrimonious public spat.

In his address, Mr Ongwae said that plans for the construction of South Mugirango Sugar Factory had been completed.

“We have finalised demarcation and survey of the land and we will soon be launching construction of the miller, which will create job opportunities for thousands of our youth,” the governor said.

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Gusii politiciansInterior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’iKitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka