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MCAs public whipping exposes county’s underbelly and disunity

A member of the Nyeri County Assembly is roughed up at Mbiriri grounds in Kieni East last Tuesday. Twenty five MCAs were ejected from a meeting presided over by Governor Nderitu Gachagua by residents who accused them of frustrating the governor’s development agenda. [PHOTO: MOSE SAMMY/STANDARD]

This week’s violent confrontations among Nyeri County Assembly MCAs laid bare a hushed fight between Governor Nderitu Gachagua and the ward representatives.

So intense is the supremacy battle that it has stalled development projects in the agriculture-rich county and soiled its reputation.

What started as a war of words between the MCAs and Mr Gachagua over funds allocation has snowballed into a fully blown war that has sucked in residents and other elected leaders.

Although the differences between the two groups have run for months now, it is the public whipping and humiliation of the MCAs that appears to be the turning point.

Last Tuesday, about 25 MCAs opposed to the governor were roughed up, beaten and flushed out of a county government event at Mbiriri in Kieni.

Although the beatings were executed about two hours before Gachagua’s arrival, the leaders accused the governor of hiring goons to attack them.

The MCAs claimed Gachagua ferried the goons armed with whips and sticks, from Chaka and Naromoru towns to keep them out of his meetings.

But undeterred by the claims, the governor told off the MCAs for “concentrating on fighting me instead of developing their areas.”

Bad blood

Speaking to The Standard on Sunday, Gachagua denied hiring goons to assault the MCAs, saying he was above such petty things.

“I am focused on bringing development to Nyeri and I have no time for sideshows,” he said.

The bad blood between the governor and the ward representatives has now sucked in other leaders, who have expressed fear that the grand standing may divide the county.

Senator Mutahi Kagwe and MPs Esther Murugi (Nyeri Town), Kanini Kega (Kieni) and Mathira’s Peter Weru have raised concern over the situation which they say must be resolved immediately.

“Different political propositions can be made without physical combats, hiring of thugs by whichever party or engaging in practices that demean the people of Nyeri County. At the worst case scenario, arguments should be mental, never physical,” Kagwe said.

The senator warned that development cannot be realised when the county is in a state of conflict.

Kega described the chaos as unacceptable, primitive and retrogressive.

Mwangi Mugo, the Nyeri Speaker, said all elected leaders must be accorded the respect they deserve.

“This is not the kind of Nyeri we want. All elected leaders should be accorded respect and differences sorted out procedurally and amicably,” he said.

But what is the genesis of this tiff that has threatened to tear apart the county?

Despite a long-drawn cold relationship between the governor and the MCAs, matters came to a head in April when the Nyeri County Secretary, on behalf of the governor, wrote to the MCAs informing them that the ward development fund they were seeking was unconstitutional.

But in a rejoinder, the funds chairman Antony Kibuu, presented a report to the assembly denying Wachira’s claims the public was not involved.

“The argument that the projects identified were not subject to public participation is unfounded and invalid,” Kibuu told the House.

He further said all projects were factored in and approved by county integrated development plan 2013/17 and approved by Annual Development Plan 2015.

But with the stroke of the pen, Gachagua declined to release Sh180 million to the MCAs for the ward development fund. This opened the resentment.

Gachagua had returned to the country after a five-month hiatus and was preparing to deliver a state of the county address at the county assembly when MCAs decided to pull the rug under his feet.

Save for the nominated MCAs who were just enough to make the quorum, elected leaders boycotted the annual address as a way of showing displeasure.

On Thursday last week, Gachagua fired warning shots at the MCAs threatening to oust him.

Speaking during the disbursement of Sh90 million Nyeri County Elimu Bursary Fund, the governor told the MCAs he will not be moved by impeachment threats and warned them that he would serve the residents without their goodwill.

Underhand deals

“I was elected by 145,000 of citizens of Nyeri who will decide if they still want me to be their governor or not,” he said.

He accused the ward representatives of being involved in underhand deals to siphon money from the county coffers under the guise of development.

The MCAs are not giving up the fight yet. They have recorded statements at Kiganjo police station to have the goons who assaulted them brought to book.

Women MCAs want the attackers charged with sexual assault, claiming they acted at the behest of the governor.

They warned that they were not done with Gachagua, saying they are not going to relent until the ward money is given to them.

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