On 7th June 2018, The County Government of Taita Taveta called for a stakeholders’ forum at the CDF hall in Mwatate to discuss the elevation of Mwatate urban area to Municipality Status and also nominate members to serve in the Mwatate Municipality board.
From that meeting, the caucus representing professional associations proceeded and nominated me to serve on the Mwatate Municipality board. H. E. The Governor then forwarded my name, among several others, to the County Assembly of Taita Taveta for vetting.
I presented myself for vetting on 2nd August 2018 and the Taita Taveta County Assembly approved my nomination during a sitting on 24th August 2018. My appointment was gazetted in a notice appearing on the Kenya Gazette Vol. CXX – No. 125 dated 19th October 2018.
Three nominations had been rejected by the Taita Taveta County Assembly. It, therefore, took longer than anticipated for the County Government to complete the formation of the board which was concluded mid-2019.
In March 2019, the law setting up municipality boards was amended to improve the operations of municipalities. The following were the key amendments among others:-
- The number of board members recruited by H. E. The Governor and those nominated by stakeholders was reduced to 7 members from 9 members.
- The CEC and CCO of Lands were coopted into municipality hoards.
- Minimum educational qualifications for board membership was set at Diploma level.
Despite this amendment, the County Government proceeded to recruit all the three nominations that were pending. We were all formally sworn into the Mwatate Municipality Board on 27th August 2019 and received our appointment letters signed by H. E. The Governor. At a board meeting on the same day, I was duly elected as the Chairman of the Board. We commenced our operations, albeit with some challenges.
Fast forward to 5th May 2020, I received a letter from the County Secretary inviting us to a meeting on Wednesday 6th May 2020. The agenda of the meeting, as was clearly stated in the invitation letter, was to handover functions to the Mwatate Municipality Board. Several board members who reside and work out of Taita Taveta County failed to attend due to the cessation of movement that is in place to stop the spread of COVID 19. I sent my apology for the same as at that time, I was in Nairobi and could not travel.
The meeting proceeded under the chairmanship of H. E. The Governor which then reconstituted the board to be in line with amendments of the Urban Areas and Cities Act.
My name and that of another board member were dropped from the board. Another board chairman was handpicked together with chairpersons of committees.
As it stands, it is my belief that I have been relieved off my duties as Chairman and Board Member of Mwatate Municipality Board. I however have not received any communication whatsoever to that effect. While my ejection has legal flaws, and can be successfully challenged, I choose not to follow that path.
My intention, while taking up the appointment, was to offer my knowledge and expertise to the board tasked in planning and managing the Mwatate urban area. To be able to successfully accomplish that, I needed the unwavering support from H. E. The Governor. I would therefore not fight to be in a position where that support is not forthcoming.
As I sign out, I would like to make note of a number of issues that would put the legality of the existing Mwatate Municipality board to question and therefore affect its standing to its key partners who currently include the Urban Development Department in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure and the World Bank.
These issues are as below:-
- The Urban Areas and Cities Act (UACA) amendment of 2019 requires the board to have a representative dully nominated by professional associations. The current board has no such representative.
- The UACA amendment of 2019 provides the minimum education qualification for a board member to be Diploma. Currently, there are two members of the board who do not meet that qualification.
- The UACA amendment of 2019 requires the Chairperson of the board to hold a degree from an institution recognized in Kenya and have post qualification experience (after graduation) of more than 10 years. The current board chairman does not possess those qualifications.
My hope is that H. E. The Governor would move to correct these anomalies and ensure that the Mwatate Municipality board in existence is shielded from any legal and operational hurdles that may affect service delivery to the people of Mwatate Municipality and Taita Taveta County in general.