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Governor Susan Kihika's dilemma as court rejects nominees

Susan Kihika sworn in as Nakuru governor on August 25, 2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Nakuru’s third Governor Susan Kihika may have been strategic or coincidentally lucky when she failed to give the popular promises of a politician’s first 100 days in office.

Had she made such promises at her swearing-in on August 25, Kihika would have by now fallen on her own sword. The Governor is still struggling to set up a government.

Justice Hellen Wasilwa’s ruling quashing her list of 10 CEC nominees is among the latest blows the former Senator has suffered since she took office.

To some, it is a matter of chicken coming home to roost if her working relationship with inaugural Nakuru Governor, Kinuthia Mbugua, when she was county assembly Speaker is anything to go by.

On November 8, 2013, the assembly vetting committee that Kihika chaired shot down the nomination of six out of 10 CEC nominees submitted by Mbugua.

The stormy session left the assembly divided, with those opposing the nominees claiming the Public Service Board locked out competent applicants.

Nine years down the line, the tables have turned and Kihika is now the one on the hot seat, but a little lucky to have a majority of the ward reps on her side.

“We respect the judgment made by the court. The assembly is solidly behind Kihika. Her nominations were based on capability and competencies,” said Dr Alex Langat, the Majority Leader.

MCAs regretted that the county government had been held hostage through court orders.

“Nakuru is not the only cosmopolitan county and we are not seeing the rest being dragged to courts over appointments. The petitioners are leading the county on a dangerous path,” said Langat.

Minority leader Phillip Wanjohi said the court battles had left the electorates suffering as no meaningful business can be transacted.

Out of the CEC nominees, Kihika had picked seven members from one community, two from another and one from a different community.

Kihika defended her list, saying she picked the nominees from the same ethnic background as the elected area MP and only left out one of the 11 constituencies from which she had picked a deputy.

Kihika admitted that the impasse had affected her development plans and implementation of her manifesto, but was confident that she would get justice.

“We have full faith in the Judiciary and we are optimistic that the petitions will be thrown out so that we can start service delivery to our people,” she said.

With the judgment delivered by the court against her expectations, Kihika has been sent back to the drawing board where she has limited choices.

Lawyer Kipkoech Ngetich says the Governor has the option to amend the list or come up with an entirely new one.

“The governor is unlikely to take a stand that will place her in contempt of court as that will open another can of worms. She can make some few changes on her initial list and include new members in line with the court decision,” he says.

The lawyer, however, notes that the Governor may choose to file an appeal, but warns that this would translate to more loss of time while unsure of the outcome, which may not change from the initial judgement.

“If she picks new nominees, she will have to initiate the process afresh. The earliest the county will likely have a new Executive is next year since the nomination takes time. We are heading for festivities and the assembly is going to a recess,” says Ngetich.