With his diminutive figure, Bomet Deputy Governor Hillary Barchok is regarded as a laid back person and reluctant politician plucked from university lecture halls and thrown into the political ring with little experience on how to wade through the murky waters for survival.
His detractors consider him as lacking the meat and muscle to put up a fight, indecisive, conformist and too soft not only in manner of speech, but even in his gait and can pass unnoticed in a crowd of ordinary folks and those of his ilk.
He does not make heads turn, does not travel around with abrasive aides and motorcades, does his own shopping in local supermarkets and kiosks, does not live large, and, perhaps, therein lies his strength, bottled up in a small body size and a soft voice.
But Dr Barchok, like a cat pushed to a corner and staring at death, recently came out fighting with uncharacteristically sharp political claws, revealing the true character of a man always thought to have been playing second fiddle to his boss – Governor Joyce Laboso.
Dr Barchok is a specialist in curriculum development and a former dean of the school of education at Chuka University.
In 2017, Dr Laboso picked him as her running mate.
On Monday June 24, 2019, a young man who earned himself a short-lived celebrity status of sorts, and who has earned himself the moniker of a whistle blower, was arrested by police following a complaint from the County Human Resource Director Wesley Sigei over alleged irregular hiring of 241 employees on contracts by the executive.
This irked MCAs led by Majority Leader Josephat Kirui, a section of the county employees and political activists who, in a show of rare solidarity, camped almost overnight at the local police station seeking to have the whistle blower released from the cells unconditionally.
While Dr Barchok was out on official duties, about 50 youths stormed the human resource offices, flashed out everyone and ordered them closed as officers picked the little valuables they could lay their hands on and ran helter-skelter.
The offices were hurriedly closed.
This precipitated a sudden turn of events that exposed the underbelly of Governor Laboso’s administration with the MCAs securing the release of the suspect, drove him to the county headquarters where song and dance broke out among the youths camping at the offices.
On learning that County Secretary Evelyne Rono had sneaked out, the MCAs and the youths held a meeting with the three senior county employees where a barrage of accusations were levelled against the Dr Barchok and the CEC with claims of insubordination, irregular award of tenders, favouritism and nepotism in employment.
Resolutions passed and read by the Jubilee Party county chairman Benard Mutai after the meeting he co-chaired with the majority leader and attended by Chief of Staff Jane Sigilai and a number of senior county officers included the call for the suspension of the CEC and the HR director over the alleged irregular hiring of staff and other issues.
With gloves off, punching bare knuckles, a fuming Dr Barchok, back on the steering wheel, attended interdenominational prayers for Dr Laboso who was undergoing treatment in India.
The deputy governor launched a scathing attack on the masterminds of the previous day’s events.
Dr Barchok said he was fully in charge of the county’s affairs and that there was no leadership vacuum.
He told those who were out to undermine his leadership to “toe the line or ship out”.
He termed the resolutions passed during the meeting of MCAs and the youths the previous day as null and void, adding that order must prevail in the running of government affairs with the executive and legislative arms playing their separate roles.
“I am fully in charge of the executive arm of the county government, with instruments of power having been handed over to me by Dr Laboso when she left for treatment. It is a written executive order,” said Dr Barchok.
“We do not have two centres of power or parallel reporting lines…there is no leadership vacuum. It should be clear to the staff, public and the assembly that this is a government that cannot be run from the streets”.
Dr Barchok was now out to assert his authority.
“People should not take our silence for cowardice. Even if it is politics you want to deploy, bring it on, we will deal with it. Henceforth, it be business unusual,” said a visibly angry deputy governor.
He shrugged off claims of his being a “nobody” in Bomet politics.
“Some are even saying I was unknown, actually a nobody when I came here. So? Yes, that may be true, but now I am in charge. We are fully in charge here.”
He at the same time dismissed demands to sack some of the county staff.
“When you direct me to fire or discipline my staff, you are doing that based on what law? You must follow due process. The executive and assembly have separate mandates and these small quarrels should stop. Anything going out from the executive must have my blessing,” he said.
“Harassment of staff is unwarranted. As long as I am in charge, I will not stomach that, it is not allowed. It does not matter if they are our supporters or not, the law must be respected,” Dr Barchok said.
To the surprise of both foes and friends alike, the bare-knuckle approach silenced those who were in doubt on Dr Barchok’s authority and created a semblance of order in the county.