The long-running supremacy battle between Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia and County Assembly Speaker Wahome Ndegwa escalated Monday after the latter's confidants were ejected from key House leadership positions.
A rival team of 22 Jubilee Party Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) accused the outgoing team of practising partisan politics that has held the executive hostage and frustrated the county’s development agenda.
The battle between the two county leaders escalated during the making of this year’s budget when the budget committee of the local assembly refused to submit the budget estimates, claiming that the executive had not submitted crucial documents.
It later emerged that the assembly’s leadership was using the budget to punish the executive for slashing the assembly’s budgetary allocation by more than Sh40 million to fund its priority projects.
The stalemate was, however, unlocked at a consultative meeting between the MCAs and deputy governor Cecilia Mbuthia, where the executive gave in to the assembly’s demands.
The budget was ultimately tabled and passed without the critical documents that the Kiiru Gachomba-led Budget Committee had accused the executive of refusing to submit.
Still, the assembly moved allocations from some critical projects and programmes leaving the executive in a weak position.
Key executive projects that were denied financing include the planned establishment of a Trade Fund, a revolving fund meant to support upcoming and small traders. Besides the budget wars, the executive has also accused the assembly of refusing to pass important legislation, including a new one to govern the making and consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Mr Kimemia had in March suspended a raft of laws the assembly had passed earlier, including the one on alcoholic beverages which he said was vague and incapable of addressing alcoholism and drug abuse in the county.
The laws were suspended at a meeting co-chaired by Mr Kimemia and County Commissioner Boaz Cherutich even as Mr Wahome protested, arguing that the liquor legislation was the best in the country.
“There is nothing wrong with the liquor law, we have no shortage of liquor or any other law in the county. What lacks is the goodwill to implement the law,” said Mr Wahome.
The assembly also locked horns with the executive over its opposition to public participation in the vetting of county bursary funds beneficiaries on grounds that it was unconstitutional.
Shortly after the budget-making standoff, Mr Wahome, through his social media account, accused Finance and Trade executive members Mary Mugwanja and Muthoni Wamuiya of misconduct resulting in a petition to remove them from office.
The motion was, however, rejected in a debate that deepened divisions in the assembly. Opposing MCAs accused Mr Wahome of malice and using the House to fight the governor.
The failed impeachment motion marked the start of the journey to Monday's removal of top House leadership at a meeting attended by 22 out of 36 Jubilee Party MCAs.
Majority Leader Kamau Gathungu was replaced with King’ori Wambugu, while Justus Giata replaced Ken Mukira as Deputy Majority Leader.
Ms Wangari Methu, former deputy Chief Whip replaced her boss Hussein Kasana, while nominated MCA and Kimemia confidant Kariuki Ngaruiya was elected the Deputy Chief Whip.
Mr Kamau however insisted that the battle had just begun.
“I am still in office. What happened yesterday is part of intimidation by the executive. I will stay firm in the fight against impunity,” he said.