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Kenya: A battle for Bungoma Senatorial seat – By-election December 2013

Posted by African Press International on December 4, 2013

  • BY GODFREY WAMALWA,  BUNGOMA SENATORIAL BY ELECTION ANALYSIS,

The Search for votes  by Candidates  in the ongoing  campaign  in the Bungoma  County Senatorial  seat  by-election slated  for   December 19  have reached fever  pitch even before the  official campaign period  by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries  Commission – IEBC  begins in earnest.

It is  not therefore  surprising that  political  observers and   pundits  have been  filing diverse  reports about  the by-election which  is slated to be one of the most grueling  political fights  ever to be witnessed in Bungoma County in  recent years.  While there are  four candidates   cleared by IEBC to  contest, there is no question that the real fight in this  race  will be  between  the former immediate Senator  Moses Masika   Wetang’ula   of Ford Kenya in the  Cord Coalition  and Musikari Nazi Kombo  of New Ford Kenya  in the Amani Coalition.

At the outset, this  titanic  battle   started much earlier  than the  real election  fight  because  when   Justice Francis Gikonyo of the High Court  sitting in Bungoma nullified Wetang’ula ‘s  election  word went around that Wetang’ula  had committed  and Election  offence of  bribery hence  would be  barred  from  participating  in the by-election.

But it turned water under the  bridge as the same  judge  later  clarified     his ruling, that  he   had not  barred  anyone. Unfortunately  Musikari Kombo and his supporters  got so excited  that they seemed to have been carried away by  the initial decision  of the court following which  they made all and sundry here in Bungoma   believe that Wetang’ula    would  not be  on the ballot  after all  and that  Kombo was set for  a  landslide  field day  and victory  against  former Bumula Mp Bifwoli Wakoli and  Journalist David Makali.

Bungoma political reviewers argue that, the by-election will not be between Kombo and Wetangula. It will be far much bigger than the two. It is likely to pit former PM Raila Odinga and his CORD brigade, against President Uhuru’s Jubilee. CORD shall be fighting two wars, to return the only CORD principal and CORD’s leader of Minority in the senate, and to confirm its firm hold on Western Kenya. Jubilee on the other hand shall seek to cement its upper house ‘tyranny of numbers’ and to prove to CORD that it is pulling the rug from right under its feet in Western.

The general  perception and   consensus   among   majority of the voting Public  in  the County  is that Moses Wetang’ula   is   a victim of vendetta   by the Jubilee Government which has always viewed  him   with suspicion particularly because of  his sometime  hard and uncompromising stance on  a number  of  issues in Governance, land  matters and most of all and  his surprise move to   join   Raila  Odinga and  Kalonzo’s  Cord Coalition in the runner-up to the   2013  General Elections.

The two main contenders , Moses Masika  Wetang’ula  and Musikari Nazi Kombo   have been holding  meetings  and caucuses  to drum up support  for their candidature   in different parts  of the County, but the measure  of what kind and level of support or following  that they are likely  to get from  voters was demonstrated on the subsequent  days when the candidates presented their  nomination papers to the IEBC  and thereafter  addressed Public rallies  at the legendary Posta grounds  in Bungoma.

Kombo was the first one to present his papers after which he addressed a poorly attended public rally at the grounds where  apart from   motor cycle boda boda  riders  who escorted him the whole way from Webuye, and  a trickle  of by standers  he was  accompanied by two members of Parliament, Bungoma Woment Representative Reginalda Wanyonyi and Webuye East Mp Eng. Alfred Wekesa Sambu plus NFK  County Representatives. It was however surprising that  Mps from Kombo’s New Ford Kenya Party skipped the event and have been lukewarm  in their expected support for Kombo whose campaign is being spearheaded by their own  NFK Party Leader Eugene Wamalwa.

Wetang’ula  on his part presented his papers  the following day after Kombo’s  presentation  and immediately thereafter  convened  a well  attended  mammoth  public rally at the Posta Grounds which was  graced  by his co- principals  in Cord Coalition, Raila  Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka  and attended by eight Senators, Twenty Five Members of Parliament and  over Sixty County Representatives drawn from across  the political divide, the region  and  the Nation at large.

Commenting on the  massive attendance and speeches  made at the Posta Grounds Rally by local and visiting politicians, Professor Charles  Kibanani Ngome  of  Masinde Muliro  University  of Science and Technology in Kakamega said that there was no doubt that Wetang’ula   had an upper  hand  and  early head start arising from the apparent mishandling of the Election  petition  filed  against him by  Kombo .

In  the meetings and caucuses, the candidates have been targeting key voter rich constituencies  and  minorities  with hope that these groups  will tilt the scales particularly  against  opponents who are  seen to command massive following  of the predominant Bukusu Luhya sub-tribe.

Webuye East Mp Alfred Sambu and Kombo   has spent a lot of time  persuading  the Tachoni,  a large non-Bukusu  Luhya sub-tribe to rally behind his candidature, but the Tachoni   Elders  led by their Chairman  Wasilwa Wasike   said  that they are against the decision by their MP   to support Kombo  when the issues that have always affected the tachoni have been completely ignored by Kombo.

In a recent meeting in Webuye,NFK leader Eugene Wamalwa said that as the party leader, what he is interested in is to see NFK reclaim the seat, which he said it won, but was denied through electoral fraud. “We are aware CORD campaigns will be about pure propaganda, painting NFK as a Jubilee project, and we are ready for it. The people of Bungoma should know the by-election would be about reclaiming an NFK win that was stolen in the March 4 general elections through fraud. It will be a contest between NFK and Ford Kenya and people should stop hiding behind larger coalitions,” said Wamalwa.

Political observers aver that the contest between Kombo and Wetang’ula, if it comes to be, may go down in history as the toughest and most bruising political battles in Luhya-land since independence.

In a recent political rally at Bungoma posta ground,CORD  leaders came out to paint Jubilee as a coalition that has no interest  to Western people, after locking out the region in major political appointments through what some leaders from the region now refer to as “politics of exclusion”.

There has been some disquiet among the western region people who the Jubilee administration has sidelined the community when it comes to appointments to various senior public offices on   appointment of Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries to parastatal heads and even diplomats, there is a feeling that Jubilee gave the Luhya community a raw deal, perhaps in punishment for the minimal support the coalition got in the last elections.

But recently Webuye East Mp Alfred Sambu in a meeting stated that  President Uhuru  is committed   in reviving the long dead Webuye panpaper mills. This is likely to cause jitters among CORD top brass.

Analysist aver now it is a ripe time for the government  to dangle carrots and throw goodies to the residents of Bungoma in a bid to sway them the Jubilee way. It will not be surprising if some ministry sprang up and the position thrown to someone from the Bukusu soil, or some diplomatic position or senior government office thrown our way.

Virtually all industries in the county are on their death-beds, this could be another good political target by the Jubilee strategists. Governor Lusaka, elected on Amani Coalitions New Ford Kenya (NFK) will be a key link by the Jubilee government in penetrating the county. He is said to have been part of the president Uhuru’s team when he visited China.

He was on hand to welcome Deputy President William Ruto to the region and led the other MPs present in declaring willingness to work with the Jubilee government. Being the governor and in charge of the county’s resources, and coming from a coalition friendly to the government, Lusaka is said to have roots in Tachoni region  has instructed his people to drum up support for Kombo in the senatorial campaigns. But Lusaka has denied that is has remained neutral in the by elections campaigns.

Raila troops  on the other hand are seeking to whip anti-government sentiments, that are already evident on the ground. The Raila,Musyoka,Wetangula  brigade are of the fact that only one Luhya, and a lady for that matter, was appointed to the cabinet. It is also seeking to play the ‘stolen election’ card on the community  the loss by CORD to Jubilee in the March 4 polls elections, believed to have been controversial.

Other  factors that have influenced  the senatorial race  in the county is number of candidates in the race, the battle is  between the candidate backed by Jubilee and that backed by CORD. Amani Coalition has three out of nine MPs and one MP, Hon. John Serut won as an independent candidate. The Amani MPs as well as Hon. Serut  has thrown  his weight behind the Jubilee-backed candidate.

In the last elections, even Amani affiliate parties could not agree on a single candidate, with NFK fielding Kombo and Musalia Mudavadi’s United Democratic Front (UDF) fronting Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi.

 

End

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