Lusaka’s ex-deputy ditches him for Wangamati after running mate snub
Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka’s former deputy when he was Bungoma governor has ditched him for his political archrival Wycliffe Wangamati after being overlooked for the running mate position.
Mr Hillary Chongwony was among seven people from the Mt Elgon region who were eyeing a chance to deputise Mr Lusaka, the Kenya Kwanza candidate for Bungoma’s top job.
He was disappointed that his former boss chose someone else, accusing him of betrayal.
This is after Mr Lusaka last Wednesday picked gender rights activist Jennifer Mbatiany, who also hails from Mt Elgon, as his deputy.
Other leaders from Mt Elgon who had expressed their interest in the position were Mr David Maling'a, Mr David Kimukung, Mr Nicholas Kiboi, Mr John Shikuku, Mr Mokin arap Ptanguny and Mr Boniventure Chengek.
While all the other running mate hopefuls had accepted Mr Lusaka’s decision and decided to support the pair, Mr Chongwony resorted to throwing tantrums and defected to Mr Wangamati’s camp.
Why he is offended
He said he was offended by Mr Lusaka’s decision, arguing that he had been loyal to him. He said he had helped connect Ms Mbatiany to Mr Lusaka before she was hired as a gender adviser in their administration.
He has ruled out working with Mr Lusaka politically.
Political analysts have observed that the Bungoma governor’s race will be a repeat of the 2017 contest in which Mr Wangamati beat Mr Lusaka.
Mr Wangamati, who vied on a Ford Kenya party ticket, won the election with a margin of about 20,000 votes in a hotly contested race. Mr Lusaka had contested under Jubilee, which he has ditched for Ford Kenya.
Mr Wangamati also ditched Ford Kenya and joined the Democratic Action Party-Kenya (DAP-K), associated with Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa.
He made the move after a botched coup attempt in the party orchestrated by party leader Moses Wetang’ula's allies – Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi, his Tongaren counterpart Dr Eseli Simiyu and Mr Wangamati.
On Sunday, an agitated Mr Chongwony joined forces with Mr Wangamati after failing to be selected as running mate for Mr Lusaka.
He hosted Mr Wangamati at his Kaptama home at the weekend, with unconfirmed reports indicating they had reached a deal where he was promised a position on the County Executive Committee if the governor retains his seat.
Unveiling Ms Mbatiany last week, Mr Lusaka described her as a hardworking woman who had fought for gender rights and was also a pastor who had played a crucial role in fostering peace among warring communities in the Mt Elgon region that had been hit with violence especially during election periods.
And speaking at his home in Kaptama on Sunday when he hosted Mr Wangamati, Mr Chongwony said Mr Lusaka had betrayed him and can't be trusted.
"He betrayed me after I had stood with him all those years. I can't support him again,” he said.
“Mr Lusaka was about to be impeached by Ford Kenya party MCAs, who had been instructed to do so by party leader Moses Wetang'ula after his administration bought the controversial wheelbarrows at an exorbitant price of Sh109,000, but I really stood by his side.”
He said he was offended by Mr Lusaka’s move as he had been at the forefront hoping to become his deputy again.
"I wish Mr Lusaka and his running mate Ms Mbatiany well and even if [he] sends people to try and convince me to stay with him, he can't win my support again," said Mr Chongwony.
But his decision attracted harsh criticism from residents of Mt Elgon and Sabaot elders, with some describing him as egocentric.
Mr Francis Chemwor, a Sabaot elder, said Mr Chongwony had proved that he was self centred and could not support his kinsmen.
"He is coming out as a very selfish person at heart. What is wrong with Mr Lusaka picking another person, yet he was given a chance before and others supported him?" said Mr Chemwor, adding that the disgruntled Mr Chongwony had demonstrated that he does not have the interests of the community at heart.
"He is on his own because he refused to listen to the advice of the elders. We in Mt Elgon are firmly under Kenya Kwanza and we shall vote for Mr Lusaka as our governor and Dr Ruto as the fifth President."
Mr Lusaka, on his side, wished Mr Chongwony well, saying he appreciated the time they worked together. But he warned him that he should not fall prey to "cheap political con games".
"He has run away because he didn't get an opportunity to deputise me. My question is, is he getting that position where he is going?" said Mr Lusaka.
He cautioned him not to tread what he described as "a treacherous political journey."