Kenya: Watengula struggles to be in the limelight
Posted by African Press International on January 15, 2014
- BY GODFREY WAMALWA,API,KENYA
A new political dispensation is in the air in Western Kenya politics after the Bungoma by election curtains came down on 19th December sending the Amani coalition led by Musalia Mudavadi into disarray by their rivals, Coalition for reforms and democracy CORD.
Bungoma by election was a high stakes game which saw CORD Leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka pitch tent in the area to support Wetangula as Amani Leader Musalia Mudavadi and Eugene Wamalwa who were backing Kombo staged a botched fight to claim the hold.
CORD was using the by election to gauge its popularity rating in Western Kenya while Mudavadi and Eugene of Amani were attempting to assert their authority in Luhya land politics ,a test which CORD seems to have won without struggle.
The re- election of Wetangula now has him as the senior most Luhya leader in the region’s politics as indicated by the Bungoma voting pattern which appeared to be an indication by the people to Mudavadi -Eugene that their time is over and Wetangula is the new Sheriff in Town.
The campaigns were characterized by tough exchanges in rallies which saw Mudavadi accompanied by Eugene lash out at former Premier Raila Odinga. Wetangula’s point man in the contest was the outspoken Kakamega senator Bonny Khalwale who has re- discovered a new form of politics as a non nonsense politician, after going against the wish of his party boss.
The by-election has thrown the region into an early political mood ahead of the 2017 general elections after CORD called shots in the highly contested political fight of supremacy.
CORD brigade however argues that the war was a battle between the ruling Jubilee government against the opposition alliance (CORD) as their opponents Amani disputes drawing the state into the war in what pundits say is a clear exposed combat between Cord and Jubilee.
The move is also said to have put the Jubilee government in panic disposition as they ponder to re- instate the lost political will out of its unsteady grip.
Analysts now argue that the outcome of the concluded senatorial by election is a genesis of a new political formation in the region poised to decide the forthcoming general election after CORD successfully stamped its authority in the regions politics.
It’s further argued that the indicator hints a genesis of a formation of an outfit slated to decide the path of Western politics ahead of the polls.
The outcome is further argued as a confirmation that the Jubilee government has totally lost grip in the region which seems to be slipping under its feet.
‘’The upshot is a serious signal send to the Jubilee government. That was a vote of no confidence to the ruling regime after spending its ‘fortune’ in the by election to vote in Kombo with no avail’’, argues political analyst Martin Oloo.
Sources close to the Kombo secretariat argues that an upfront of a whooping sh. 100 million was sunk into the campaign to oust Wetan’gula from the senate and consequently dislodge Raila’s popularity in the region.
In a recent homecoming celebration for Bumula MP, Boniface Otsiula, cross section of politicians drawn in entire Western region claimed the re-election of Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula was a protest vote against Jubilee government for sidelining the Luhya community. They said voters in Bungoma were angered by the government for not appointing any prominent person from the region to the Cabinet or plum State jobs.
MPs Moses Injendi (Malava), Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo), Yusuf Chanzu (Vihiga) and Ayub Savula (Lugari) said the government should give New Ford Kenya party leader Eugene Wamalwa and his Amani leader Musalia Mudavadi State jobs.
According to Malava lawmaker Moses Injendi, Bungoma people wanted Wetang’ula as their senator adding that it was a protest vote against the government for failing to recognise the Luhya community.
Speaking at Mungore Primary School during a thanksgiving ceremony of Bumula MP Boniface Otsiula, also attended by Deputy President William Ruto, the MPs said the community was not happy to see Wamalwa and Mudavadi in political wilderness.
On the other hand, Savula said the region supported President Mwai Kibaki’s government because it had given the community six Cabinet slots and blamed the current leadership for sidelining the Luhya. ‘’New Ford Kenya and United Democratic Forum (UDF) signed a post-election pact with Jubilee that they will work together. We want the agreement honoured,’’said Savula.
Political analyst, Martin Oloo however adds that crucial issues decided the outcome of the seemingly hotly contested race.
He points out: track record by the Jubilee government and the recent sentiment by the president that the he will rule for 10 years before handing over the mantle to his deputy for another decade.
‘’The rudely and carelessly pronounced sentiments came merely two days to the polling date while the president was in a botched tour in Rift Valley few kilometers from Western. That kind of statement brought hopelessness and despair to those communities that have been at power periphery for long among them the Luhya which hosted the by election’’, added Oloo.
Oloo further adds that the vote was a wake up call for the ruling regime after sidelining Western region from plum positions in the government despite Amani coalition signing a post poll pact to work together. He however notes that the region had for the first time in Kenyan history missed in the key cabinet appointments in any ruling regime.
‘’It was a hard task for the Amani coalition to woo the electorates to the ‘government’ with goodies after being disregarded by the very regime in key appointments,’ ’he adds, terming it as political paradox.
The Ford Kenya party leader Moses Wetang’ula doubling as the minority leader in the senate confirmed to have a clout in the region after trouncing his political archrival Musikari Kombo in a fierce battle sending Kombo into political stupor.
Wetan’gula managed to marshal 149,458 votes against New Ford Kenya candidate Musikari Kombo who garnered 81,016 votes in what is termed -a resounding win.
Wetan’gula reaffirmed the earlier March polls result’s signal that Coalition for reforms and democracy CORD led by Raila Odinga is still a force to watch.
The re-election of Wetan’gula has however rescued the opposition alliance’s summit from extinction after the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his counterpart Kalonzo Musyoka were sent parking in the last polls leaving Wetang’ula the only standing summit member holding an elective position.
Pundits argue that the contest was a life and death affair for CORD after its lifeline was exposed to danger by the petition loss at Bungoma high court.
Coalition for reforms and democracy suffered a major political blow on September 30th after a High court in Bungoma presided over by Justice Francis Gikonyo nullified Wetang’ula’s election citing massive electoral flout.
The ruling send the alliance into panic mood as all its summit members kept watching the country’s politics from the gallery.
Speaking after the court ruling, CORD brigade said that the justice system had plans to frustrate the opposition.
Mr. Odinga further said that the government had laid a plot to frustrate opposition to perpetuate its despotic agenda.
‘’We are aware that the by elections were planned in CORD strongholds to frustrate opposition. We are going to the people’s court to seek fresh mandate to salvage the abortion of democracy’’, said Raila while addressing residents in Bungoma county.
Raila said that the ‘people’s court’ would make a better decision in the ballot after the justice system failed the residents.
The former Premier was of the opinion that the contest was a battle between Jubilee against Cord, prompting sympathy votes from the majority voters.
Wetan’gula on his part said that the court had robbed the people of Bungoma their democratic right to elect the leader of their choice, hence a misconception of democracy.
He said that he would face the voters yet again to re affirm their earlier made stand of voting him as the senator.
‘’The forest is the same and the monkeys have not changed. The voters have not left, they are still there and they will make a decision.’’, said the visibly worked up Wetan’gula after the court ruling.
But before the ink could dry one month later, the voters in Bungoma send a signal to the court by re-electing Wetan’gula in a resounding victory beating his rival Kombo who petitioned the election with an upfront of 68,000 votes.
This raises questions on the authenticity of the court ruling against the credibility of the electoral exercise.
IEBC official who insisted on strict anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter said that most of the petitions were skewed to perpetuate selfish political interests.
He adds that analysis confirms that all successful petitioners who filled their cases in court emanating from March 4thelections lost in the consequent by elections.
He quickly points out that the case of Kalembe Ndile who craved for the court to declare him the winner against his competitor in a closely contested parliamentary seat is a real example.
Revelations are now emerging that the court case was marred with fraud after the systems was compromised in favor of Kalembe.
‘’It’s only unlucky that the threshold could not warrant declaration of the winner. The decision of the people was however confirmed after Kalembe lost in the by election’’, revealed the source.
He however laments that the state has lost millions of tax payers money in the by elections out of a skewed court process in favor of candidates who launched petitions.
Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba, aver that Wetangula re-election is a defining moment that would either unmake or reload his chequered political career that has ebbed and flowed but grown steadily since he was first nominated to Parliament by President Moi after the 1997 General Election.
On the other hand, Musikari Kombo, Eugene Wamalwa, Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi and Bungoma Governor Kenneth Lusaka, the manner of defeat is a devastating blow that could well prove politically fatal. “Kombo’s case is straightforward; he probably has lost his final chance for a comeback. Eugene and Mudavadi had a different mission to stop Wetang’ula from becoming a political top cat, and hand themselves a new political lifeline” said Budalangi MP,Ababu Namwamba.
CORD diehards in the region intimated to County Times that the coalition not only retained a key political constituency in a significant region, it did so in such commanding and tactical fashion that lifts the spirits of the rank and file and enacts a template for future political battles. The return of Wetang’ula as Senate Minority Leader also keeps one of the CORD co-principals within the legislative loop, a key factor.
But it is the political calculus of Western politics that perhaps comes into sharpest focus after this epic duel. The aftermath of the 2013 General Election left the people of Western at unprecedented political crossroads. Effectively locked out of national government for the first time in independent Kenya’s 50-year history, and unwittingly spread thin across myriad political outfits with minimal potency, the past eight months have been a period of drift, flux and introspection for the country’s second most populous region.
And while the people have remained proudly defiant in the face of what they perceive to be a “two-tribe” jubilee government, they have not concealed their desire for a reawakening, a new anchor, a fresh impetus. That is exactly what the Bungoma senatorial by-election seemed to have provided. And the manner in which the leading political lights across the region shunted aside party affiliations and other parochial differences to rally around Wetangula and deliver a decisive victory could well be the catalyst required for a renaissance.
Unconfirmed political sources argue that Raila might be going for another jab at presidency in 2017 as Wetangula and other Luhya leaders in CORD have to work tooth and nail to prevent or prepare for such an eventuality.
“Mudavadi and Amani camp will either go for presidency or join with TNA or URP should Ruto Bolt out of Jubilee. Ruto bolting out at the end of term and seeking an alliance is highly likely, if he has hopes of becoming president of Kenya”, claimed a Ford Kenya proponent who wished not to be named.
The Ford Kenya proponent added that CORD may want to line up to remain as it was in 2013; given Kalonzo Musyoka may not have practical chances away from an alliance with Raila and yet Luhya’s expect one of their own on the presidential ballot.
The big question is whether Mudavadi will consider working with Wetangula and Wamalwa in a bid to avoid disintegrating the region further?