Makueni residents hold prayers as they appraise devolution

Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana addresses headteachers during the Mwalimu National Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association Conference at Wild Waters Centre in Mombasa on June 21, 2018. He believes that citizens want to be consulted on development matters. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Governor Kibwana has warned his executive against complacency in the wake of reports that the county is performing well.
  • Governor Kibwana recommends that political parties should only work with leaders who are committed to empowering citizens.

Hundreds of Makueni County residents met area leaders and clerics at St Joseph The Worker Catholic Church in Wote Town on Monday at an event meant to take stock and thank God for the milestone the devolved unit has made.

The second edition of the county prayer breakfast was organised jointly by the county government and religious leaders with roots in the county.

"We are advocating for servant leadership at the county leadership," Rev Jackson Muema of Deliverance Church in Kambu township and one of the event organisers announced.

Three weeks ago, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa declared Makueni as the 'county-number-one' and Prof Kivutha Kibwana as ‘governor number one’ on development, reinforcing similar remarks at home and on social media.


Even some local leaders who could not see eye to eye with Governor Kibwana in yesteryears have joined the growing chorus of those showering him and his administration with praises "for giving Makueni a good name".

It is undisputed that the governor’s second term has been relatively calm compared to the previous one, and that most of the projects started in the last term are bearing fruit in the second term.

Among the projects pinned to the governor's name is Makueni Fruits Processing Plant, which has already attracted a Sh110 million grant from the European Union.

Others, such as the Makueni Care, a local community-driven universal healthcare scheme, have earned the county a name worldwide for uplifting the welfare of the locals

But there is a general fear that the glory associated with the county's achievements is unsustainable.


For this reason, the governor has been careful not to be fascinated by the general feeling that the devolved unit has done better in terms of development compared to its 46 peers.

The Sunday Nation has learnt that the glory associated with the said success is the latest source of headache for the governor and members of his inner circle.

Whereas Prof Kibwana feels that the glory is founded on a shaky foundation, County Assembly Speaker Douglas Mbilu has expressed fears that the executive may be sucked into 2022 succession politics, denting the county's development.

Mr Mbilu's fear, which is shared by scores of elites in the region, has been expressed by local entertainers in allegories.

In the wake of executives trying to catch the eyes of the would be governors in the meantime, Mr Mbilu sought special protection prayers on behalf of the county administration.


He called on the governor to crack the whip on members of his executive who are not tuned to his development vision.

Mr Mbilu, who until his election as Speaker was a loyal member of Prof Kibwana's executive committee during the first term, further warned the executive against being excited by the 'county-number-one' tag, saying it might jinx the county's future.

The governor played down Mr Mbilu's concerns, saying that he has an elaborate strategy to ensure the executive remains focused.

For instance, he has announced plans to learn from the Meru County government, which is said to have created multiple institutions under which the various regional functions are undertaken.

Mr Paul Wasanga, the County Secretary, is more optimistic.

“We have a well-structured Vision 2025 with key transformative targets that guide our development path,” he told the Sunday Nation in an interview.


That notwithstanding, the governor has warned his executive against complacency in the wake of reports that the county is performing well.

"We are still marching towards Canaan," Prof Kibwana said during the prayer breakfast, referring to development envisioned in the county's Vision 2025, and called for maximum support from both the Assembly and the executive.

The executives signed performance contracts two months ago at a tense ceremony punctuated by calls by the governor on hard work.

The governor’s axe would fall on the executive shortly afterwards.

The governor suspended Godfrey Makau - the executive in charge of Youth, Gender and Sports department - three weeks ago, accusing him of underperformance.

The two fell out over the lackluster manner in which his department has been handling youth affairs, according to multiple highly-placed sources privy to the indefinite suspension.


Dr Naomi Nthenya, who is the Education executive, has since assumed Dr Makau's docket albeit in an acting capacity.

The governor, who celebrated his 64th birthday last week, has reiterated his commitment to work towards empowering the youth even after his retirement from politics.

He has intensified calls on Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) to take seriously their role of oversighting the executive, a move analysts see as a pointer to a dilemma in which the governor has found himself entangled lately.

"The Assembly should take very seriously its work of oversighting the Executive," he said, playing into the hands of pundits who have pointed at the governor's growing confidence with the Assembly.

The governor, who is also the chairman of Wiper party, has singled out politics as one his plans to safeguard his accomplishments.

He recommends that political parties should only work with leaders who are keen on and committed to empowering citizens.


The county has installed a network of citizens at the grassroots - which the governor turned to to tame unruly MCAs during the last term.

Out of the 30 MCAs discredited by the governor, only one was re-elected.

The World Bank and other development agencies has lauded the way the county consults its citizens while making budgets and while undertaking development projects.

Seen as a firm believer in transformational leadership, Prof Kibwana believes that working with communities is better than "erecting a big building".


Three MPs - Thaddeus Nzambia (Kaiti), Jessica Mbalu (Kibwezi East) and Joshua Kimilu (Kaiti) - have proudly embraced the model in distributing Constituency Development Fund cash albeit in a less structured manner.

He is expected to host his peers next month to share with them his development model.

The governor is convinced that citizens want to be consulted on development matters.