Penina Malonza: Her appointment to Cabinet historic

Penina MAlonza

Former Kitui deputy Governor Penina Malonza was on Tuesday appointed as Tourism Cabinet Secretary.

Photo credit: Courtesy

The surprise appointment of former Kitui Deputy Governor Penina Malonza as the new Cabinet Secretary (CS) for Tourism by President William Ruto is historic in several ways.

Other than being among the10 women picked, Ms Malonza is the first CS to be appointed from Kitui South constituency since independence and one of the only two ministers in Ukambani region.

It is a big win for the arid Kitui south which for decades has been marginalised, with all the previous Cabinet appointments in the last four regimes since 1963 going only to Kitui Central and Mwingi North constituencies.

Ms Malonza, a former senior executive with Compassion International – a non-governmental organisation, is best known for the five years she served as Deputy Governor between 2013 and 2017 and the acrimonious falling out with her boss-Governor Julius Malombe.

In an interesting political twist Ms Malonza was named by former Kitui Senator David Musila as his running mate, while still serving under Governor Malombe, and campaigned hard to send her boss home in the 2017 General Electon. Both Mr Malombe and Mr Musila lost the elections.

She takes over from Najib Balala who has served in the docket for more than 12 years cumulatively, spanning both the late Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta regimes.

Alongside former Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, the new CS will now be President Ruto’s political point person especially in Kitui County as the Head of State seeks to make inroads in Ukambani region.

Initially, Dr Ruto was banking on Kitui South MP Racheal Kaki Nyamai whom he had worked hard to propel politically and even ensured she’s re-elected in 2017 but they fell out with MP sticking to President Kenyatta’s Jubilee party.

The appointment also settles simmering political wars among UDA politicians n Ukambani region who were jostling for President Ruto’s eye with two factions which had emerged failing to

Ms Malonza who hails from Kibwea in Mutomo has her work cut out right from her home ground which borders the Tsavo East National Park with a myriad of challenges to address, chief among them the establishment of a tourist route and opening of the park’s Ikutha gate.

She will be tasked with steering the recovery of the tourism industry which was battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Malonza joins the Ministry at a time it is remaining optimistic to recover to the levels it was before the pandemic with the number of international tourists visiting the country since January to August growing by 91.3 per cent to 924,812, up from 483, 246 in the same period last year.

This came with a jump in inbound tourism earnings which more than doubled to Sh167.1 billion compared to the Sh83.2 billion recorded in a similar period last year.

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