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VAS

Why Vihiga MCAs are suddenly pledging loyalty to Governor Moses Akaranga

WESTERN
By Eric lungai | October 25th 2014
Vihiga Governor Moses Akaranga.

Vihiga County Governor Moses Akaranga started running his government on a rough note as majority of elected Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) belong to a different party. Mr Akaranga who, was elected on the Progressive Party of Kenya (PPK) is the only governor of the 47 counties on that party.

The County Assembly has 39 members, 25 allied to Musalia Mudavadi’s United Democratic Front (UDF) party, 13 allied to CORD and one on PPK. Governor Akaranga’s administration has had its share of a bite from assembly members who early this year impeached four County Executive Committee Members; one got a reprieve when the Industrial Court reinstated him pending determination of his case.

“Most of the leaders did not understand that by opposing everything the governor was doing, it would result into them not performing at the end of their time. After they learnt of a peaceful co-existence and the need to work together, they have been very supportive,” says Akaranga.

The governor notes that the good working relationship with the MCAs has come about after he took them for various seminars and workshops where they were taken through various steps of peaceful co-existence.

Wanting cases

He notes that they have since been having continuous meetings between the Executive and the Assembly, which has helped them come together and work for a common goal. During the recent Mashujaa Day celebrations in Mbale, County Assembly Leader of Majority Andrew Ahuga said they had decided to work with the governor to spur quick economic growth.

“We have pledged our loyalty to the governor because opposing him in everything will not make the region do any better. We want to alienate the wanting cases of poverty in the region,” he said.

“There are some MCAs who have vowed to work with the governor to protect their political careers. They are therefore not honest and sincere about their newly found support for the governor,” says Nathan Kamidi, MCA allied to UDF.

Mr Kamidi says most leaders in Vihiga are insincere in what they want from the county government thereby realising poor development record: “Sometimes back, most of them blamed the governor for lack of development but all of a sudden, they began showing support when they realised their political careers may crumble.”

However, another MCA sees it differently: “We decided to work with Akaranga because in the long run, if we frustrate him, it is our people back in wards who will suffer by not getting proper service delivery,” Banja ward representative Noah Mmbwanga says.

Another factor that could have triggered the MCAs to a working union with the governor is the fact that he has publicly declared his support for Mudavadi’s bid for the presidency, despite them being political rivals.

“I am going to work with Mudavadi to make sure he gets what he wants in his bid for the country’s top seat,” he says.

During meetings in the county, Mudavadi has also asked the leaders to support the governor because devolution’s fruits could not be actualised if governors will continually be harassed from all quarters, as it was a learning process.

“The governors being the first to be in charge of devolved units, could offer practical lessons in future about what should be done to make devolution more successful,” Mudavadi said in a youths’ meeting at Nyang’ori. He notes that the support from County Commissioner Boaz Cherotich has made his work easier.

“The relationship has had positive implications on development and security matters,” he says.

Already, there has been a bit of scuffle with various politicians warming up for several lucrative seats, including the governor’s, eyed by Vihiga MP Yusuf Chanzu, which has put the county in a campaign mood that most residents view as a precursor to no development, if it persists.

Some residents have complained that the governor’s appointees have not delivered services as expected.

“The staff employed should be given clear roles and get enough training in community project prioritisation, planning and effective monitoring of the community projects implemented by the county,” says Victor Ijaika; chairperson of Vihiga County Public Benefits Organisation Network.

Public outcry

He notes that staff that were recruited from the defunct local authorities need comprehensive civic education for them to understand this is a government with clear mandates and there is a Constitution that must be adhered to especially in areas of citizen participation and project planning and implementation.

He further wants the road construction works department strengthened and need to have more competent persons to offer quality technical support in ensuring value is realised for money allocated to roads.

“My belief is that we are in the inception stage of county structures and the trickle down of development is not yet felt at the lowest level. Everyone tasked with responsibilities at the county should go back to the drawing board and review their strategies. What will we have to show the people come 2017?” poses Ijaika.

Last week, interim County secretary Linet Abdalla affirmed this when she took a tour of offices and found that most of them were empty.

Speaking in her office Ms Abdalla said that the county was experiencing slow growth in terms of development and service delivery because most workers were employed without them knowing what they were expected to be doing in certain offices.

“There has been a public outcry that most of the officers employed in the county especially the ministers and their chief officers are not delivering quality service to the citizens particularly because they are rarely found in their offices. It seems most of them do not know what they are supposed to be doing,” she said.

She said officers will now be forced to have service charters in their offices and subjected to signing of performance contracts, if it will make them settle down and deliver.

A county that has more than one community, Vihiga is facing a challenge from the minority community who want to be recognised and affirmative action applied at the county level to accommodate them.

Apparently the Teriks, a minority Kalenjin speaking people have insisted they must be considered by the Vihiga County where majority of residents belong to the Luhya community. Being one of the four counties in Western, Vihiga has five constituencies: Luanda, Emuhaya, Hamisi, Sabatia and Vihiga and is inhabited by four sub-ethnic groups that include, Banyore, Tiriki, Maragoli and the Teriks.

Vihiga is a food insecure region, because most of the food items are from neighbouring counties, which is a worrying trend. “We must invest in agriculture properly, especially for commercial purposes,” Senator George Khaniri says.

“We have tea, cereals, horticulture which are being carried out but in small scale. We need to empower our farmers ensure they get fertiliser at the right time, and assist them access the market during harvest time,” he adds.

In the last financial year, the county government purchased 4,333 bags of 50 kg subsidised fertiliser, which was sold to farmers at a subsidised price. So far, Sh 22 million tissue culture bananas project has been initiated and over 500,000 tea seedlings have been sold to farmers at subsidised prices to increase the acreage in the region.

“In the first year, the project will achieve 285 acres of bananas and the main target is to achieve 3,000 acres of bananas to push incomes of farmers from Sh40,000 to at least Sh250,000 by 2017,” says the Agriculture department’s chief officer, Moses Andangalu.

Cottage industries

The hilly and rocky county is however suffering from lack of industries that could help turn around its economic status. The major economic activities that drive the county’s economy include cottage industries, subsistence farming, tea farming, livestock farming, wholesale and retail trade, quarrying and mining, all on a small scale.

Phonolite rock that is a good material for use in manufacture of ballast is found in southern part of the county at Tigoi-Gambogi-Simbi areas. the rock is also found south-west of Mbale town and south-west of Kima. But it has not been exploited.

“One of the things the national government should be planning for Vihiga is to set up a factory that can manufacture ballast for commercial purposes. Unfortunately that has not been done,” former speaker Kenneth Marende who hails from Vihiga says.

Hailed as a natural stone haven, Vihiga has plenty of granite to offer, the Southern part of the mineral rich area is dominated by rugged granitic hills within Maragoli, Nyang’ori and Bunyore, all which are yet to be tapped.

Among the development projects already accomplished by the department of environment include: drilling of 10 Boreholes, equipping and implementation of pipeline network for Kaptech and Esalwa; elevated pressed steel tanks at Kaimosi and Ellongo primary school; rehabilitation of Vihiga Water Supply and pipelines and extension of water pipelines in sections of Luanda Town.

Other development projects include: construction of 75 water springs, three per ward and rehabilitation of shallow wells in North Maragoli; rehabilitation works and payment of electricity to enable power connection at Mang’ong’o, Mbihi and Bumbo- Shamakhokho community water projects; commenced constructions of six public sanitation facilities within the county; rehabilitation of Chango, Vokoli and Nyang’ori Water Tanks and capacity building of leaders of community water projects.

On forestry, the county has initiated an ambitious plan of the planting of 300,000 trees in public primary schools and the planting of 8,000 indigenous seedlings at Emabungo Hills.

Due to its small size, The Commission on Revenue Allocation allocated Sh3.6 billion to the County this financial year.

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