By Isabella Maua
Born in Kaptalelio area of Kaptama ward Mt.Elgon constituency, the first Deputy Governor of Bungoma County Hillary Chongwony ‘s dream of being a leader was nurtured in Kaptalelio Primary School then he later proceeded to Kapsokwony High School and joined Friends School Kamusinga for his A levels.
Chongwony whose first love was education later enrolled for a teaching course in Moi Teachers’ College (the current Chepkoilel Campus) then joined Egerton University for Masters Degree and further pursued his PhD at Baraton University.
His teaching career journey commenced in Ebwali High School Bunyore then he was transferred to Kibuk Girls,’ promoted to Kapsokwony High School as the Deputy Principal and finally as a Principal at Kongit High School.
Political journey and endorsement
“My political journey was actually born while at Kongit High School where I was unanimously chosen by my colleagues as KESSHA Vice Chair in the year 2012 and later endorsed by the same colleagues to enter politics and represent the teaching fraternity,” former DG elucidated.
Chongwony narrates that one day after a KESSHA meeting in Mombasa, while in the bus amidst heated political discussion, school heads proposed his name as the one who will represent them in Mt.Elgon elite politics.
“Not in my wildest dream could I ever think that my colleagues were serious endorsing me to take up such a great position not only in my career but also in my entire life,” the soft spoken leader disclosed.
As political temperatures rose in 2013, Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka was rumored to be hunting for a Sabaot running mate to battle it out with Cosmas Barasa and Jack Tumwa of The National Alliance and Ford Kenya respectively.
“The recently chosen DG Jennifer Mbatiany as well as Cosmas Mutai had shown interest in deputizing Lusaka and in my thoughts I was no match for them so I knew the joke had ended in the bus as soon as it was cracked,” the principle said lightly.
“To be honest, I didn’t know the implication of my endorsement until Nicholas Kiboi introduced me publicly in a well attended funeral at Kaptama with Philip Kones Chepkuch seconding him; that is when the real deal was sealed,” Chongwony recalled with nostalgia.
In one of Lusaka’s road shows, former DG explains that a huge crowd caught him by surprise and presented him again before his boss to be and shouted that he is their chosen running mate.
As if that was not satisfactory, the late Samson Kachuwai father to Harry Kimtai (current Principal Secretary State Department for Livestock) also gave Chongwony his blessings and promised him that he was going to be the first Deputy Governor of the County shortly before his demise.
“Since then, I started accompanying Lusaka to all his rallies and road shows and when time was ripe; professionals, clergy as well as the Supreme Council of Elders were widely consulted and reciprocally settled on me,” the principle divulged.
Top priorities and Achievements
Chongwony stipulates that their main agenda was to eradicate high poverty levels in Bungoma County and address adverse weather conditions majorly because the region serves as the country’s bread basket.
Education being at heart, Chongwony boasts of having fought for employment of ECDE teachers and recording the highest number of employed teachers in the entire region.
“We came up with weather stations so as to monitor weather trends and keep farmers’ welfare on check, the less fortunate were also cushioned with over 700 bags of fertilizers per ward free of charge,” he added.
The former DG above all recounts his term as the chair of service delivery unit in the county and can’t hide the pride behind his humble persona when he mentions that Bungoma topped the list of best performing counties whenever he tabled his report before the Cabinet.
“Many dismissed my functionality as a deputy because of my quiet nature but little did they know how high I had raised the county’s bar in terms of development, I am naturally action and result oriented.” Chongwony stated.
Vividly showing his passion for sports and talent, the first Bungoma DG revealed that he led the delegation that was then chaired by late legendary Ben Jipcho to conduct analysis and provide sufficient information regarding erection of High Altitude Training Centre in Chemoge.
He also mentions that their greatest achievement as an administration was to convert many farmers from food crop to cash crop cultivators in the quest to fight poverty.
“In 2015 – 2016 coffee farmers were paid over 100 million as bonus after we addressed the issue of poor management in the sector and bought seedlings for them through community development fund across all wards,” the principal stated.
In terms of infrastructure which is a thorn in the flesh especially in Mt.Elgon region, Chongwony cites Kapsokwony –Chepkube (about 78Km long) road as one of the major achievements during their administration.
With regards to his most recent stand after defecting New Ford Kenya Party to join Azimio’s governor Wangamati’s team; former DG says his dream for the people of Mt.Elgon has been his driving force.
“My supporters advised me to join forces with Wangamati since he is the one who contacted me and vowed to embrace my vision for the Sabaot nation, he is not only a political ally but a very close friend who consoled and embraced me after Lusaka openly betrayed me,” Chongwony said.
The first Bungoma DG also concludes by promising to uphold the people’s decision and respect elders’ opinion since a society that values its culture is bound to progress steadily.