The Taita-Taveta Governor, Granton Samboja has launched a scathing attack against a section of the bishops in the county dismissing them as “mercenaries” after the prelates called for his resignation over his stand to dissolve the county government.
A visibly-upset Samboja said he was not one to engage in pulpit politics but he could not allow the bishops to cast aspersions on his integrity and commitment to fulfilling his pledges to the residents of the county.
Governor Samboja disclosed that 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.
This unprecedented direct attack against men of cloth came shortly after a Taita-Taveta Bishop Association (TTBA) issued a hard-hitting statement on Tuesday that criticized 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 Bishop, 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 (Samboja) 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, Governor 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 President Uhuru Kenyatta as demanded by thousands of residents who want the county dissolved.
A week ago, TTBA had given 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 honor three invitations from the association.
However, the County Assembly was praised for honoring 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.
By Wagema Mwangi