Jack Ranguma- Ruth Odinga row in Kisumu spins out of control
The two leaders entered a forced political marriage in 2013 following a near-stalemate in the ODM primaries for the gubernatorial seat but since their election, their union has been on the rocks.
The deal was sealed with help from the Orange party’s top brass who settled on Ranguma as the candidate for governor and Ruth as his running mate. After months of open hostility, the situation boiled over last Friday following Ranguma’s decision to sack four county ministers believed to be allied to Odinga. The conflict is further complicated by the fact the deputy governor is ODM leader Raila Odinga’s sister.
Ruth insists that her actions have not been influenced by the former Prime Minister.
The Ranguma-Odinga duel is just one phase of the political crisis unfolding in Kisumu. Last year, area Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o was dragged into the local wars when some youths ejected he and some MPs from a meeting and accused him of undermining the governor. Then the locals thwarted efforts by the county leadership to form a county development board.
On October 16 last year, Speaker Ann Adul was impeached by MCAs but she moved to court to challenge the action. She was reinstated on Monday, but some MCAs now say they will not work with her.
“When we impeached the Speaker, we had our valid reasons. We were not against the Speaker but impunity,” says Nereah Okombo, an MCA.
Angered by the never-ending power games in the county, residents are now collecting signatures to petition authorities to dissolve the county administration as prescribed by law.
Spearheaded by Kisumu County Interparty Forum, the movement dubbed ‘Okoa Kisumu County’, has already collected 33,000 signatures. The group’s chair, Joseph Olwero, says their target to start the dissolution process is 70,000 signatures. If they hit their target, Kisumu will be the second county after Makueni, to initiate such a process.
While Ranguma has fired ministers allegedly allied to Ruth, those allied to the deputy governor are now reported to be pushing for the rejection of the county’s 2014/2015 budget. Observers say Ranguma’s misfortunes could work in Ruth’s favour in the 2017 election when she challenges Ranguma. However, Ruth says she is being targeted because she is tough on corruption, and is an ‘outsider’ from Siaya County.
Problems began when the 2014/2015 budget proposal was rejected by the Commission for Revenue Allocation over financial queries. The supplementary budget opposed by MCAs allied to Ruth was seen to be the only remedy to revive stalled projects in the 2013/2014 financial year.
However, MCAs have threatened to reject the budget until Sh1 billion that had been earmarked for development projects in the last financial year is accounted for.
“Before we debate the supplementary budget, the executive must furnish us with a financial report for 2013/2014 and the just ended two quarters of the current financial year,” says East Seme MCA Aggrey Ogosi.
County leaders are at odds with the executive for the purchase to too many vehicles, many of which have stalled at the county headquarters.
Ranguma dismisses claims that projects have been compromised and says a number of them are ongoing, citing roads currently under construction in Muhoroni, Nyando, Seme and Nyakach. However, he admitted that Kisumu was collecting less revenue than it did before the devolved system came into place.
“Kisumu Municipal Council alone used to collect between Sh400 million and Sh600 million every year yet now, we can barely hit that target,” says Ranguma.
Sources say Ranguma and Odinga Oginga have privately differed on the appointment of Deputy County Secretary Patrick Ouya. Another bone of contention is a planned four-day retreat in Nairobi for 80 Kisumu County staff, which Ranguma supports, but is opposed by Odinga and her allies who says it is extravagant.
Ranguma says the retreat is inevitable and he, deputy governor, executives, MCAs, chief of staff and the director of budget must attend. The retreat in Nairobi is expected to cost more than Sh5 million.
The top leadership in the county will be paid an imprest of Sh24,000, while ten executives will each pocket Sh18,000. Fifty MCAs will each receive Sh14,000 while the chief officers are expected to pocket Sh16,000 each for the four days. Three directors will be paid Sh14,000 each as per diem.
Ruth says it would be cheaper to hold the retreat in nearby counties.
“I find myself in the same situation where my brother Raila was in when he was serving as Prime Minister with former President Mwai Kibaki in the Grand Coalition. Things went wrong, but when he corrected them, he was vilified,” the Deputy Governor says.
Ranguma’s problems do not just revolve around operational and development expenditure — there is trouble in the County Assembly where some members have vowed to disregard a court ruling reinstating Adul as Speaker.
Okombo observes that the Speaker is unpopular among ward representatives who will find it difficult to work with her. These claims have been backed by nominated MCA Faridah Salim.
“The wishes of 46 MCAs who voted for the impeachment of the Speaker against three can’t be just thrown into the dustbin. A leader can’t be imposed on people,” says Salim.
However, the Speaker says such claims are baseless: “I never started any war in the assembly. After I was impeached, I went to court not to settle scores but to seek justice. The victory is not mine but for the county and the rule of law. I call upon the MCAs to come up so that we reconcile and serve the electorate.”