Taita-Taveta governor Granton Samboja has launched a scathing attack against a section of bishops in the county dismissing them as “mercenaries” after the prelates called for his resignation over his stand to dissolve the county government.
This is happening as 52,000 voters in the county have signed the petition to dissolve county assembly over impropriety by members of county assembly.
A visibly upset Samboja said he is not one to engage in pulpit politics but he would not allow the bishops to cast aspersions on his integrity and commitment to fulfilling his pledges to the residents of the county.
The governor signed a memorandum to dissolve the devolved unit over a budget impasse with the county assembly.
He said the move was necessitated by wrangles over Sh830 million that the MCAs allocated themselves through the ward development fund.
The county assembly had passed a Sh5.3 billion budget with each MCA allocating themselves Sh41.5 million for projects in their wards.
“There is no medicine in county health facilities. Water is a challenge to many residents yet they want to allocate themselves huge sums of money,” he said while defending the petition.
The constitution only allows for suspension of a county government by the president in case of an emergency arising out of internal conflict or war; or in any other exceptional circumstances.
But a county government cannot be suspended unless an independent commission of inquiry has investigated allegations against the county government and the president is satisfied that the allegations are justified.
The senate has to authorise the suspension, which can only be for a period of 90 days.
On expiry of the 90 days, the law allows for an election to be held.
On his war with the clerics, Samboja said most of the bishops who were demanding for his resignation had supported his decision to dissolve the county following a budget impasse with the county assembly.
“They were here with me and I shared with them my frustrations over the budget matter. They wholly supported the idea of dissolving the county government,” said Samboja.
The attack against men of cloth came shortly after a Taita-Taveta Bishop Association issued a hard-hitting statement that criticised the governor for his unyielding stance to dissolve his government.
TTBA is a consortium of bishops largely drawn from pentecostal and evangelical churches in the county.
Through the TTBA chair Ronald Itambo, the prelates alleged that Samboja had spurned all efforts to bring him to the negotiation table to unlock the budget crisis with the county assembly.
“He refused to sit with the MCAs and other stakeholders to resolve this matter peacefully and this shows it is difficult for him to work with anybody who differs with him,” read parts of the statement.
The bishops stated that the county should not be dissolved as this would bring vital services to a halt.
In a heated rejoinder from his office in Wundanyi, Samboja termed the bishops as liars and extortionists bent on benefiting from the crisis.
He revealed that some members of the bishops’ associations had been secretly calling his aides to plan for a meeting in hope of getting some allowance.
“We have no interest in dealing with mercenaries for hire. We should be discussing how to increase allocation for our hospitals to alleviate the suffering of our people,” he said.
Samboja stated that over 52,000 people had signed the petition to dissolve the county government yet bishops were not addressing such concerns.
He stated that the signatures would be forwarded to Uhuru Kenyatta as demanded by thousands of residents who want the county dissolved.
Recently, TTBA gave Samboja an ultimatum of three days to convene a meeting with them to discuss the county crisis. The bishops alleged that the governor had failed to honoir three invitations from the association.
However, the county assembly was praised for honouring all invitations and giving their side of the story.
Observers say this bare-knuckle confrontation virtually extinguishes any hope of mediated-reconciliation between the executive and the county assembly arms of the government.
Shedrack Mutungi, the executive secretary of Kuppet in the region, said the only mediation that would work would be for the county assembly to pass the executive budget as a gesture of goodwill on their part.
“The signatures and mediation will become meaningless once the county assembly addresses the budgetary issues that created this mess,” he said.