Regional bloc's fate hangs in the balance as governors’ terms end

Wycliffe Oparanya and James Ongwae

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya (left) who served as the chairman of LREB, and his vice-chair and Kisii County counterpart James Ongwae.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The fate of the 14-member Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) hangs in the balance as the tenure of governors who served at the helm ends.

This comes as eight of 14 governors who founded the group are set to exit after serving their two terms in office.

Among those set to leave office are Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, who served as the chairman of the bloc, and his vice-chair and Kisii County counterpart James Ongwae.

The two leaders have been vocal in pushing for the agenda of the LREB, which was born in 2014 out of the understanding that strategic connections between counties with shared interests is an effective means of bringing development.

Other than Kakamega and Kisii, the counties that constitute the bloc include Bomet, Bungoma, Busia, Kericho, Kisumu, Migori, Nandi, Siaya, Trans Nzoia, Nyamira and Vihiga.

Of the governors of these counties, those who are set to leave include Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia), Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay), Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Okoth Obado (Migori), Cornell Rasanga (Siaya) and Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia).

But governors Hillary Barchok (Bomet), Patrick Wangamati (Bungoma), Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu), Stephen Sang (Nandi), Amos Nyaribo (Nyamira) and Wilber Ottichilo (Vihiga), who are serving their first terms are seeking to be re-elected.

LREB chief executive officer Victor Nyagaya has reiterated that there will be no void as the secretariat is working round the clock to ensure a smooth transition into the next administration.

He pointed out that the new office holders will be governed by the LREB 2022-2027 Strategic Plan, which defines the roadmap the bloc will pursue in the next five years.

“We are confident that the next leadership will keep up the LREB vision and shape the destiny of the region by leveraging existing assets, addressing constraints and defining key steps that leaders and citizens of the region can take to transform the shared vision of prosperity into reality,” said Mr Nyagaya.

He underlined the need to create a framework through which county government efforts can be pooled to harness the abundant natural resources that are yet to be fully exploited.

He maintained that the flagship project to set up a Sh2.8 billion regional bank is still on course as the bloc awaits the passage of a bill to affirm its legality.

Mr Nyagaya noted that the endorsement of the County Resources Development Bill, 2020, expected to be endorsed by the next Senate, will give way for the rollout of the flagship project, which is expected to strengthen the socio-economic development of the region.

While Kisumu and Kakamega have contributed their seed capital to make the project a success, he said their first business after the August 9 General Election will be to mobilise the remaining counties to fulfil their promise.

“The funds have been safely kept in a fixed deposit account awaiting the legislation sponsored by nominated Senator Rose Nyamunga,” he said.

The financing by the counties was temporarily halted by the Controller of Budget, who noted that the Public Finance Management Act does not authorise devolved units to make budgetary allocations to the nascent organisation.

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