When the Garre Council of Elders issued a decree barring Mandera Governor Ali Roba from seeking re-election in August last year, many thought his goose had been cooked.
This is because in northern Kenya, the elders’ decision was usually taken as final and anyone who defies suffers serious consequences.
However, Mr Roba defied the Banisa Declaration which barred him together with 24 other elected leaders from vying in the Tuesday’s polls and mounted a serious campaign against the decision terming it outdated. Mr Roba said he had served locals well and was confident he will be re-elected.
The August 7 statement said the leaders including Senator Billow Kerrow, should not run again to pave the way for the election of other leaders from the 20 Garre sub-clans.
Mr Kerrow abided by the elders decision terming Mr Roba’s move to stand for another term futile.
Other top Mandera sons like former MP Abdikadir Mohamed are among leaders who quit the political seen following the elders' verdict in 2013.
However, some residents expressed anger at the elders, whom they accused of hijacking the call for community unity and bypassing them in decision-making.
Mr Roba’s defiance seems to have paid off since he is the only governor from the Northern Frontier Development Council who survived the voters’ wrath in the Tuesday ballot. All his colleagues Garissa Governor Nathif Jama, Ahmed Abdullahi (Wajir), Godana Doyo (Isiolo), Ukur Yatani (Marsabit), Hussein Dado (Tana River) and Lamu’s Issa Timamy lost.
Mr Roba, who together with Mr Doyo were the only governors’ elected on a Jubilee Party ticket in the northern frontier counties in 2013 faced a stiff opposition from former provincial commissioner Hassan Noor Hassan who was backed by the elders to dethrone him.
Mr Roba managed to gain support of a number of outgoing MPs in Mandera in his onslaught against the elders whose seven year term ended in April.
The first battle between Mr Roba and Mr Noor and for the Jubilee Party gubernatorial ticket which forced the elder’s team to leave the ruling coalition for little known Economic Freedom Party.
EFP was formed by the council of elders to be used by locally endorsed candidates in their negotiated democracy plan after Mr Roba and a handful of other politicians and businessmen disobeyed the elders.
The move left Mr Roba remained unopposed for the Jubilee ticket.
Jubilee and EFP also battled for the control of voters with Mr Roba’s team listing a high number of locals.
Mr Roba sought to undo what he termed as wrongs done by the elders in line with the Jubilee manifesto which calls for inclusion of all communities and formed “Team Justice” bringing together Garre, Degodia, Murule, Marehan and non-locals.
The team enabled Mr Roba to aggressively campaign for re-election, remaining popular throughout the electioneering period, bringing down the dynasty of negotiated democracy.
“Negotiated democracy is an idea whose time has passed, in modern democracy a leader should be elected based on performance and leadership style with respect to needs of the population,” Mr Roba said.
Negotiated democracy, where each clan was to take governorship position for five years opened room for looting of public resources and hinder development as one knew he was going to be dropped.
Mr Roba and those opposed to negotiated democracy said leadership is not like food to be dished out to satisfy individual interest rather than public interest of development.
Negotiated democracy, they said, would make it impossible for minority to lead and that leaders should be left to compete based on their manifestos.
Due to Mr Roba’s push, his line-up of leaders scooped various seats including the Senate, two MPs and 13 MCAs under Jubilee ticket. The governor’s drive as Jubilee pointman in Mandera also locked out the opposition from the county, thus delivering nearly 100 per cent of votes to President Kenyatta.
Pundits says Mr Roba’s success marks the death of negotiated democracy in Mandera, a thing that could never see the light of the day in the county again.
Mr Roba allies said unlike the elders’ argument it is the leadership which forms the council and that they have no role deciding who should vie.
It is during Mr Roba’s tenure that peace returned to Mandera after being rocked by inter-clan clashes and persistent terror attacks that forced government administrators to read presidential speeches during national celebrations in their compounds. Communities in the vast county have also been united in the past four years.
Reached for comment over his second term win, Mr Roba thanked the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission for free and fair polls that was however disputed by Mr Noor’s team.
“IEBC did a wonderful job,” Mr Roba said.
He also commented security personnel for ensuring security. “I also thank other stakeholders for ensuring democratic election process which shows Mandera is mature and ready for competitive politics,” he said.
Mr Roba who has been target of various terror attacks on his convoy that have left people killed has been working with President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to end the attacks.
The governor’s move to end tribal conflicts in Mandera earned him the trust of locals.