Trouble in the Taita Taveta County deepened Monday after Governor Granton Samboja told off Deputy President William Ruto over remarks regarding the budget stalemate that has grounded activities for more than three months.
Mr Samboja was unhappy with Dr Ruto’s remarks the the county leadership should stop being childish over the handling of the stalemate.
Accusing the Deputy President of belittling the county leadership, Mr Samboja told Dr Ruto to concentrate on solving pressing matters like land grabbing and the persistent squatter challenges within Taita, “as he doesn’t have a good understanding of the Taita budget impasse”.
“We know our problems; we will find a formula to sort out the stalemate. We don’t need Ruto’s help nor counsel over our internal affairs. That’s why you have not seen me going to his office to ask for help but instead reached out to President Uhuru Kenyatta and (opposition leader) Raila Odinga,” Mr Samboja told mourners on Monday during a funeral in Wundanyi.
He added: “We don’t need his counsel and that is why even when I said we should dissolve the county, I reached out to every other national leader but him. The petition will not land at his desk, so he cannot purport to speak on behalf of the presidency,” Mr Samboja charged.
The governor was reacting to Dr Ruto's comments on Sunday in which he termed the plan to dissolve the county as “upuzi” (nonsense).
On Sunday, Dr Ruto - while speaking at Bughuta grounds in Voi - said the President will not dissolve the county government over what he termed as petty issues that could be resolved amicably, adding that the impasse has derailed development in the county that has been lagging behind for decades.
He said the national government will not be part of the dispute between the governor and the ward representatives.
“Citizens used to complain of being left behind in development and that is why we chose the devolution system. Now you are surprising me that this county wants to dissolve its government. You should stop such kind of petty games,” the deputy president said.
The DP asked the leaders to put their egos aside and negotiate. “I believe the solution to your problems lies with you. You don’t have to travel all the way to Nairobi to seek other people’s opinions to solve your problems. Residents are yearning for development and these quarrels are wasting their time.”
Mr Samboja, who was absent in Bughuta where the DP presided over a fundraising in aid of over 40 churches in Kasigau Ward, said the DP used the wrong language to address a problem he called “serious and complex”.
On Monday, the DP held a private meeting with MCAs led by speaker Meshack Maghanga at Sarova Taita Hills hotel in Mwatate during which he said it is regrettable that differences in ideas and principles among leaders threatens to derail service delivery to the people.
Governor Samboja had already collected 52,100 signatures to support his petition to dissolve the county after MCA refused to cede ground on their demands.
Over the last three months, different mediation forums had been called in an effort to end the stalemate in vain.
“More than 52,000 people have signed our petition to dissolve the county. Are they petty when they demand a dissolution?” Samboja posed.
“The moment the DP terms this exercise as ‘upuzi’, then he is telling the residents that they really don’t have an issue. It speaks volumes on what he thinks about their needs and views,” Mr Samboja said, adding that Taita Taveta residents would not accept to be belittled.