Act wisely to avert needless fights over Keroka town

A view of Keroka town which is in the boundary of Kisii and Nyamira Counties. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

The rising tensions and fury between Kisii and Nyamira over revenue collection at Keroka town should be a wake-up call for the governors of the two counties.

The running battles between traders and the police experienced on Sunday morning calls for urgent intervention by governors Simba Arati (Kisii) and Amos Nyaribo (Nyamira) before matters spiral out of control.  

It's clear that the court decision, that the two counties stick to historical boundaries as determined by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) did not go down well with one the feuding sides.

There is need for the governors to meet to avert an escalation of the standoff. The border dispute started in 2013 with the advent of devolution that empowered county governments to collect their own revenues. Pioneer governors, John Nyagarama of Nyamira and his Kisii counterpart James Ongwae, met and agreed to co-manage the town with either side sending revenue staff to the town under the joint administration. 

The arrangement saw peace prevail as all monies collected was banked in a joint account. Peace prevailed until recently when an MCA went to court seeking permanent determination of the boundary. Justice Mugo Kamau of the Lands and Environment Court, in his ruling delivered at the Nyamira Law Court early February, advised the two governors to work together in serving Keroka residents. 

While Nyaribo welcomed the ruling that placed the larger part of the town in his county, Arati vowed to appeal the decision, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction over the matter. Arati said through his lawyers that the best answer will come from the Lands Cabinet Secretary who has a constitutional authority to form a select committee comprising IEBC and National Lands Commission officials and representatives from the two counties to seek a lasting solution. 

While the appeal is yet to be heard, revenue collectors have moved in, sparking the current stand-off. Since Keroka is the first major town as one enters Gusiiland, there is need for leaders to ensure that peace prevails. The grandstanding by leaders from either side of the disputed town for political mileage might lead to endless confrontations. 

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu promised to chair a joint meeting of leaders from the two counties to find a political solution but he is yet to do so. It's time that governors and the political class met to decide on the way forward. It's advisable at this point that the two counties revert to the 2013 deal between Ongwae and Nyagarama. 

It will be absurd if traders are influenced by politicians to turn against each other. Nyaribo and Arati should save the Omogusii community from the shame of fighting over a town that has developed with little input from either of the county governments. If the standoff over the town continues, it will not be surprising to see investors relocate their businesses to more peaceful urban centres and render Keroka a ghost town.

It is unfortunate that the region has been attracting negative publicity in recent times as leaders feud. 

Mr Omanga is a media practitioner. [email protected]

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