Change of guard at regional bloc expected as Wycliffe Oparanya term ends

Former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya with UK High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott, Agnes Odhiambo of Kenya Development Programme and LREB CEO Abala Wanga in Kakamega in 2021. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

The Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) is expected to name a new chair after the exit of former Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya. His term cannot be renewed because the post is reserved for serving governors.

Launched in 2015, LREB brings together 14 counties of Kakamega, Bomet, Bungoma, Busia, Homa Bay, Kericho, Kisii, Kisumu, Migori, Nandi, Nyamira, Siaya, Trans Nzoia and Vihiga.

Oparanya has been at the helm of the bloc since its inception. The late Governor Joyce Laboso of Bomet was the vice chair and her death saw Oparanya’s term getting extended. One of the new governors across the 14 counties will be picked to head the bloc to avert a vacuum at the top.

Kakamega governor-elect Fernandes Barasa and governors Paul Otuoma of Busia, Kenneth Lusaka of Bungoma and Simba Arati of Kisii are among the new county chiefs who are potential candidates for the chair's post.

Others are Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay), Erick Mutai (Kericho), George Natembeya (Trans Nzoia), James Orengo (Siaya) and Ochilo Ayacko (Migori).  

Governors Anyang’ Nyong’o of Kisumu, Wilber Ottichilo of Vihiga, Stephen Sang of Nandi and Hillary Barchok of Bomet are the only old faces at LREB but it was formed when Lusaka was the Bungoma governor, a seat he lost in 2017.

A blend of the old guards and newcomers gives the bloc a lifeline. The Standard could not establish if Nandi, Bomet and Kericho governors will yield to pressure from by leaders in their counties to ditch LREB and join North Rift Economic Bloc.

LREB has been pushing for passing of a law to streamline gold mining to improve the fortunes of miners and traders in Western Kenya.

The bloc had earlier indicated that Gold Processing Bill, 2021, which provides for the establishment of a gold refinery and a regulator, will bring order in the sector.