Deputy President William Ruto and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga are testing their political strength in upcoming by-election as lawmakers continue switching camps between the two.
This comes as ODM MPs who had shifted to Dr Ruto’s camp trooped back to Mr Odinga.
A civic by-election in Kilifi is set to rekindle the battle of supremacy in the Coast region between the two.
The Ganda ward seat fell vacant following a successful petition challenging the election of then-ODM candidate Abdul Omar. Mr Reuben Katana, who ran on a Kadu Asili ticket but lost, filed the petition.
Mr Omar, a close ally of Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, has since decamped from the Orange party and will contest for the seat as an independent candidate.
On the other hand, Mr Katana has rejoined ODM and secured its ticket to contest the seat. Mr Joseph Kiponda alias Giuseppe’s will vie on Jubilee Party ticket.
The DP’s camp, led by ODM “rebel” Aisha Jumwa, has already suffered a blow after two of its erstwhile backers, Kilifi North MP Owen Baya and Women Representative Gertrude Mbeyu, rejoined Mr Odinga’s camp ahead of the mini poll set for October 17.
Magarini MP Michael Kingi, who is in Ruto’s camp, has also vowed to support the ODM candidate.
However, Kaloleni MP Paul Katana, a member of Tangatanga, a pro-Ruto team, told the Sunday Nation that ODM did not consult him on the Ganda ward candidate.
“I was not consulted and equally I am not in the picture of how the nomination was done. I will make my decision once I am back in the country next week,” he replied via a text message.
The MPs now join the growing list of Coast MPs who have gone back to the ODM fold after flirting with the pro-Ruto camp for months, and which includes Msambweni MP Suleiman Dori who, like Ms Jumwa, was expelled from the orange party over his association with the DP but was later “pardoned”.
Mr Baya told the Sunday Nation on Friday that he would support Mr Katana.
“I am an ODM member and have the obligation of supporting our candidate. That is the party rule, which we all must adhere to. Even when I accompanied the DP in his tour of the Coast and other areas, it was purely because he is a national leader.
“I have never rebelled against my party or my leader at any given time. I am and will remain an ODM member,” said Mr Baya who was one of the most respected leaders in the DP’s camp.
“I have been loyal to ODM and no one can dispute that because never in my time did I dispute any party resolutions.”
Ms Mbeyu, who also flirted with the Ruto camp briefly, has since fallen out with Ms Jumwa and trooped back to ODM.
In an interview on Friday, she vowed to make sure the ODM candidate wins the by-election.
“I am an ODM member and I will support our ODM candidate to win the seat. As we speak now, I am from an Embrace rally in Kakamega. The team is coming to Kilifi at the end of this month,” she said.
Ms Mbeyu accused Ms Jumwa of chasing her out of the Ruto camp on grounds that she had “no votes” to offer the DP.
“If a friend tells me that I don’t have any vote to enable the DP to win the 2022 General Election, then let it be. But I want to tell the friend that she will be in for a surprise,” she said in a statement.
“I am embracing Raila and the President in supporting the Handshake, so my duty as an ODM member is to make sure that my candidate wins the Ganda by-election.”
Mr Mwambire urged all ODM leaders, officials, supporters and networks to rally behind Mr Katana in the by-election.
“It will be quite surprising if we will have any of us who benefited from the party to exhibit disloyalty at this hour,” he said.
However, Ms Jumwa accused Mr Baya and other MPs of abandoning her due to selfish interests.
“They supported me when ODM wanted to discipline me but stopped when I declared my interest to vie for Kilifi gubernatorial seat,” she said.
Mr Baya said he supported and defended Ms Jumwa while facing injustices in the ODM because he has the interest of Coast people at heart.
“Ms Jumwa has a different political ideology from mine but I supported and defended her since she belongs to the Coast region, and anyone who offends coastal residents has also offended me,” he said.
This comes amid pressure from the Jubilee Party supporters to compel Ms Jumwa to support a JP party candidate instead of drumming support to an independent candidate in the by-election.