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No solution in sight for Waiguru wars with Kemri, MCAs

Sunday March 29 2020

Governor Anne Waiguru

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru. She is battling a revolt over her leadership style. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

WANJOHI GITHAE
By WANJOHI GITHAE
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Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru is a politician under siege.

Locally, members of the county assembly (MCAs) have placed huddles in every move she makes, while nationally she is a lone ranger in her battle with the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri).

Recently, the County Service Board’s term came to an end and she nominated four people to take up the posts.

However, MCAs rejected the nominees, saying they were not representative of the county’s diversity.

Ms Waiguru also sacked three county executives and nominated new ones. Only the Health executive was confirmed while two were rejected.

Now the government is operating without the Trade and Transport executives.

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Last week, the assembly passed a motion abolishing the governor’s Directorate of Liaison and Communications office.

The MCAs termed the office a propaganda tool, saying it was not serving interests of the county government and its residents.

2022 AMBITION

They unanimously endorsed a motion to disband it. Staff will, however, continue staying in office because there is no public service board to send them home.

On Friday, the High Court temporarily halted the move to abolish the office.

MCA Gudson Muchina said the plenary had rejected names of new service board members based on recommendations of the relevant committee.

“The governor has proved that she is not a team player. She is a lone ranger,” Mr Muchina said.

Ms Waiguru is one of the first three female governors in Kenya. The others are Charity Ngilu of Kitui and the late Joyce Laboso of Bomet.

Three years since her election, Ms Waiguru has set her eyes on a national seat come 2022.

But her support at home has suffered a beating as witnessed in February when all elected leaders from the county -- including Senator Charles Kibiru, Woman Representative Purity Ngirici, four MPs and a number of MCAs -- boycotted a consultative meeting she had called in Sagana.

The forum, meant to deliberate on the county’s proposals on the Building Bridges Initiative, was later held in Meru.

TEAM PLAYER

According to an MCA who sought anonymity, 12 elected MCAs have been opposed to Ms Waiguru since her election and eight who were on her side have decamped, leaving her exposed when she presents her motions to the floor.

The Sunday Nation has learnt that the MCAs are unhappy because they have not been given money from the Ward Development Fund, which the previous administration used to dole out to them.

The county government has also not dispersed bursaries to all deserving students despite promising to do so.

The governor did not respond to our text and WhatsApp messages. However, Senator Kibiru said that all is not lost.

“The MCAs are the first line in oversight; they cannot be questioned for delivering on their constitutional mandate. We cannot, however, say that there is no problem. These issues need to be arbitrated and deliberated on by all leaders. People can always sit down and solve issues that face them,” he said.

Aside from the shenanigans between the governor and MCAs, the Kemri issue caught national attention when President Uhuru Kenyatta waded into it recently.

During a visit to the county last month, President Kenyatta asked the governor and Kemri officials to iron out their differences.

JOB CREATION

The fallout between Kemri and the governor started when the former decided to build a research centre either in Western or Mt Kenya region.

Eventually, Kirinyaga was chosen as the host county. The county donated 100 acres of land for the Sh15 billion project.

Kemri was supposed to build a level five hospital and a training wing at the research centre.

Kirinyaga’s first Governor Joseph Ndathi told the Sunday Nation that the project guaranteed Kirinyaga people 30 per cent of non-skilled jobs.

Mr Ndathi’s administration agreed to issue Kemri with a title deed. However, Ms Waiguru is yet to hand over the document.

A week after Ms Waiguru appeared to have had the backing of the President on the issue, powerful Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho toured the site of the project in Mwea, and called the delay in the commencement “stupidity”. Mr Kibicho comes from Kirinyaga.

RESOLUTION

The governor did not hesitate to respond. "Is PS Kibicho now superior to the President? If he wants to engage in village politics and insults, he should resign and join others in early campaigns.

“The county signed the MoU and forwarded it to Kemri for execution. We remain committed to looking out for the interests of Kirinyaga people. I'm sure that 30 per cent of manual and non-technical jobs for residents is not too much to ask. It has been done elsewhere, why not Kirinyaga?" she fired back.

Mr Ndathi now blames the stalled project on poor leadership. “The leadership is out of touch. There should be no turf wars between the Kirinyaga County government and Kemri since it is a simple issue that can be solved amicably.

“Those in office should realise that they will not occupy the positions forever. Once they leave office they will realise that they were elected by Kirinyaga people to serve them and Kenyan citizens in general,” he said.

Senator Kibiru wondered why the matter had taken so long to resolve. “If there was the handshake at the national level, the governor should initiate one with Kemri officials. It’s a simple issue that should not have dragged on for this long. She should take the initiative,” he said.