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Duel expected in Busia County as political heavyweights throws their hat into the ring

Posted by African Press International on April 26, 2016

By our Investigative Reporter

As the 2017 campaign mood sets in, Busia County prepares to witness a political battle of the Titans. So far big names are being floated for the gubernatorial seat currently held by Governor, Sospeter Ojaamong.

The question is who will carry the day when the final tally is done? And what
will determine the outcome of the contest which promises to generate fireworks among the various political players.

Amongst those whose names have so far featured as the likely contenders include Humphrey Nakitare the current Kisumu County secretary (CS) and a former District Commissioner who served for a long time in the Provincial Administration.

Nakitare is a seasoned public servant who has weathered many storms in Kisumu County. He seems to be allied to CORD and its is rumored that he is CORD Leader, Raila Odinga’s blue-eyed boy in the county government of Kisumu.

In fact some people claim that his continued stay at the county is because of Odinga’s blessings and the top CORD leadership has a soft spot for the man. He is also understood to relate well with elected leaders in Busia County. He has been instrumental in spearheading efforts for the Abahayo unity through his annual Abahayo Cultural Festivals held in Busia consistently for over ten years now.

Having served both in the county and national government, Nakitare obviously has an upper hand in grasping governance issues. He goes to hunt for the seat already having a feel of what it means to run a county government unlike the first lot, that could have got into office with slightest idea what to expect.

Those close to him confided that he has made inroads in Budalangi, Teso North, Buhayo, Marachi and Samia where he operates a network of influential and opinion Leaders as a strategy to consolidate his grassroots support base.

Nakitare has also engaged the Luo community in Busia and every weekend he hits the ground participating in the community projects and as such, enjoys a good rapport with the electorate across the county. He is leaning towards the cord coalition and expected to run on the same.

Eng. Daniel Baraza, the current Managing Director ( MD), National Irrigation Board (NIB) is also said to be keen on clinching the seat. Although he has not publicly announced his
interest in the post, his actions, especially on supporting community activities given the timing of the same leaves little doubt over his intentions.
The MD has in the recent past participated in numerous fund raising for Churches and schools in Busia which has been viewed by political analysts as a strategy to launch his campaigns. However, pundits have expressed reservations as to whether his docket as the MD will help to boost his political image and campaigns or will only serve to sabotage his bid.
The organization (NIB) he heads has been bogged down by various allegations of corruption and embezzlement of funds. The first project under public scrutiny is the Galana/ Kulalu irrigation project which the Ministry of Agriculture contracted Green Arava, an Israeli firm to develop on the 10000 acres project located on the Coastal region.
In this project, Treasury had pumped in Kshs. 7.5billion to develop the initial 500 Acres of the farm. NIB recently harvested the first crop of the project and has planted another 500 Acres. The National Assembly Committee on Agriculture had called for the suspension of> the project and directed the Auditor General, Edward Ouko to conduct a forensic audit of the project which is President Uhuru Kenyatta’s flagship food security venture.
The House Committee also ordered the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission ( EACC) to investigate the procurement of the Kshs.14.5 billion Irrigation project with a view to holding to account individuals at the national irrigation board who implemented the project.
Among the committee’s concerns were the contractor who won the tender for the second feasibility study quoted Kshs. 793million but was awarded the deal at over Ksh. 900million. The first feasibility study carried out by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute ( KARI) at a cost of Kshs.32million was disregarded by the government which went ahead to engage Israeli firm, Green Arava to conduct a second more costly study.
The project’s aim was to bridge Kenya’ annual maize deficit of 20 billion bags. NIB believes that putting 250,000 Acres under maize will be enough to bridge the deficit and slash imports from Uganda and Tanzania. Majority of the electorate would be interested to know how their son
performed at NIB to warrant being entrusted with a more challenging responsibility as the County Chief Executive
Former Cabinet Minister, Dr. Paul Otuoma Nyongesa the current MP for Funyula is also said to be eyeing the same seat. He was elected to Parliament in 2007 on Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Party ticket and was made the Minister for Local Government from 2010 to 2013. Dr Otuoma hails from the Samia sub-tribe among the Luhya community of Western Province.

What are his chances on the political scale? He floored the giant, former Vice President Arthur Moody Awori and Orange Democratic Kenya running mate, Dr. Julia Ojiambo to enter the August House in the 2007 general elections. Since that time, Dr. Otuoma has jealously held on to that seat until now.

He was at the time credited with having consigned the two political giants; Awori and Ojiambo to their ‘grave’. Before his election, Awori was a powerful politician in the region and had registered an enviable three decade un-interrupted record as Western Kenya’s longest serving MP.

But his political star took a nosedive when he joined the Party of National Unity ( PNU) led by retired President Mwai Kibaki at the time. What makes Dr. Otuoma tick? Is it the ODM party euphoria that propels him to parliament? Or has he curved a political niche of his own? Only time will tell. In 2014 ODM party elections, Dr. Otuoma expressed interest to succeed former Cabinet Minister, Henry Kosgei as the ODM Chairman.

The battle at the time was between him and former National Assembly Speaker, Kenneth Marende also from Western. So much water has gone under the bridge and finally, Dr. Otuoma did not make it to become the ODM Chairman. Instead, the Budalangi MP and former Cabinet Minister, Ababu Namwamba who also hails from Busia became the party’s Secretary General.

Amongst the factors that will come into play during the forthcoming general elections is the choice of political vehicle each one of them will use. Busia is predominantly ODM. It, therefore, goes without saying that whoever clinches the party ticket at the primaries will most likely win.

It will, therefore, be incumbent upon Dr. Otuoma and others who are eyeing various seats in the party to work round the clock and not jeopardize their chances by being seen to rub the party’s top leadership the wrong way.

Although we could not verify this independently there have been claims that Dr. Otuoma and Ababu are not the best of buddies given the unfolding political developments in the Orange party. He’s likely to go for the seat on ODM, a party he’s worked hard even to ascend to its top leadership.
At Busia County level some of the issues that may determine the outcome of the polls include; the politics of the existing sub-tribes which are: the Teso, Bakhayo the dominating sub-tribe where Nakitare and Baraza belong, the Samia where Dr. Otuoma comes from, the Marachi, the Banyala from Budalangi where Ababu hails from.

All the above forms seven constituencies namely: Teso North and Teso South, Nambale, Butula, Budalangi, Funyula and Matayos. The next governor should be that person who will be able to bring together all the sub-tribes of the Luhya and Teso. He or she, should also be able to bring on board the Luos who are a sizable population in county.

It is said that in the last polls a deal was struck after several political negotiations between the Luhya and Teso that the position of the Senate should go to the Luhyas while the that of the governor goes to Teso.

It will be interesting to see if this arrangement can still be used to work out a successful deal that will appease all the sub-tribes. For Dr. Otuoma, he will also be assessed against his performance scorecard during his two terms tenure as the Funyula MP and whether based on that scale he should be rewarded with the county’s top job.

Also said to be in the race is Eng. Vincent Esyepet Sidai who hails from Teso South. In the last elections he vied on United Democratic a forum (UDF) party ticket of former Vice President, Musalia Mudavadi but lost.

He was later appointed by the Jubilee government to the NIB as a director but whether this has boosted his political status or dimmed it is yet to be established. However, the fact that he got a job in Jubilee government may work against his efforts given that Busia is considered to be a Coalition for reforms and Democracy ( CORD) stronghold.

The sitting governor, Sospeter Odeke Ojaamongson (ODM) and his running mate Kizito Osore Wangalwa were elected during the March 4th, 2013 polls. Ojamongson defeated four other candidates by a significant margin, receiving 53% of the votes cast.

His closest challenger was Eng. Sidai who received 34 percent of the votes. Hailing from Teso, Ojamong has enjoyed close political relationship with
ODM supreme and CORD Leader, Raila Odinga which is believed to have worked in his favor in his many years of elective politics.

He easily bagged the party’s nomination certificate to become the party’s
flag bearer for the governor’s position. Ojamong has a head start being the incumbent for he has at his disposal immense resources that comes with the holder of the office.

His rivals, therefore, must be ready for a duel of a lifetime. However, being in office could also work against him if he is viewed as having performed dismally. For instance, there are promises and projects he must have pledged to deliver on but probably failed.

Ojamong also had a barrage of court cases some of which are domestic in nature. Only last year, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) order that he be prosecuted over alleged misuse of mobile telecommunication gadgets to send alleged abusive texts to a lady who claimed to have given birth to two children with him.

He was also ordered by a Nairobi court to pay Kshs. 40.000 for the upkeep of the two children he sired out of wedlock. The children’s court
ordered him to provide money to be used for buying food for the twins born in 2004.

The governor was in the news on September 4th, 2015 when the EACC
detectives stormed and ransacked his offices and homes over alleged fraud. Computers from the governor’s office, finance and procurement departments were scatted away.

The morning raid took most of the county employees by surprise. The EACC officers escorted by six armed police arrived in two vans and went straight to
the finance office where they remained searching for incriminating information for two hours.

Ojaamong later told the media that the raid was politically motivated. “We have not had any queries from the auditor general or the senate. The Public Accounts
Committee (PAC) has given us a clean bill of health”, he was quoted as saying.

His government had a run-in with the staff in November last year, when Medical Personnel went on strike that paralyzed operations in all the health facilities across the county over issues of promotions.

Subsequently, three patients died for lack of attention at Busia County Referral
Hospital. The then Acting Health Executive, Martin Kafwa was quoted as having confirmed the deaths in a section of the press and attributed them to delayed treatment.

Kafwa even accused some of the Health workers of massive stealing of drugs, adding that it was surprising that even after the county increased its budget for the purchase of drugs from Kshs. 100million to Kshs. 350million the drugs were still missing. However, with the unresolved allegations of scandals coupled with the domestic challenges, the governor has also delivered on some of his promises just like any other of the total 47 counties spread across the country.

For example, the county recently signed a pact with a South Korean Company to
build an Organic Fertilizer Manufacturing plant which will help boost food production. The other key project is where 10000 farmers are set to benefit from the input access program worth Kshs. 18million through funding by the county government of Busia.

The exercise kicked off in Angurai South, Angurai East and Angurai North Wards in Teso Sub-County. These farmers got free seeds and fertilizer. The county government also launched macadamia as an alternative cash crop to tobacco which has consigned many farmers into abject poverty. African Development Bank ( ADB) in partnership with Busia County and National government will implement a Kshs. 900million Water and Sewerage Project in Malaba. Kshs. 400million will revamp the sewer while Kshs. 500 million will fund the upgrading of Malaba-Kocholia water supply.

A total of Kshs. 40million was also set aside by the county to construct
a medical college at Busia Teaching and Referral Hospital to
train more health workers. Of the 35 elected Members of the County Assemblies ( MCAs) ODM has 19,FORD -Kenya has 5 while UDF has 4 with Labour Party of Kenya has 3, Wiper Democratic a party 1, FORD People 1, FPK 1 and URP1.

At the National Assembly,Teso North is represented by Arthur Papa Odera of URP, Teso South MP is Mary Emase Otuch also of URP, Nambale is resented by Sakwa John Bunyasi of UDF while Matayos is represented by Geoffrey Odanga of ODm and Butula is held by Michael Onyura of FPK. Funyula is Dr. Paul Otuoma (ODM), Ababu Namwamba of ODM (Budalangi) and lastly County Women Representative is Florence Mwikali Mutua (ODM) with Amos Wako (ODM) as the Senator.

The county has 251,305 registered voters; 130, 037 are females while 121, 268 are males. Busia has has 81 health facilities with 4 as District Hospitals, 2 Sub-District hospitals, 49 dispensaries, 12 health centers, 10 medical clinics and 3 nursing homes.

The county has doctor: population ratio of 1:41,200 in Busia, Teso 1:45,372. Infant mortality rate stand at 75 per 1000 live births while under 5 mortality rate is 111 per 1000 births with prevalent diseases being: malaria, respiratory transmitted infections, diarrhea, digestive system diseases.

Notable hotels, include: Port Victoria, Sip Port, Teso and Busia District Hospitals. It has an area of 1685.30 square kilometers and is located in the former Western Province bordered by Bungoma, Kakamega and Siaya counties and has major towns such as: Busia, Malaba, Port Victoria, Nambale and Bumula. Busia county is the main point of entry between Kenya and Uganda accounting for the bulk of trade between the two East African Community (RAC) countries. residents of Busia practice fishing, being one of the major economic activities
in the county.

It has arable land,livestock, water, pasture, forests and its tourist attraction sites at Kakapel National Monument and a lake Victoria Viewpoint. Trade, Agriculture, Tourism. fishing and other commercial businesses thrive here. Farmers grow millet, cassava, sweet potatoes, beans, rice, sugarcane and maize among other agricultural produce. Education in Busia county has seen a tremendous growth of learning institutions with 420 primary schools in 2007 and 90 secondary schools.

Enrollment then was 220, 101 in primary and 21,794 in secondary section with teacher:pupil ratio standing at 1:69 in public schools and 1:33 in secondary.
Busia has a population density of 439 people per square kilometer and has 154,225 households with a poverty Index of 66percent.

Ends…

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