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George Natembeya: Man who has walked out of top post to vie for governor

Outgoing Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya addressing the press during an interview at his office in Nakuru on January 12, 2022.[Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

George Natembeya, who resigned yesterday as Rift Valley Regional Commissioner, has a reputation as a no-nonsense administrator although he occasionally reveals a light-hearted side.

The 50-year-old tough-talking administrator, who rose through the ranks to become Regional Commissioner, has walked out of government to focus on his bid for Trans Nzoia governorship. 

Natembeya, who has served in the public service for over 25 years, intends to use his experience in leadership to transform the county he believes lacks leadership.

“Starting today, I am no longer the Regional Commissioner of Rift Valley," he said yesterday, becoming the first high profile government official to step down to seek political office. "I am proceeding on leave then I will be going to Trans Nzoia to vie for the gubernatorial seat. Those who wanted me to get off this uniform, I have done it and I am coming”.

February 9 is the deadline for State and public officers seeking political office to resign from office.

Natambeya announced his resignation yesterday in the presence of various county commissioners from Rift Valley.

As he served in various administrative positions, he handled issues like crime, teenage pregnancies, early marriages and insecurity in the Rift Valley region.

Trans Nzoia County Commissioner Samson Ojwang said Natembeya remains their star because they looked up to him as a mentor. He said that though Natembeya was tough, that was what was expected of him.

Besides Natambeya, others eyeing the Trans Nzoia governorship are MP Chris Wamalawa, County Finance Executive Boniface Wanyonyi, area Woman Rep Janet Nangabo, former Agriculture Executive Andrew Wanyonyi, businessman Moses Khaoya and Philemon Samoei. The seat is currently held by Patrick Khaemba, who is not eligible for re-election, having served two terms.

While in the public service, Natembeya made friends and enemies in equal measure. Although he has a reputation as an effective administration, he also said he was a good politician.

“People don’t hate me. I am tough when solving their problems and they like it,” Natembeya told The Standard in his office in Nakuru during an exclusive interview prior to his resignation.

His firm approach to issues, especially regarding security, was not by accident. He learned the ropes as a junior officer working under the then Internal Security minister John Michuki.

Natembeya, a father of three, was born in Trans Nzoia in 1971. His parents were squatters but they took him through school and he now holds Bachelor of Arts and Master's of Arts degrees in Anthropology from the University of Nairobi.

At the age of 25, he was employed as a District Officer (DO) and posted to Trans Mara District where he worked for four months before landing a scholarship from the University of Nairobi to pursue his master's degree.

His studies complete, Natembeya was posted to Elburgon in Nakuru before being moved to Burnt Forest. Later, he went for an advanced public administration course after which he was posted to Mulot in Narok. Natembeya also served as DO in Kaplamai, Trans Nzoia, meaning he is quiet familiar with the region where he is now seeking to be elected as governor.

In 2005, while still in Kaplamai, he received a letter from Harambee House inviting him for a brief assignment.

“When I got there, I was told Michuki was looking for a personal assistant. We were interviewed and I was told I was to remain at Harambee House,” Natembeya recalls.

He worked with Michuki until 2007 when he was moved to Murang’a North where he worked until 2012. His biggest assignment in Murang'a was dismantling criminal gangs, especially Mungiki, which had become a menace in the region. He also led a crackdown on illicit brews following an order by the then President Mwai Kibaki.

In 2013, when counties were introduced, Natembeya was moved to Kamukunji in Nairobi, and dealing with criminal gangs was his biggest task. He was later promoted and transferred to Isiolo as County Commissioner. At the time, cattle rustlers were giving residents sleepless nights.

"Of all the stations I worked, Isiolo was the toughest. It is a big county and the leadership was not collaborative,” he told The Standard exclusively.

He was later posted to Narok where in 2017, he was involved in the emotive conservation of the Mau Forest. Natembeya also carried forceful disarmament campaign in Trans Mara where over 100 firearms were seized.

Thereafter, he was promoted Regional Commissioner, Rift Valley, which brings together 14 counties with about 13 million people. He walked out of the job yesterday to engage in the political legwork of seeking the governorship of Trans Nzoia, among the most cosmopolitan counties in Rift Valley.