The Kisumu County government is facing a leadership crisis. Endless wrangles within the county assembly are now threatening to paralyse future operations.
The assembly now lacks a substantive Speaker after Anne Adul was impeached. Deputy Speaker Pamela Jossy is also facing resistance from MCAs, and was injured in a scuffle in the House on Tuesday.
Furthermore, there is a stand-off over the Minority Leader’s position following the ouster of Edwin Anayo. But it is last Wednesday’s decision by the Orange Democratic Movement that has now thrown the assembly into disorder.
The party suspended the Majority Leader Samuel Ong’ow and his deputy John Olum over alleged gross misconduct, leaving the Assembly Public Service Board (PSB), which is composed of the top leaders in the assembly, virtually empty.
There are fears that operations within the House will be crippled, given that it is the PSB that oversees functions of the institution. And this sorry state of affairs is compounded by the ongoing battle of wills between Governor Jack Ranguma and his deputy Ruth Odinga who have accused each other of abusing their positions.
And even after cracking the whip on the county’s senior officials, ODM has now turned the heat on nominated MCAs for allegedly going against the party position. The nominated ward representatives have been accused of disregarding the party position on who should preside over sessions in the Assembly.
Secretary General Ababu Namwamba on Thursday warned that nominated MCAs who fail to toe the party line would be dropped.
“Some of them have failed to promote the best interest of the party in the assembly, and we are sending a very stern warning that the party will not condone misconduct and impunity,” Namwamba said.
Sources at Orange House indicate there is a plan to recall five nominated ward representatives next week.
“The party leader (Raila Odinga) took his time, convened a meeting and gave his position over the stand-off in the assembly. It is unfortunate some of the members have defied that position, including meting out violence on other leaders,” lamented the Budalang’i MP.
He was referring to the incident last Tuesday which saw the Deputy Speaker injured and rushed to hospital after being denied chance to chair House sessions in compliance with a Raila order.
“The drama and persistent wrangles in the county assembly has ashamed the party leader and ODM. That is why the party suspended the two officials and the matter has been referred to the disciplinary committee,” Namwamba explained.
Further, there are reports that Raila is considering having former Kisumu Mayor Sam Okelo coming in as either the Leader of Majority or as chairman of the yet to be formed Kisumu City Management Board.
At a recent meeting with the county leaders to broker peace, the former PM was particularly concerned that after two years in office, the county government had not established a city board.
It is at this meeting that Raila directed the Deputy Speaker to chair the House sessions pending the appeal of Adul’s impeachment in court. He warned the MCAs against having acting Speaker Gabriel Ochieng preside over the sittings, maintaining that the position is not legal.
The ODM hierarchy is now angered by what is seen as mockery of Raila’s efforts, with the recent scuffles coming days after the ODM leader intervened in the dispute.
There is now disquiet in the assembly, and particularly among ODM MCAs. Some local leaders have accused the Orange party of attempting to micro-manage the county government.
The suspended Leader of Majority (Mr Ong’ow) fears there is a scheme to “finish” some leaders, adding the action by the party was discriminatory.
“Witch-hunting is common and is not helping the party,” said Ong’ow.
Politics at play
Mr Olum, on the other hand, says “the issues in Kisumu County Assembly has been greatly politicised”.
The timing of the standoff comes ahead of the 2015/2016 budget making process, whose deadline is June 30.
Should the House fail to meet the deadline, the county is likely to be hit by a cash crisis, especially if it is starved of funds to run its activities.
But Namwamba says the party will give guidance to ensure the operations of the House do not stall.
Things are not rosy either in the assembly’s minority party (PDP) as members scramble for the minority leader’s position, a situation the party leader Omingo Magara has protested.
Last month members of PDP ousted Edwin Anayo as Minority Leader on the grounds that he was working against the interest of the party and replaced him with nominated MCA Bob Ndolo
In a letter to the assembly dated April 7, Magara termed Anayo’s removal illegal and ordered nominated Ndolo, who was endorsed to take over the position, to vacate the seat.
Magara told Mr Ndolo to relinquish the seat or face the wrath of the party: “It has come to the attention of the party that on April 2, you staged a coup and illegally elevated and swore in yourself as the minority leader. Please note that the failure to comply with the above instructions would amount to blatant defiance of party decisions and we will be compelled to commence a disciplinary process against you,” the letter read.
Governor Ranguma has been hesitant to wade into the wrangles in the assembly, maintaining that “the assembly and the executive are two independent entities, although they complement one another”.
Speaking to The Standard on Sunday, Ranguma maintained Kisumu must move forward despite the challenges.
“Things must move and we must deliver services to residents. We will confront the challenges and we must win,” said Ranguma.
But the suspension of the Majority Leader and his deputy has left the governor exposed, since it is the two who articulate affairs of the executive in the assembly.
Finance Committee chairman James Were said absence of the assembly top leadership would not affect budget making process.
“The budget estimates have gone through public participation process and are yet to be tabled in the House. All of us are keen to ensure the budget is approved in time,” Were said.
Opinion remains divided over who is to blame for wrangles in the assembly.
Political consultant Joshua Nyamori believes the management and handling of land issues in the county could be at the heart of these wrangles.