Maangi faces tough test in his quest for governorship

Deputy President William Ruto (right) with Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi during a fundraiser at Miriri SDA Church last year. [File, Standard]

Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi faces a tough challenge for the county's top seat in next year's General Election.

The position has drawn a crowded field that includes Dagoreti North MP Simba Arati, area Senator Sam Ongeri and Woman Rep Janet Ongera.

Maangi, an ally of Deputy President William Ruto, has said he stands a better chance of becoming governor after his boss James Ongwae serves his second and final term.

Others who have expressed interest in being the next Kisii governor are Nyaribari Masaba MP Ezekiel Machogu, his Kitutu Chache South counterpart Richard Onyonka, former Kenya Ports Authority MD Daniel Manduku and People's Democratic Party (PDP) leader Omingo Magara.

In 2013, Maangi teamed up with Ongwae to vie for the governor's seat on an ODM ticket and won.

However, in 2016, he joined the ruling Jubilee coalition and campaigned for the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta. 

However, Maangi made a U-turn ahead of party nominations for the 2017 elections and started supporting his boss, who was seeking re-election on an ODM ticket. Maangi also supported ODM leader Raila Odinga's bid for the presidency.  

However, after he and Ongwae were re-elected, Maangi once again changed tune and started supporting Ruto.

"The handshake (between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila) gave us an opportunity to unite the country. Leaders should stop applying double standards. There is nothing wrong with supporting Ruto. Like any other Kenyan, it is my democratic right to make such a decision," Maangi after his rivals lashed out at him, accusing him of lacking a political stand.

Maangi, who has been campaigning for the UDA candidate ahead of Wednesday's Kiamokama Ward by-election, said he does not understand why some people are bothered by his support for Ruto. UDA has been associated with the deputy president.

"I have decided to support the DP for the presidency. My focus is for Ruto to become president and I don't regret that decision," he said.

The University of Nairobi law graduate added: "Those who have been planning to intimidate and harass me can go ahead and do what they want. The people will decide.”

Former Kisii mayor Samuel Omwando, a Maangi ally, told off those he said are trying to harass and intimidate leaders allied to the deputy president. 

"Maangi should be allowed to support whoever he pleases. He has a right to express his opinion and make political decisions without being intimidated by anyone."

However, local youth leader Douglas Ogari accused Maangi of trying to decide for the community who they will support for the presidency in 2022.

"We have individuals in the Gusii community who have shown commitment to their work, let us give them an opportunity. We have the numbers to front one of our own for the top seat. We must have a say in national politics," said Ogari.