- Arati's critics say he has failed to integrate his leadership style with the expectations of a set-up that requires a less confrontational approach.
- His supporters, however, claim that the governor is a victim of sponsored political machinations by his detractors who want to oust him in 2027.
A vicious political war pitting Kisii Governor Simba Arati against South Mugirango MP Silvanus Osoro has exposed deep-seated tensions building ahead of the 2027 general election.
A two-term MP and a high-ranking Kenya Kwanza honcho, Osoro has forcefully stepped out with gusto, taking on Arati head-on in a bigger political game linked to the 2027 succession politics.
While the legislator has not openly declared his gubernatorial ambitions, critics say he is keen on running against Arati in the 2027 polls as he seeks to buttress his foothold as President William Ruto's key point man in the larger Kisii region.
The bigger ambitions Osoro is nursing have encountered a collision course with Arati's larger-than-life political influence, triggering bloody clashes among supporters.
The latest clashes that left at least four people with gunshot wounds in the MP's South Mugirango backyard, exposed the escalating tensions among supporters of the two politicians.
The ongoing fights have split the county leadership and politicians right in the middle amid fears the 2027 contest could be chaotic and bloody if the situation is not arrested.
While some have condemned Arati for what they have termed as an iron-fisted leadership style that is averse to criticism and divergent views, a section of leaders have equally pointed an accusing finger at Osoro.
The former Dagorreti North MP's critics say he has failed to integrate his leadership style with the expectations of an upcountry set-up that requires a less confrontational approach.
However, Arati supporters claim that the governor is a victim of sponsored political machinations by his detractors who want to oust him in 2027.
"The people behind attempts to destabilise my leadership are well known and their agenda is to ensure that I lose the 2027 elections as governor of Kisii," the governor told the Star.
According to the county boss, political enemies eyeing his seat have branded his leadership and allies as chaotic and intolerant, unleashing violence to scare and intimidate them ahead of the 2027 succession race.
"My opponents have criminalised every noble initiative that I initiate, including my efforts to empower boda boda riders through a well-known initiative centred around a savings regime," he said.
The governor argues that he is determined to empower his people through various economic interventions aimed at uplifting the quality of lives of residents.
On Wednesday, a group of professionals drawn from Osoro's South Mugirango base addressed the press in Nairobi and accused the National Assembly Chief Whip of allegedly sponsoring chaos against the governor.
"We are asking Osoro to be mindful of the fact that it is our people who are shading blood whenever such violence occurs, let him give the governor space to work for his people," former parliamentary aspirant Rashid Minyong'a said.
However, the South Mugirango MP rubbished accusations that he had orchestrated the raid that led to the injury of four of Arati's supporters.
Instead, he accused the governor's security detail of early "commandeering his car mounted with speakers occasioning the skirmishes".
The Majority Whip said he was presiding over an education function at the CDF offices when he was informed about the incident.
"I was not near then. I was about to head out to launch road construction work at Nyakembene when I heard that one of my cars had been commandeered off," he said.
He said that it was when his supporters went for the car at the governor's rally that the fight began resulting in the injury of his driver and one other staffer.
The fracas, he added, was the aftermath of the agitation to have the car released back to them.
"It was after they had failed that I went to secure the release of my car, I think it was at that point that skirmishes erupted," he told journalists.
But Arati said his supporters were targeted.
"I was only there for an educational function giving his people bursaries when all this happened," a shaken Arati told journalists in Kisii.
The incidcent was the second after the governor was also forced off a burial at Nyakorere in South Mugirango.
"Then it was a protocol hitch which the leader of his calibre should know. It was wananchi who wanted me to speak before he speaks as protocol dictates," Osoro said.
Walking a tightrope
Arati, who campaigned jointly with Senator Richard Onyonka and Woman Representative Doris Donya Toto, is increasingly isolated after his allies ditched him.
All the county MPs but two have all walked out on the governor.
The county boss enjoys the support of Kitutu Chache South MP Anthony Kibagendi and his Bomachoge Borabu counterpart Obadia Barongo.
Both Kibagendi and Barongo, who were elected on the ODM ticket, have been accompanying Arati to public rallies, including when the party leader Raila Odinga has toured the region.
County assembly speaker Phillip Nyanumba also backs the governor against the onslaught from critics.
Critics say that while Arati is no doubt a fighter he appears a lion caged and being suffocated by air amid a fast-changing political landscape.
While he has managed to run for his life twice from his people, Arati is fighting his biggest battle ever which gets worse with the thickening circle of the political enemies.
With the fights sometimes getting physical, the governor says he has lost about three close supporters in the fracas.
For the teetotaller, it gets complicated when he is nursing desertions from friends-majority being those who aided him in charting his road map to the governorship.
Inside the Arati administration, says a county staffer, a battery of disgruntled insiders leak documents left, right and centre.
It doesn't help that it irks the county boss but the leaks form sweet gossip and banter on social media.
Some leaks are of course some grave exaggerations - some banter from wag in the governor's office who want to ridicule him.
With unique grace though, Arati has learnt to deflect it with his humour.
Dog meat stories
"I don't eat dog's meat," he tells off bloggers making fun of his family
That aside, sources near paint a governor struggling to glue a government already falling from within.
Official meetings run well into the late hours in the residence.
Nonetheless, that hasn't stopped resignations by senior officers, with the county secretary James Ntabo being the latest.
The governor, says a staffer, wakes up to a new challenge each day.
Others still opine that he may be the only governor in his second year in office still trapped with staff nursing visible hangovers with the past administration.
"We are not fairing on well but we must hang around to keep families with whatever little that falls in our hands as salary," a director who requested anonymity said.
Kisii University don and political analyst, Eric Onsongo, says the former Dagoreti North MP is a resolute fighter even when left alone in the trenches.
"He is for the long haul and this can be evidenced by the outreaches he is making to the mwananchi," he says.
And he (the governor) does so with touching pathos, something that endears him to many in the villages.
"But it is the fighting of too many battles I have a problem with that may significantly dent his first term in office," Onsongo says.
Onsongo traces the animosity between Osoro and the governor to the fight at the burial in Ogembo three years ago when the father to then-Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi was being laid to rest.
It happened quickly - a few blows and a hard kick from Arati that sent Osoro sprawling humiliatingly on the floor after a heated altercation.
President Ruto, then deputy president, was present and Osoro was heading off to Arati over a sentiment he had made against him.
There had been boda boda wars, too.
War with Onyonka
Though they campaigned together as brothers with fanfare, the fall out has been bitter.
The fights have occasioned two uneventful summons to the governor to appear before Senate committees.
"There are those who thought I had gone into the county to prepare a large table for them to eat but since I disappointed them they are now my fiercest enemies going around to tell whoever cares how bad am.
" I am not ready to give in yet. I will protect the public resources at all cost," Arati told the Star during a recent interview.
Onyonka says his gripe with the governor is his poor score on performance.
Only time will time tell how the governor's political fate will turn out.