October 20th 2017

Top Stories / Counties

Laikipia governor's former allies rank top in election battle

Kabugi won office alongside his boss by a landslide, only to fall out with him in the course of the administration. The DG has relied on the same campaign machinery that swept Irungu to office, and some of whose members feel marginalised by the governor.

By Nyambura Muthoninmuthoni@kenyafreepress.comMonday, 20 Feb 2017 13:49 EAT

A message from Laikipia Deputy Governor Gitonga Kabugi urging potential voters to register during the just-ended voter registration drive.

The battle for the Laikipia County governor’s seat is crowded with seven candidates having declared interest for the top position currently held by former civil society actor Joshua Irungu. Mr Irungu is facing opposition from his former allies turned foes including County Secretary John Mwaniki and Deputy Governor Gitonga Kabugi, former permanent secretary for foreign affairs Thuita Mwangi, former Laikipia West MP Nderitu Muriithi, and businessmen Boniface Nyamu, James Mathenge and Francis Ng’ang’a.

So hot is the Jubilee Party ticket here that all the aspirants are intending to vie on the party's ticket and have called for a fair nomination process. Mr Irungu is a community development specialist who was elected as Laikipia’s first governor in the 2013 general elections under The National Alliance (TNA) in the then Jubilee Coalition.

Up until the year 2000, he was a civil servant in Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, with responsibility for Laikipia West and Nyahururu divisions of what was then Laikipia District. He resigned from government and joined USAid and took charge of the International Small Group and Tree Planting Programme (ISGTPP).

The former county secretary Mwaniki who wants to take over from Irungu was sacked early 2016 for showing interest in the governor’s seat. He has accused the governor of slowing down development of the region, saying that if elected, he would make the semi-arid county a better region and attractive to investors.

Mwaniki's former boss has been accused of not fighting corruption effectively, and a corruption risk assessment by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission found that some departments in the county government including procurement and finance were prone to corruption which range from bribery, procurement irregularities, favouritism and embezzlement of public funds. The governor has also been accused of employing staff based on lines of favouritism.

Before Mwaniki took the job in Mr Irungu's administration, he was a senior consultant at Africa Development Bank, technical consultant at Rwanda Stock Exchange and project consultant at the East African Community in Arusha, Tanzania. He was also the head of operations and technology at Nairobi Securities Exchange, and before that the group IT manager at Coopers Ltd. He is seen by professionals as a blot on the governor's re-election should he roll out his campaign well.

Another top challenger to Irungu is Deputy Governor Kabugi, who won office alongside his boss by a landslide, only to fall out with him in the course of the administration. The DG has relied on the same campaign machinery that swept Irungu to office, and some of whose members feel marginalised by the governor.

Former PS Mwangi announced his political debut to contest for Laikipia Gubernatorial seat in 2016 and then went queit. He has recently made a comeback and says he will use his over 20 years of experience in government to transform Laikipia into one of the top global recreational, hospitality, sports and holiday destinations.

Mr Mwangi says he will achieve this by joining his global networks to the many opportunities provided by the beauty of Laikipia’s natural habitat, the vibrant cultures and the strategic location. They will provide incentives and streamline the speed and ease of investment to attract investors who will build hospitality facilities that provide decent jobs and prosperity to their residents.

On his part, Mr Muriithi, who served as assistant minister for industrialization during the Grand Coalition Government of 2008-2013, is capitalising on his 20-year experience in public service. Some say he would better run for the senator's position but he has insisted that he would be the best governor for Laikipia.

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