A tough political battle is shaping up in Malindi, less than a year after the constituency went through a bruising parliamentary by-election.
While the battle in March last year pitted Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) against Jubilee Party, the scenario is different today, with the fight fuelled by internal rivalry in the Orange party.
Incumbent William Mtengo, who romped to victory in the by-election, is involved in a bitter war with Kilifi County Woman Representative Aisha Jumwa on who should carry the ODM flag in the parliamentary elections. ODM is the dominant party in the constituency.
While ODM stalwarts at the coast and nationally joined hands to campaign for Mr Mtengo during the mini-poll to trounce Jubilee, which wanted to use the vote to gauge its strength and penetrate the opposition base, the leaders are now divided.
The by-election was triggered by the move by President Uhuru Kenyatta to appoint Malindi MP Dan Kazungu to the Cabinet.
Ms Jumwa is a close ally of ODM leader Raila Odinga and is favoured by coast political kingpin and Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho for the seat.
However, Mr Joho’s political ally, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi, whom he usually refers to as “Governor 003,” is backing Mr Mtengo’s re-election. Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo is also backing Mr Mtengo.
Ms Jumwa and Mr Mtengo have been hitting out at each other whenever they meet at various events in the constituency as they seek to lure votes.
Mr Odinga has been referring to Ms Jumwa as the “heroine” of coast politics, reminiscent of former Giriama freedom fighter Mekatilili wa Menza. He went round the country with her after she was arrested with other MPs last year on suspicion of uttering inflammatory remarks.
Ms Jumwa made her intention clear right from last year’s by-election campaign: that she would be in the race for the seat this year.
Mr Mtengo, she said during the campaigns, would only warm the seat for her.
“I am supporting Mtengo now but let him know that I will take over the seat in 2017. Let him sit there with one buttock as I prepare to go in,” Ms Jumwa told a meeting at Alaskan ground and Kijiwetanga football pitch.
Now, the fight is full blown as Jumwa and Mtengo are fiercely at each other’s necks, tearing into one another whenever they get an audience.
On the other hand, the Jubilee house whose candidate, Philip Charo, was second to Mtengo in last year’s by-election, is also facing problems.
A Malindi Jubilee activist Justin Rafiki says the ruling party, like ODM, had problems that must be sorted out before the party primaries expected from next month.
“Mr Charo expected that he would get a direct ticket, but we are surprised that Mining Cabinet Secretary Dan Kazungu has brought another candidate on board, a Mr Peter Mwawana to contest the seat. This has angered Mr Charo who, we believe, is not ready to face a nomination,” said Mr Rafiki.
He feared that if Jubilee loses Mr Charo to another party, it could mark the end of chances of the party clinching the Malindi parliamentary seat.
When contacted, Mr Charo said he was in the race “but until now, I don’t know on which party ticket I will vie”.
He indicated that he had already been approached by the Wiper Democratic Party and Kadu Asili, but had not agreed to either of them.
“I will keep my options wide open and prefer that the Malindi people themselves decide on which party I will run,” he said.
Ironically, Wiper seems to have settled on a candidate, Mr Rashid Odhiambo, who is said to have opened an office for the party in Malindi that he personally pays rent for.
In the ODM camp, Mr Mtengo and Ms Jumwa have pulled off the gloves and are in a bare-knuckled fight in a bid to clinch the ODM ticket.
Political analyst Morris Mbondenyi, says Ms Jumwa “will definitely get the ODM ticket”.
“If I were Mtengo, I would quickly put Plan B in place. It’s almost a foregone conclusion the ticket is Jumwa’s and Mtengo has no option but face the butcher’s knife,” he said in an interview.
He said the zeal with which Jumwa has been moving around the country with Mr Odinga “makes her the one closer to the powers that be, a better fighter for the party, an asset and therefore the obvious choice and so, Mtengo ajitenge na ajipange” (let Mtengo disengage and organise himself).
Prof Mbondenyi, the deputy director at the Kenya School of Law, says there has never been a free and fair nomination in ODM “and this time round, I don’t see a different scenario”.
“The Nasa nominations are going to be very tricky and furthermore, I already see there are upper hands and lower hands in getting the candidates. So, it depends on which hand you are”.
During their frequent exchanges at public forums, Ms Jumwa’s argument, for example, has been that she had told Mr Mtengo “that he would only be warming the seat for me”.
“Mtengo cannot boast of being popular in Malindi because I am the one who worked hard to make sure he was elected. Now he thinks he is man enough to challenge me, let him try it alone”.
Mr Mtengo has not been taking the taunts lying down, not wasting a good opportunity to land his own political blows.
“She is a stranger here, who came recently and we did not know what brought her here. Let her first explain to us what she wants here because if it is leadership, she is already the Kilifi Woman Rep. So what does she want (in Malindi)?” asked Mr Mtengo.
Mr Charo says that the days when voters elected a party and not the individual like it happened during the by-election, are long gone.
“Things have drastically changed and it looks obvious that they will go for a credible leader, irrespective of the political party.
“They seem to have realised the party does not benefit anybody but the individual leader,” he said.
According to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Malindi Constituency registered 55,856 voters before the 2013 General Election.
During the 2016 Malindi by-election, ODM’s William Mtengo got 15,582 votes while Jubilee’s Philip Charo, who came second, got 9,243 votes.
Issues fuelling fight for seat
1. ODM is perceived to be the dominant party in the constituency, which had 55,856 registered voters before the 2013 General Election.
2. But party leaders who united to successfully campaign for William Mtengo are now divided between the MP and Kilifi Woman Representative Aisha Jumwa.
3. Ms Jumwa, a close ally of ODM leader Raila Odinga, also enjoys the backing of Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho.
4. But Joho’s political ally, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi, and Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo are backing Mr Mtengo’s re-election in the August General Election.