Combined photos of Governor George Natembeya and his deputy Philomena Kapkory.

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Strained ties: Transzoia DG Kapkory opens up about difficult relationship with Natembeya

What you need to know:

  • Transzoia Deputy Governor, Ms Kapkory in an exclusive with interview spills the beans on where the rain started beating them.
  • Ms Kapkory says she owes her boss no apology for their fallout.

The battle for political supremacy between Trans Nzoia Governor George Natembeya and his deputy, Philomenah Kapkory, has been raging for months.

Ms Kapkory went public last month, accusing her boss of mistreatment, failure to facilitate her office, public vilification and threats to her life.

But Mr Natembeya hit back, claiming his deputy was working with his political opponents to undermine his administration.

Elected on Mr Eugene Wamalwa's DAP-Kenya Party, the two political newcomers rode Azimio's wave in the region in the August 2022 General Election to overwhelmingly defeat their opponent, former Kiminini MP, Dr Chris Wamalwa, winning twice as many votes.

But the two are now at loggerheads, with their feud escalating to the Senate, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.

Deputy Governor Ms Kapkory says she owes her boss no apology for their fallout. In fact, the DG has dared the governor to resign over an alleged loss of confidence in his leadership by residents after just over a year in office. political reporter COLLINS OMULO caught up with Ms Kapkory in an exclusive interview as she spills the beans on where the rain started beating them after being elected on DAP-Kenya Party ticket.

The former banker points out she has just realised theirs was a marriage of political convenience and she is paying for being from a community that overwhelmingly voted for President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

What is your relationship with the governor?

We have never had a good relationship. I have been putting up a face in public. I have gone through a lot of frustration at the hands of the governor. It is like a bad marriage where you have to persevere.

It is only a year into office, what is behind the frosty relationship between the two of you?

I think he is intimidated because I am more learned, experienced, exposed, networked and eloquent than him. But he should utilise those qualities rather than fighting me.

When did the cracks in the relationship between you and the governor begin?

Immediately after being sworn in, I have had to put up with a lot. I saw from the beginning that anything I offered to do was not being accepted. I was just dismissed. So from the beginning, I got the message that I was not wanted.

But the governor said you have been working well until you went to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting?

I have just been persevering. Nimeteseka sana (I have suffered a lot). I have been sidelined and my office has also been starved of funds. I have cried in my office.

But we never heard of anything of the sort until you came to the Senate?

It is just because in a bad marriage when you get in and realise what you got yourself into, you try to keep quiet hoping things will change. People had high expectations of us with his perceived track record and my background in the banking sector.

Or is it that you never contributed anything during the campaigns?

I was supposed to bring the Kalenjin votes and getting somebody from the President's party to vote against his person is normally a very big task. 

He told me to run with the Kalenjin sub-counties like Saboti, Endebess and Cherangany. And I did that. I put my best foot forward even though I came from the corporate world and had never even been to a political rally. He knows the effort I made and how much I put in financially. 

Or is it a case of a political deal gone sour?

I remember I was to get 30 percent in terms of government sharing, but he never gave me even one position. I have never even employed a cat in Trans Nzoia County.

When I inquired, he told me that my community and the larger Kalenjin community did not vote for him the way he expected despite getting 18,000 votes from the Sabaots.

He spewed the worst and told the elders who went to see him that he had realised he could be a governor even without the votes from the Kalenjin community. The governor said we should even count ourselves lucky because if he dies, I will be a governor.

So from the beginning I realised I was being punished because my community voted for Kenya Kwanza. 

But Governor Natembeya has employed many senior officers from the Kalenjin community?

That was a smokescreen. He just made the appointments because the court upheld the election of President William Ruto.

Go to the ground and you will realise that projects are taken to areas where he feels he got the highest votes.

Do you two meet to plan the running of the county?

He has never called me to his office to discuss plans for the county. Anytime I have gone to his office, it is me who has initiated the move. I am the one always asking to go and see him. He has never, since we were sworn in, called me to plan for anything.

The governor accused you of absconding Cabinet meetings?

I have only given excuses for two Cabinet meetings. One was when he sent me to Kisumu to represent him while the other one was when I had a tooth operation and he permitted me. But what I have realised is that he is one person who is very economical with the truth. He is very good at public relations and projecting a certain image.

So do you feel targeted?

In fact, I was even sidelined. I would just hear of meetings on Facebook. I would not be informed of such meetings or get involved in important decision-making. The governor could also set me up for failure by giving me duties without facilitation.

Why all these fights?

The intention is to get me out of office and he has even been using his staff to demean and threaten me. I was being mistreated yet I was not going anywhere. So they decided to put pressure on me to resign. I was told the governor told people close to him that he does not intend to stay with me for the next five years.

What was the last stroke that broke the camel’s back?

It was when the Sabaots petitioned for their own county. He started attacking the community calling them greedy and daydreamers. Tension began and everything became messy.

I was caught in the middle. He thought I was behind the clamour for a new county and he wanted me to take a stand. When I refused, it culminated in me being threatened. I feel he saw a soft target who happens to be from this community he does not like.

Do you support the petition by the Sabaot?

Sabaots started asking for a county many years ago and so it is not a new thing. It is periodical. Every so often, they agitate for a county. It is only that this time, they have met a person who thinks he can fight an entire community. He is fighting a community because of an idea that has been there for decades.

But why is the governor clinging to the UNGA meeting as the source of your strained working relationship?

That is not true. There were tensions way before UNGA. He already had a lot of bitterness against the community and I feel that is the reason he set his people to attack me.

I attended the meeting by the virtue of being an ex-co member of the East African Local Governments Association (EALGA) and even before UNGA, I had gone to other meetings in Tanzania and South Africa with no problem at all.

I informed him about the UNGA meeting and he had no problem until a letter came from Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s office. We had to get clearance from the government and that is why the letter by the Devolution Principal Secretary had to be written as this was not any ordinary meeting.

My name had been presented to the Council of Governors by EALGA with the Council submitting my name to DP’s office for clearance so that I can get an accreditation badge.

The letter made him go berserk and the fact that the list was made up of governors except me. He accused me of bypassing him not realising everyone who was attending the meeting had to get the letter for clearance.

A week before UNGA, I was a panellist at the Africa Climate Summit even though the county government did not put my name forward. I was even able to access the VVIP and made a keynote speech and take pictures with the President and his deputy.

All that made him angry. I was told he felt belittled because he thinks I am too networked in the government.

What is your relationship with the DP?

I choose not to respond to that. I think he is trying to find fault in the deputy president and I don’t think I want to give him any credit. It is so far-fetched and an insult to the DP to even talk about it.

Have there been any efforts at reconciliation?

There have been efforts by people and different groups like the church and elders from both communities as well as politicians like Moni Wekesa and Fred Gumo, but he dismissed them all.

Is this why you escalated the feud to the Senate?

Yes. I felt there was no progress from the county after all efforts on the ground failed and so I decided to escalate it. I went to the Senate to look for a solution, that is, having a healthy working relationship with him.

What do you want the Senate to do?

I want a functional office, my security sorted out and a healthy working relationship with the governor.

Will you offer an explanation to the governor as he wants?

Never ever. What explanation? He was aware when I travelled to the USA. I have written a letter over the threats to my security after coming back but he has never responded. He is aware where I am and why I am not in the county.

Would you consider resigning if things don’t change?

Resign to where? In fact, he should be the one to resign because he is the aggressor and people are tired of him in the county. That is why MCAs want to remove from office three of County Executive Committee members (CECs) and the county secretary. He has found a lot of resistance on the ground.

He has been going around asking for help because things are disintegrating and falling apart in the county and people are blaming him. He is fighting everyone. Let him resign because he has failed.

Are there hopes of the two of you sticking together beyond this term?

Let me tell you he is not coming back in 2027. It will even be a miracle for him to see the five years with the kind of theft going on at the county government.

Since former governor Patrick Khaemba left, nothing has been done. Everything being launched was done by the previous administration. All he has been doing is launching the projects.

I know this because the Governors Delivery Unit, which is in charge of all projects is under me, and so there is nothing we have done since Mr Khaemba left. The county government is full of PR people and all we do is make sure every launch gets publicity.

But the governor has been hailed as a performer even during his time as regional commissioner?

There is this larger-than-life image we have created in the media that Mr Natembeya is this and that. It is all PR and a lie. When we joined hands, a senior government official told me there was nothing you will do with Natembeya. I thought it was politics but I now know better. People have now come to learn of who he is.

For how long will you be operating from Nairobi?

Until my issues are resolved. The Senate is looking into the matter. Let them give us their report. It was not supposed to get here but the governor never resolves any problem, however little it is.

Is the DG position a poisoned chalice?

It is the people who hold the higher office who misuse it. Many governors respect the office and work very closely with their deputies. Only a few want to frustrate their deputies because they feel threatened.

They are functional offices that should actually be supported. The deputy governor has so much work to do only if the governor does not feel insecure. It is only in places where the governor feels like the deputy is way better than them that they actually have a problem. Trans Nzoia County is an example.