Siaya palace wars: Inside battle between Orengo and his deputy

Siaya Governor James Orengo (left) on the campaign  trail with his deputy William Oduol in Bondo, 2022. [Isaiah Gwengi, Standard]

The strained relationship between erstwhile political friends James Orengo and his deputy William Oduol has exploded in the open over the past few weeks, hardly six months after they were sworn into office.

The acrimony has escalated into a public war of words, with Mr Oduol even facing impeachment threats.

At the centre of the verbal confrontations are corruption allegations and ideological differences in the management of county affairs.

The ongoing war began two months ago after Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo admonished Mr Oduol for allegedly influencing tenders to contractors.

Without mentioning the names of contractors, the lawmaker claimed that the meetings took place in Kisumu.

“I have a video as evidence and I will release it soon,” said Mr Odhiambo, who questioned Mr Oduol’s integrity.

Scathing attacks

“Governor Orengo should put his house (administration) in order or else I will help him to fix the same,” said Odhiambo.

On the other hand, Mr Oduol’s scathing attacks on Mr Orengo’s administration have triggered a fightback by his boss and allies.

Alego-Usonga MP Samuel Atandi has also joined the war, threatening to lead a move to oust Mr Oduol. Mr Atandi, an ally of Mr Orengo, said the fight between the governor and his deputy was aimed at him because of his support for the Governor.

“I supported Orengo and he always consults me whenever he wants to do something. It is this that has not gone down well for some people who now accuse me of being behind the leaders’ woes,” said Mr Atandi.

Unlike in the first few months in office when Mr Oduol accompanied his boss to functions, his recent recent claims that his boss is a hands-off administrator who has given room for questionable characters to mismanage county resources has lifted the lid on the behind-the-scenes palace wars threatening service delivery.

While Governor Orengo has hinted at adopting a one-man-show style of leadership, reports of mismanagement of county affairs have emerged, with Mr Oduol revealing that certain individuals have been keen to kick him out.

The reported power struggle is said to have put Governor Orengo in an awkward position, and has been linked to the recent impeachment of the County Executive for Water Ms Caroline Onyango.

According to inside sources, the impeachment scheme gave insight into the emerging strains in the duo’s political marriage.

While addressing the media after appearing before the County Assembly’s Committee on General Oversight to shed light over alleged financial misappropriations by the executive, the deputy governor claimed that some officers were targeted for removal from the county service because they come from Alego-Usonga.  

Multiple interviews with individuals in the inner circle of Governor Orengo’s administration indicate that the differences between the two top leaders are likely to jeopardise service delivery.

The immediate former governor Cornel Rasanga asked the two leaders to find truce for the sake of development.

The former county boss, who asked Mr Oduol to stick to his role of deputy governor, said he was ready to help the two leaders iron out their differences.

Mr James Wanga, a Bondo resident, challenged Mr Orengo to move with speed and have a handshake with his deputy for the county’s sake. “This back and forth games are unhealthy. The deputy governor will most likely behave like a suicide bomber to absolve himself from the allegations and this will be detrimental to the governor,” he said, adding that the buck stops with the governor.

Governor Orengo has said was not ready to give in to pressure, intimidation or blackmail from his critics.