Explainer: The three thorny issues pitting Meru MCAs against Governor Mwangaza

Kawira Mwangaza meru mcas

Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza addresses her supporters outside the Assembly after MCAs walked out on her during her inaugural address on October 19, 2022. 

Photo credit: David Muchui | Nation Media Group

Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza has been engaged in a tough war with Members of County Assembly since assuming office, hitting a crescendo last week when MCAs walked out as she delivered her inaugural speech. Police were forced to lob teargas canisters as supporters of Ms Mwangaza and the MCAs hurled stones at each other.

So bad is the row that Meru legislators have offered to mediate between the county boss and ward representatives even as each side hardens its stance. 

On Sunday, Meru MCAs woke up to find their WhatsApp group, “Meru County MCAs 2022” disbanded. This, they say, was the only link between them and governor Mwangaza. Governor Mwangaza, who was the founder and administrator of the group, removed all the MCAs and disbanded it as the tiff with the county legislators escalated.

What, exactly, is the row between the parties about? The Nation looked at three key issues that are at the centre of the tiff between Meru MCAs and Ms Mwangaza.

1. Access to the governor

Meru MCAs have alleged failure by Governor Mwangaza to give MCAs audience to discuss burning issues or answer their calls. They also accuse her of disrespecting them at public meetings and lecturing them with the aim of humiliating them.

However, Governor Mwangaza says the MCAs’ protests are stemming from external influence, arguing that she has met them enough times. The governor also previously said that her style of leadership relies on being with the people at the grassroots.

“I met the elected MCAs at my private home immediately after being sworn in and formed a WhatsApp group. I have met the Speaker 13 times,” she said.

“I have had a sitting with the Speaker and the majority and minority leaders in my office for more than one hour. I have been to more than 20 wards with the MCAs. I do not have time to sit in the office waiting for the MCAs to greet me.”

She added: “I went all the way to Mombasa on the invitation of the Speaker during the MCAs’ induction. We stayed late into the night, but they now claim I refused to have dinner with them.”

But Mr Bundi said despite meeting the governor several times, they had not had time to discuss the burning issues.

The MCAs however insisted that despite meeting the governor several times, they had not had time to discuss the burning issues.

2. Row over Ward Development Fund      

Ms Mwangaza and Meru MCAs have failed to agree on establishment of the Ward Development Fund and how it will work. There are also concerns about the bursary fund.

The conflict, she argues, is not about a ward fund but a political witch-hunt spearheaded by some Meru politicians. Ms Mwangaza said if MCAs had cared to listen to her last week, the speech could have opened a discussion on the ward fund and bursary allocations.

In her speech, she called for a joint consultative forum with MCAs on establishing a kitty within the law.

“I am aware that senior politicians who lost the election are sponsoring the conflict. This is why the MCAs keep changing goal posts,” she said.

Ms Mwangaza also wants the bursary fund to be consolidated for equitable distribution of resources.

However, ward reps want to retain the leeway to determine who gets bursaries through the ward fund. Bursaries are currently given through the ward fund and the County Retention and Enhancement Fund.

3. Clash over House procedure

The MCAs, and Speaker Ayub Bundi, further hit out at the governor for what they said was forced entry into the assembly and ignoring House procedures.

"The governor should have paid a courtesy call to the clerk and the Speaker before addressing the assembly. Procedure requires that we walk in accompanied by the mace. However, we were shocked to see her storming in," Mr Bundi said.

For her part, the governor said she found the assembly gate barricaded and had to leave her vehicle and walk in.

“When we walked into the assembly, the door was also closed. We manoeuvered and managed to access the assembly. They were intent on denying me access,” Ms Mwangaza said.