Kisii leaders back at it? Senator Richard Onyonka now makes demands before meeting Governor Simba Arati

Kisii Governor Simba Arati and County Senator Richard Onyonka.

Kisii Governor Simba Arati and County Senator Richard Onyonka. The two leaders had agreed to a political ceasefire that is now on the verge of collapse.

Photo credit: Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Arati team accuse the senator of reneging on his promise to foster reconciliation and promote unity with the governor.
  • Onyonka is accused of regrouping with South Mugirango MP Silvanus Osoro to put governor Arati on what they term as oversight and on check.

Just days after National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula brokered a truce between Kisii Governor Simba Arati and Senator Richard Onyonka, suspicion seems to be running high between the two protagonists.

The Arati team accuses the senator of reneging on his promise to promote reconciliation and unity with the governor. They are accusing Mr Onyonka of working with other elected leaders to perpetuate their hostilities.

Mr Onyonka, a long-serving lawmaker from the larger Kitutu area, is accused of regrouping with the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), in particular South Mugirango MP Silvanus Osoro, to put Governor Arati under what they call 'oversight and on check.'

Immediately after the two leaders publicly embraced and promised to bury the hatchet, Mr Onyonka wrote a letter to Mr Arati outlining 13 conditions he wanted the governor to meet before they would meet to iron out their differences.

In the letter, Senator Onyonka demanded among other things, "Immediate implementation and operationalisation of the 2022/2023 budget estimates, urgent and immediate attention to health services in the county, relocation of all government meetings, business and other engagements from the Governor's private residence to the official gazetted offices".

Other issues include providing a good working environment for county staff, ending clanism and addressing insecurity in the county.

Mr Onyonka further demanded that Governor Arati "allow elders, church leaders, the business community and other stakeholders to be part of the discussions we will be having".

He ended his letter by reminding the governor that he was his overseer. "In view of the above, my office, which is mandated with the oversight role of the Kisii County government, recommends that the above issues be addressed within the confines of the law and further consultations be held with all stakeholders."

The senator's letter sparked outrage from the Arati team who accused Mr Onyonka of reneging on the promise he made to the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Catholic Church during a fundraising campaign for Nyamiobo Diocese in Bonchari Constituency.

There have been accusations between Mr Arati and Mr Onyonka over the issues raised in the letter, leaving residents at a crossroads and concerned about the growing rift between elected leaders.

The governor's team saw the senator's demands as a deliberate obstruction to the reconciliation, with some calling them a code of dishonesty.

Mr Arati's supporters accuse the senator of putting the cart before the horse, saying that all the issues raised should have waited until the reconciliation meeting was convened to be put on the table.

They allege that the senator's behaviour smacks of juvenile delinquency, saying the demands show an alleged premeditated plan to blackmail the governor and in the process discredit him on what they describe as non-issues.

Despite being elected on the same ODM ticket, Governor Arati and Senator Onyonka have become sworn enemies, which Speaker Wetangula said was detrimental to the electorate in Kisii County.

Mr Wetangula said it was absurd that the two leaders were at loggerheads yet they were campaigning together for the 2022 General Elections."I beg you, like your father or big brother, please agree to walk together, unite and work for the people of Kisii. Political battles are always there, people even run against their blood brothers, but when the politics is over, they go back to work," the National Assembly Speaker said as he warned that 2027 is still far away for leaders to start playing politics.

He explained that political leaders fight in public during the day but at night they retreat to their private rooms where they even share tea.

Mr Onyonka, who is currently the longest-serving MP in the county, is seen as the natural leader of other MPs because of his longevity in public leadership.

However, observers of Kisii politics have questioned his approach to issues that require deliberate and methodical handling to avoid the public spats that Kisii County voters have witnessed.

He has been in parliament since 2007, after defeating former MP Jimmy Angwenyi to represent the larger Kitutu Chache before it was split into Kitutu Chache South and Kitutu North.

He went on to win two consecutive terms in Kitutu Chache South before teaming up with Arati to lead Kisii County on the ODM ticket, which he, Arati and women's representative Dorice Aburi swept last year.