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December 16, 2018

Bad blood between Wa Iria, Munga that caused Murang’a water crisis

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, governor Mwangi wa Iria, businessman Peter Munga toasting to the renewed friendship.
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, governor Mwangi wa Iria, businessman Peter Munga toasting to the renewed friendship.

The fight between Governor Mwangi Wa Iria and former Equity Bank chairman Peter Munga, which hasdisrupted Murang’a town water supply, dates back long before the governor was elected in 2013.

Early this month, Wa Iria chose a business expert and environmentalist to replace Munga as the chairman of Muwasco. “Effective immediately, Munga ceases to be the chairman of Muwasco,” the notice published on August 15 reads.

Wa Iria said there were suspicious activities in the company under Munga. Wa Iria made the changes a month after the Water Services Regulatory Board (Wasreb) wrote to Muwasco. It directed management to implement reforms it had issued early in the year.

On Sunday night, Muwasco workers disconnected supply in protest, against the county government’s attempts to take over the docket.

“I do not understand how a government office can disconnect water to punish residents, yet they have paid,” Wa Iria said.

Earlier, Muwasco workers took to the streets and clashed with a group protesting against their decision to disconnect water. Police were called in to quell the protests.

Wa Iria and Munga have a long history and the former Equity Bank chairman is said to have employed the governor as CEO of Freshco Seeds Company between 2010 and 2011.

The governor, however, left the company and became the managing director of the Agha Khan Group before he joined politics.

The bad blood between the two started when Wa Iria, fresh from the Agha Khan Group, declared his political interests. He ran against Munga’s ally Moses Mwangi.

Mwangi was chairman of Murang’a County Initiative, a group of professionals offering academic sponsorships to thousands of students. The group is patronised by Munga and includes prominent businessmen contributors. Mwangi is said to have had the support of the tycoons but was defeated by Wa Iria during TNA nominations in a surprise move.

Mwangi decamped to Mzalendo Saba Saba Asili, but was defeated by Wa Iria in the general election.

Wa Iria blamed Munga for the collapse of the ambitious County Investment Cooperative named Shillingi kwa Shillingi in 2014. It aimed to collect more than Sh3 billion annually through member contributions for investment projects.

The governor accused the tycoon of sponsoring attacks against the initiative by local leaders who questioned its leadership and legality. The leaders, who included former senator Kembi Gitura, woman representative Sabina Chege and MCAs, asked residents not to join it.

Speaker Nduati Kariuki then formed a commission of inquiry, including 11 MCAs and three external members, to probe the cooperative.

But the controversy discouraged people from joining the cooperative the governor had said would empower them. He said money pooled would enable them to establish mega projects and build the economy.

“Shilingi kwa Shilingi will encourage residents to participate in development. Cooperatives are a resource mobilisation vehicle that enables members to invest in projects on a large scale,” Wa Iria had said.

The cooperative sought to recruit a membership of more than 100,000 people, each member to save a minimum of Sh1,000 a month.

The savings were to be channelled into real estate and the property development sector, commercial energy generation and agro-processing.

In 2015, Wa Iria and Munga agreed to bury the hatchet in talks spearheaded by Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria. In a late evening event at Munga’s palatial home in Maragua, the two shared toasts and agreed to partner in mobilising domestic investment to boost economic growth in the area, saying they were long-time friends.

Munga said he was ready to invest in the county, which he said has numerous resources. He said Murang’a is known for producing some of the best entrepreneurs in Kenya and beyond.

“We have the capacity of mobilising resources for numerous investments in the county and all we need is support from the county government,” Munga had said.

The tycoon said he was not interested in politics, but was ready to work in developing the county.

However, the two fell out again in the same year during an attempt to impeach the governor for allegedly breaching the Public Finance Management Act, among others.

Wa Iria’s impeachment was overturned by the Senate. The governor blamed troubles on his rivals.

In 2016, the rivalry intensified when the Council of Eminent Persons organised a leaders’ meeting in Nairobi, excluded the governor. The group included Munga, Charles Rubia, Jane Kiano and Maina Wanjigi .

Wa Iria’s opponent Mwangi by then had been employed by Munga as the CEO of his Equatorial Nuts Company. He ran again for governor.

Wa Iria again accused Munga of sponsoring Mwangi in a bid to remove him, a claim Mwangi denied. Mwangi said the fact that he was struggling to finance his campaign demonstrated that Munga was not funding him.

After reelection, Wa Iria went after Munga guns blazing, asking him and the Muwasco board to review water tariffs, a directive the company chaired by the trader dismissed.

Wa Iria then rallied residents against the company. The water firm then went to court contesting the governor’s plan for a water stakeholders’ meeting to water charges.

Wa Iria won the court case. Justice Hatari Waweru declared water is a devolved function and calling for a smooth transition of the sector.

Last week, Wa Iria announced he would take over the sector and said all water company staff would be absorbed in the Public Service Board. He dismissed the firm’s plan to construct a Sh300 million water institute, saying its core function is to supply water to residents.

The decision sparked unrest in the company and led to the protests that have caused workers to disconnect water supply twice in the last two days.

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