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Governors face tough test in constituting their cabinets

By Standard Team | September 24th 2017 at 13:29:12 GMT +0300

Western region governors led by Kisumu county governor Anyang Nyong'o during a press briefing in Kisumu on September 13.  (Collins Oduor, Standard)

After winning their way into office amid drama and bruising challenge from opponents, governors in Nyanza now face the hard task of appointing members of their executive committees in what could see them break ranks with bosom friends, campaigners and sponsors.

The governors are faced with a delicate balancing act of considering professionalism, clan factors and 2022 political schemes as they pick their cabinet members, chief officers and senior departmental managers.

Save for Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o who is making a debut in office, his colleagues -- Cornel Rasanga (Siaya), John Nyagarama (Nyamira), James Ongwae (Kisii), Okoth Obado (Migori) and Homa Bay’s Cyprian Awiti -- are serving their second and final terms.

The governors have re-advertised all the 10 Executive Committee member positions and those of chief officers and have been spending long hours with close aides as they weed through the many applicants.

Mr Rasanga has set the pace by presenting names of his nominees to the County Assembly, sparking protests from his critics and clan political lords, who say he has unfairly rewarded certain clans. Some critics also claim he has included in his list those with integrity issues.

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Rasanga has dropped all the executives from his previous government and retained only two of the Chief Officers - both of who have been elevated to head ministries. 

He said he picked his nominees based on their professional backgrounds and a delicate balance to satisfy all the six sub-counties of Rarieda, Bondo, Gem, Alego Usonga, Ugenya and Ugunja.

But according to Aggrey Omondi, a member of the civil society and the director of Ugunja resource centre, the governor must drop some positions from his home sub-county of Alego Usonga and give them to another sub-county that was given only one post.

“The geographical distribution per sub-county has not been respected. Take a look at Ugenya, Rarieda and Ugunja sub-counties that only have one slot each yet Alego Usonga has three slots plus the position of governor. The issue of disability must also be looked into,” says Omondi.

Among Rasanga’s nominees is Jaoko Oburu, a son of former Nominated MP Oburu Oginga who was named to head the Tourism docket.

Alego Usonga MP Sam Atandi and his Ugunja counterpart Opiyo Wandayi have supported the nominations.

Intense lobbying

Inquiries by Sunday Standard unearthed intense lobbying in Kisumu County.

Those close to Prof Nyong’o and his Deputy Mathews Owilli say they are being bombarded with proposals and requests from their political seniors, friends, brokers, clan leaders and brokers.

“There is a lot of pressure. Every leader from in and outside the county wants a share in the appointments,” said an insider in Nyong’o’s government who asked not to be named.

Like other governors, Prof Nyong’o cracked the whip soon after he swept into his office last month, sending all members of the Executive Committee and their Chief Officers packing.

He quickly appointed his longtime ally, former Director of Kenya Medical Training Colleges Dr Olang’o Onudi as acting County Secretary to help him restore the new order.

There has been jostling for the top jobs as some of the former senior staff in former Governor Jack Ranguma’s administration make their way back. Already, former City Manager Doris Ombara who was sacked by Ranguma is back in office.

In Nyamira, residents are anxiously waiting to see how Governor Nyagarama will pick his executive team, with members of his last Cabinet awaiting their fate. The governor had also advertised for the positions.

Nyangarama’s deputy Amos Nyaribo said they will purely rely on merit in picking the senior officers. But sources say clan will play a bigger role.

“We want to recruit a team that can drive this county to the levels expected and this cannot be determined by one’s dedication in campaigning or doing us any good during campaigns,” said Nyaribo.

Nyangarama’s neighbour, Governor Ongwae of Kisii, is facing a similar dilemma of balancing between clan, professionalism, loyalty and politics in picking his team.

In Migori, Governor Obado could be facing the hardest task of picking the top officers, given that he governs a highly cosmopolitan county.  To unite the county, he has to consider the Kuria, the Maragoli, the Suba, the Luos, the Somalis and Kisiis who inhabit the area.

[John Oywa, Olivia Odhiambo and Stanley Ongwae]

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