Kakamega: Where leaders make headlines for feuding at expense of governance, development

From left, Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale, Mumias East MP Peter Salasya and Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa.

What you need to know:

  • A section of MPs and MCAs who have chosen to support leaders eyeing the gubernatorial seat in the 2027 elections are at crossroads with Governor Fernandes Barasa accusing him of doing little in terms of development. 
  • The political tiff between MP Salasya and the Governor has played out in public on several occasions. 

A rift between Ward Representatives, Members of Parliament and Kakamega County Governor continues to rage on causing disruption in service delivery and governance in the Western Kenya County.

The wrangles are partly fueled by early campaigns for 2027 and personal interests in the goings-on in the sugar industry within the county.

Kakamega, which is known for its influence and political significance, is shaping up into a battleground for a fierce political scramble as current elected leaders eye bigger seats while new well-oiled entrants warm up to unseat those in power. 

A section of MPs and MCAs who have chosen to support leaders eyeing the gubernatorial seat in the 2027 elections are at crossroads with Governor Fernandes Barasa accusing him of doing little in terms of development. 

County of Governors Finance Committee chairperson Fernandes Barasa

Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Mumias East MP Peter Salasya and Chekalini ward MCA Titus Kwoma are leading the onslaught on Governor Barasa whom they have continuously mocked in public for 'criss-crossing the county launching development projects'. 

The political tiff between Salasya and the Governor has played out in public on several occasions. 

When the county boss held his first public participation rally at Lusheya, Mr Salasya is reported to have organised demonstrators to block the governor from attending the meeting.

The MP would later find himself in trouble after he was allegedly roughed up by Mr Barasa's supporters during a church function at Bukaya on November 13, 2023 for asking the governor to keep off the revival process of Mumias Sugar Company. 

Mr Salasya claimed Barasa was being funded by the rival West Kenya Sugar Millers to scuttle the revival of Mumias. 

Mumias East MP Peter Salasya

Mumias East MP Peter Salasya.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The wrangles have insidiously spread to the ward representatives and members of parliament with the former accusing the latter of undermining and physically attacking them. 

In Khwisero for example, Kisa East MCA Stephen Maloba was allegedly stabbed to death by a youth suspected to be an ally of the area MP Christopher Aseka. The case is still in court.

Public tiff

In Mumias East, Isongo-Malaha ward MCA Peter Walunya was allegedly assaulted by Mr Salasya. The case is also in court.

In Matungu, a team of youth said to be allies of MP Peter Nabulindo, reportedly attacked Khalaba ward MCA Boniface Osanga during a public rally convened by Governor Barasa in Namamali ward early this month. 

Four MCAs from Matungu condemned the political intolerance in the area and asked Mr Barasa to convene a meeting of all elected leaders in Kakamega to resolve their differences. 

The MCAs - Donald Okumu of Koyonzo Ward, Karim Tingli (Kholera Ward), Boniface Mabuka (Namamali Ward) and Osanga regretted that a meeting that was planned to launch significant infrastructure projects including the construction of 10 kilometers of roads spanning across all five wards of Matungu Constituency was marred by political competition.

"We call for political tolerance so that leaders who express interest in higher political positions should not be targeted during public engagements," said Mr Osanga who has declared to contest the parliamentary seat in Matungu. 

The MCAs have since vowed that going forward they will be moving around in the company of armed youth to 'protect their lives'.

Even so, Mr Barasa has asked the elected leaders to focus on serving the electorates from the positions they hold and desist from early campaigns that are piling tension at the expense of development. 

Terming it a misplaced priority, the Governor lashed out at MCAs who have 'abandoned' their duties to engage in premature campaigns. 

"I challenge those fighting leaders who are holding particular positions to show any plan or ongoing projects they are implementing instead of belittling and disrupting what other elected leaders are doing through petty and retrogressive politics," said Mr Barasa.

In the lower region of Kakamega, Mumias West MP Johnson Naicca and Butere's Tindi Mwale are the only MPs who attend public events accompanied by their MCAs.

Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale and woman representative Elsie Muhanda have also locked horns as they compete to oust Governor Barasa from the county throne.

Ms Muhanda who is serving her second term in the office of the woman representative has declared her interest for the governor position in the 2027 elections.

The same position is being sought after by Mr Khalwale and UDA Secretary General Cleophas Malala. Both Khalwale and Malala have tasted the murky waters of the gubernatorial race in the past but lost.

Mr Khalwale contested the seat in 2017 against former governor Wycliffe Oparanya. He came second with 134,999 votes against Oparanya’s 387,999 votes.

In the 2022 race, Mr Malala lost to Mr Barasa with 159,508 with Mr Barasa emerging victorious with 192,929 votes. Mr Khalwale had dropped out of the race in favour of Mr Malala after interventions by Kenya Kwanza leaders.

On January 15, 2024, Mr Khalwale, a longtime political foe to Mr Oparanya visited the former governor in his Mabole home where they crafted a partnership to forge a political path towards the 2027 elections.

The two reaffirmed their commitment to unity of purpose saying they had set aside their political differences and decided to work together to advance the development of Kakamega County.

“The former governor and I have agreed to work together for the sake of development in this county. We will reach out to all shades of leadership in this county, including MCAs and MPs, to ensure that Kakamega succeeds. When Kakamega succeeds, the vision I shared with Oparanya in 2013 will also succeed,” Mr Khalwale told the media.