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Governor launches attack against deputy based in US

Nicholas Atudonyang, the West Pokot deputy governor. His boss John Lonyangapuo has accused him of working with his opponents to undermine his administration. [File, Standard]

A supremacy battle is brewing between Governor John Lonyangapuo and his absent deputy Nicholas Atudonyang after years of bromance.

The West Pokot governor has surprisingly accused Dr Atudonyang of working with some political leaders from the county to undermine his administration from his base in the United States of America.

Prof Lonyangapuo has always defended his deputy's decision to work for the county while based in the USA, where he practices medicine as a neurosurgeon.

The governor had taken a bullet for his deputy to the extent of appearing at the Senate and before the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to defend himself for allowing his principal assistant to work and live in the US.

However, on Tuesday, Lonyangapuo ran out of patience and for the first time castigated Atudonyang for his continued absence.

In his unprecedented attack, the county chief said his deputy was working with a political faction calling itself the Third Force, which is hell-bent on dethroning him in 2022.

Atudonyang has not set foot in the county since 2018.

According to the governor, Atudonyang said he would block employment and award of contracts in West Pokot until the county changes a County Public Service Board official who was not favouring non-locals in the recruitment of county staff.

Last October, Lonyangapuo defended Atudonyang before the Senate Committee on Devolution, saying his deputy was helping the county in sourcing of health equipment in the US after Dennis Kapchok, popularly known as kijana fupi round petitioned the House.

Solid defence

He was summoned by the EACC North regional office in September 2018 to explain the whereabouts of Atudonyang and he defended his absence.

He quoted a WhatsApp message from Atudonyang, which read: “I will continue to block West Pokot jobs going to non-Pokots and I have no apologies.”

Lonyangapuo urged US President Donald Trump to deport his deputy so that he deals with him in the county.

“Now I know why (Atudonyang) left West Pokot County to live in Texas. If possible, Trump should be told to deport him. We thought he had a problem that has kept him in the US, but we were wrong,” the governor said. "We have discovered he is fighting the county from the US.”

According to Lonyangapuo, the team is trying to destabilise his leadership and the running of affairs in the county by bringing changes through the County Assembly.

In a thinly veiled attack on Lonyangapuo on June 9, Atudonyang in a Facebook post said he will continue speaking for the people of West Pokot.

Without directly referring to Lonyangapuo’s administration, Atudonyang said he will continue speaking for people he described as disadvantaged and dehumanised.

“When it comes to injustice, there is no neutral stance. It's either we are on the side of the oppressor or on the side of the oppressed,” the deputy governor said.

Speaking to The Standard on phone, Atudonyang said Lonyangapuo had failed to deliver on his promises to the residents of West Pokot and had started to deflect by blaming him.

“He has a bad strategy, and he cannot force things. Let him follow the rules, regulations, laws and the constitution,” he said.

Atudonyang said he has on several occasions advised the governor on issues pertaining to the county, but he has given him a deaf ear.

"If things don't work out his way he has to find someone to blame,” he said.

Atudonyang said the assembly is mandated to oversight the county and attempts to twist it was unlawful.

"There is no one working hard to bring him down. There is a lot of politics ongoing on the ground, and he has not taken control on what is going on," he said. "I will return after Covid-19 pandemic. I will come to the ground to fix some things. Let him follow the law.”

In November 2018, Atudonyang sent a team of doctors from the US to Kacheliba and Chepareria. The team wrote a report on how to improve health services and facilities in the county.

In April, Kanu Secretary General Nick Salat reprimanded Lonyangapuo for plotting to initiate a coup in the assembly.

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