A high stakes political contest pitting President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga is in the offing on Monday as voters cast their ballots to elect a new MP for Kajiado Central.
For President Kenyatta, the by-election is an opportunity to popularise his new Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) as a vehicle for his final presidential bid in 2017 while Mr Odinga is desperate to salvage his numbers from dropping after the “poaching” of Mr Joseph Nkaissery, who recently joined the government as Interior Secretary.
A victory for ODM candidate Elijah Memusi Kanchory on Monday would be a slap in the face for the President after handing one of the most powerful Cabinet portfolios to Mr Nkaissery in what was seen as a bid to woo the region’s voters to his side.
And a win for JAP candidate Patrick Tutui would be a huge blow to Mr Odinga whose team, buoyed by the easy victory in the Homa Bay Senate by-election last month, is planning a major re-launch in readiness for the 2017 General Election.
Both Mr Tutui and Mr Memusi are from the populous Maasai Matapato clan and are expected to garner an almost equal number of votes.
The third candidate, Mr Ntusero Naimaua Tiyie, an independent, is seen as having little significance in the by-election.
The major battle will be for the 22,000 Matapato votes. Both Mr Tutui’s Orokiteng’ clan and Mr Memusi’s Odomongi clan belong to the larger Matapato clan.
Nkaissery owes his 2013 re-election to a power agreement with the Orokiteng’ clan, whereby his Odomong’i clan had to forfeit all five seats of the Members of County Assembly and one nomination slot to obtain their combined backing.
The Kankere and Purko clans are also expected to influence the poll outcome.
President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga did not participate in Saturday’s final campaigns as they are both are out of the country. Mr Kenyatta is in Japan, while Mr Odinga is in Morocco.
WELL ATTENDED RALLIES
Mr Odinga has been in Kajiado three times to campaign for Mr Memusi at lively and well-attended rallies while President Kenyatta toured the area last week and held equally well-organised political events.
The significance of the Kajiado Central seat has seen the two camps send high-profile teams to lead their hunt for votes from the 39,000 registered voters, with Deputy President William Ruto holding brief for the President while former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka is leading the charge against the Jubilee juggernaut.
With early political intelligence showing a slight edge for Mr Memusi, who defected from JAP claiming the nomination process was fraudulent, the government side has quickly moved to avert what could be an embarrassing loss.
“It is true that the opposition appeared slightly stronger, but we have moved in to whittle down their support by employing a serious campaign strategy that has largely succeeded. I can assure you that you can join us if you want to be in the winning party after Monday,” said Kajiado West MP Moses ole Sakuda.
Mr Sakuda said some of the losers in the Jubilee nominations, including Mr Antony Kiroken who had joined the Memusi camp, had landed plum State jobs.
“We realised that Mr Kiroken was joining Mr Memusi, and we moved fast to rescue him from opposition politics. Now he is the chairman of the Water Regulatory Services Board,” said Mr Sakuda.
Mr Kiroken is from the Kankere group which is expected to supply the swing vote in an election that is expected to be determined largely by clan politics.
A Mr ole Kando, who hails from the greater Matapato, has been appointed and posted to Algeria as deputy ambassador in a bid to sway his clan’s support the Jubilee way.
Several other strategies, including creation of new locations and sub-locations, were also dangled as carrots to the voters.
Cord, however, insists that despite all the rival’s enticements they still had the stronger candidate whom voters seem to like.
PLANNING TO RIG
But Mr Musyoka said there were fears Jubilee might be planning to rig the by-election.
“It is the only way they can win this one, otherwise the people of Kajiado have embraced Cord and the coalition’s candidate,” he said.
The former vice-president urged Cord supporters to be on the lookout tomorrow to prevent any attempts to rig the vote.
“We have the best plan to protect the rights of the Maasai people who are our neighbours here. Voting for Cord will mean you have not been intimidated to sell off your quest for your rights by government functionaries,” he said.
The Cord campaign team also accused Interior Minister Nkaissery of perpetuating impunity by “arrogantly participating in political campaigns” despite his holding a non-political office.
“We are saddened by the desperation of the government side to the extent that the Interior Minister Nkaissery has abandoned his duties to come and campaign here while terrorists are hitting Mandera and killing innocent police officers and civilians,” said ODM director of elections Junet Mohammed.
He also accused the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission of turning a blind eye to the “massive abuse of office by the minister and a county commissioner in the region” whom he accused of mobilising chiefs and their assistants to campaign for the JAP candidate.
“We have mobilised a number of MPs who will sit in the polling centres tomorrow to observe the voting to derail any efforts to steal our votes,” Mr Mohammed said.
Mr Nkaissery is said to have been sent to the ground following resistance by some members of his family to support Mr Tutui.
“The CS has held meetings with his family members seven times, and we are glad they are now responsive to our plea,” said Mr Sakuda.
The CS’s wife, Ms Hellen Nkaissery, an influential personality in Kajiado Central politics for years, is among those who had reportedly refused to support the Tutui campaign due to deeply etched political differences from the past.
Elders in Kajiado Central have previously described Mr Nkaissery as being related to Mr Memusi, which could have been the reason behind the family’s reluctance to abandon him for Mr Tutui.
Area Senator Peter ole Mositet, who is leading the Jubilee campaign, on Saturday said the seat was theirs for the taking.
He said campaign teams combed every ward in the constituency.
“We have deployed MPs and Members of the County Assembly to Matapato South, Matapato North, Purko, Ildamat and Dalakutok to pass the Jubilee message there,” Mr Mositet said.
With the local clans sharply divided, Kenyans from other parts of the country living at trading centres in Kajiado Central, including Namanga, Kajiado and Ilbisil, will play a major role in determining the winner of the election.
The constituency’s more than 8,500 immigrant voters could, however, tilt the election in Mr Memusi’s favour due to the Kamba people.
“Elections are normally held in December when they are at their rural homes. This time they will be here. You can’t ignore that fact,” political activist Peter ole Nkeri said.
On Saturday, the electoral commission said it was set to conduct a free and fair election.
It called on voters and candidates to be calm and observe electoral rules, warning that breaking them would attract stiff penalties.