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SALTY, UNSAFE?

Wa Iria and PS Wairagu supporters reignite water war

Water principal secretary accused of using government projects to advance selfish political agenda.

In Summary

• Pro-Wairagu youths organised a press briefing to counter accusations by a rival group that the PS is campaigning.

• The youths were, however, confronted by jobseekers who had allegedly been told that there would be interviews at the venue.

Supporters of Water PS Joseph Wairagu and those of Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria confront each other in Murang'a town on Monday, June 29, 2020.
Supporters of Water PS Joseph Wairagu and those of Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria confront each other in Murang'a town on Monday, June 29, 2020.
Image: Alice Waithera

The water projects war  between Joseph Wairagu,  the Water PS,  and Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria was reignited over the weekend, causing bad blood between their supporters.

The two occasionally clashed last year after the governor accused the PS of sinking boreholes that had unsafe water for residents.

Wa Iria accused the PS of blocking attempts by residents to gain access to water from Ndaka-ini dam, only to hoodwink them with boreholes that "produce salty and unsafe" water.

Ndaka-ini supplies 82 per cent of the water consumed in Nairobi.

Being a Nairobi resident, the PS is one of the beneficiaries as Murang’a people suffered from water scarcity, wa Iria complained.

The PS on Saturday told off the governor for claiming that the borehole water contains hair of dog carcasses.

Wairagu, who was launching a borehole at Mithanduku-ini in Gatanga, said the borehole programme was spearheaded by geologists and engineers who conducted a survey before deciding on the site.

He said wa Iria's comment amounted to an insult to the team of more than 30 people. About 30 boreholes have been sunk in the county to increase water coverage from the current 63 per cent to 80 per cent by 2022, the PS said.

Wairagu’s sentiments prompted a group of youths associated with wa Iria to  call a press briefing on Sunday during which they accused the PS of campaigning government projects.

They said Wairagu is eyeing the county governor's seat and riding on national government projects.

Nominated MCA Stephen Mwangi accused the PS of disrespecting the President by engaging in early politics.

He said it was unfortunate for the civil servant to lead a delegation of riding in 60 government vehicles to commission a community borehole. He asked him to resign to concentrate on politics.

According to him the cost of the fuel consumed by those vehicles was enough to sink three more boreholes.

On Monday, Wairagu-allied youths organised a counter presser but when they got to the venue, they were confronted by  scores of other youths, who had "come for technical jobs interviews".

The pro-Wairagu group was accused of coming to the venue to block the interviews, hence their attack by the angry jobseekers. They were forced to flee to another venue. 

Ali Buke, one of the Wairagu supporters, fled across the farms to Mukuyu market after word went out that he had sought court orders to stop the interviews.

Police at the Mukuyu roadblock intervenee and restored calm.

The "jobseekers" led by Magochi Murathi defended wa Iria, saying he supports the Jubilee administration and its development projects. They blamed the chaos on the pro-Wairagu group, saying it was made up of hired youths from neighbouring counties.

Magochi also defended the PS saying he had implemented numerous water projects in the county as part of the President’s legacy. He said both leaders support the President and it was wrong to drive a wedge between them.

“Water issues in the county ended when wa Iria made peace with water companies and should not be reignited,” he said.

He also noted that Wairagu has not declared his interest in the governor's seat.

Buke said the southern part of the county had supported wa Iria twice and does not require support from elsewhere to win.

He was reacting to MCA Mwangi’s comments that the next governor will be elected from the southern side. Both the governor and Wairagu are from neighbouring Kahuro villages in the northern part of the county.

Edited by F'Orieny

Youths affiliated to Water PS Joseph Wairagu and Governor Mwangi wa Iria confront each other in Murang'a town on Monday, June 29, 2020.
Youths affiliated to Water PS Joseph Wairagu and Governor Mwangi wa Iria confront each other in Murang'a town on Monday, June 29, 2020.
Image: Alice Waithera