- 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.