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Infighting tarnishes the image of Governor Alfred Mutua's county of 'firsts'

FROM LEFT: Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, acting County Secretary Grace Munguti, Labour Adviser Bernadette Nzyoka, Senior Public Servant Sam Mbova and the newly appointed Anti-Corruption Adviser Hyslop Ipu after a press conference in Machakos, yesterday. [PHOTO: COURTESY]

From being the first county to host an investor conference, boasting of being home to Africa's only field amphitheatre - also known as The People's Park - and having the continent's fastest-built highway, Machakos County has arguably hogged news headlines for all the good reasons.

Governor Alfred Mutua, a former Government spokesman, has also earned a fair share of the glory, dominating press reports, receiving rare praise from hard-to-please social media users and bloggers for the development projects he has unveiled and earning the tag of "Kenya's only performing governor".

Dr Mutua's impressive development record so pleased President Uhuru Kenyatta in November 2013 when he launched the Machakos Recreation Park that he appealed to other governors to borrow a leaf from the county boss and focus on economic development.

But now the protracted wrangles between Mutua and his deputy Bernard Kiala, which have lasted for over a year, seem to blight the good name of the "model county".

The fights between the two leaders that started in July, 2014 are getting nastier by the day, with the duo trading barbs at public functions and press conferences.

Mr Kiala has been accused by his boss of sabotage and working with "his enemies" to take over the top county seat and even engaging in corrupt practices, claims the deputy governor has vehemently refuted.

Stung by the claims, Kiala who of late has come out forcefully to challenge his boss' leadership, has written to the Senate detailing the plight he has been forced to endure, after falling out with Mutua.

"Since July 7, 2014, I have never been invited to any County Executive Committee (CEC) meetings, contrary to the law. Failure to be invited to the meeting alienates the deputy governor from operations of the county government though he is bound by the law to all the decisions taken," reads a letter Kiala wrote to the chair of the Senate Committee on Legal Affairs in part.

In the bare–it-all letter dated September 25, he laments that his official cars were withdrawn by the county leadership and he was in turn given a Subaru car, which according to him does not befit his status.

Other grievances, in which he appeals to the Senate to intervene, include withdrawal of his bodyguards, alleged harassment of county workers attached to his office and failure by the county government to pay him airtime allowance and his medical cover fees.

Mutua, at a press conference in his office last week, accused his deputy of being involved in corruption, among other gross misdeeds, which he said are bound to derail his development agenda.

The governor alleged Kiala has used his position to divert water pipes meant for the community in Mwala sub-county, leading to the collapse of the Sh13.6 million Kamu Irrigation Scheme. He asked investigation agents to move with speed to probe him. "He stole and diverted water pipes for the scheme to set up a massive irrigation scheme on his farm in Masinga sub-county," said the governor.

"It is quite sad that while I spend sleepless nights planning and working on how to save public money, my deputy governor is busy planning on how to steal and take us back," added Mutua, who also sensationally claimed that Kiala has allegedly been using his office to engage in questionable and immoral activities.

Kiala fired back at the governor, claiming Mutua had run out of ideas and was only engaging in public relations theatrics, so as to paint him negatively. He dared Mutua to report him to authorities if he had any evidence against him.