It’s just 60 days to the General Election and at least 15,000 candidates will battle it out for 1,882 elective positions. It’s the highest number of candidates in Kenya’s history.
On Friday or Saturday, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission will gazette names of the candidates, hoping that its tribunal headed by chairman Wafula Chebukati will have dispensed with 250 nomination cases filed by aspirants after the commission received papers between May 28 and June 2.
A total of 35 political parties are taking part. The top rivals, Jubilee Party and the opposition National Super Alliance, have named their campaign teams for the final onslaught against one other.
The two sides are also mobilising funds for the campaigns, which pundits have estimated will cost more than the combined Sh50 billion spent in the last election by presidential candidates. On Friday, President Uhuru Kenyatta will have the first fundraiser, organised by the Friends of Jubilee Foundation, at the Safari Park hotel, Nairobi. The foundation is made up of prominent business people from the Mt Kenya region. Nasa’s flag-bearer, Mr Raila Odinga, has planned a fundraiser in the next one week.
To show how close election day is, the IEBC will on Friday host political parties, civil society organisations, faith-based groups, youth groups, government institutions and agencies in testing and verifying electoral technology to be used in the polls.
“The Election Technology Advisory Committee, a stakeholder group formed to oversee the implementation of electoral technology, will also witness the trial. For the first time, the IEBC has been able to test the technology to authenticate voters using biometrics (finger scans) at least three months to the polls,” spokesman Andrew Limo said.
The Election Act (2011, Sec 44), on the use of technology, requires the commission to “test, verify and deploy such technology at least sixty days before a general election”.
Of the 15,067 candidates, eight are in the presidential race, the same number as in the 2013 polls. A total of 245 candidates are gunning for governor, 349 for the 47 senate seats, with 327 aspiring for the 47 county woman representative positions.
At least 2,078 aspirants want to be members of Parliament while a record 12,060 want to be members of the county assembly. At least 20 aspirants have either dropped out, been disqualified from the initial 15,082 that sought the IEBC nod, with the possibility of the figure rising after the official list is gazetted.
From June 10 to 24, political parties will be required to present names of the people they want nominated to various special seats in the Senate, National Assembly and county assemblies.
There are 12 for the National Assembly, 16 women for the Senate and more than 600 in the 47 county assemblies.
Though treated with secrecy, Jubilee Party has set up three separate campaign teams to spearhead President Kenyatta’s quest for a second term. Those involved include his younger brother Muhoho Kenyatta, Solicitor-General Njee Muturi, one time personal assistant of former President Mwai Kibaki Alfred Getonga, Jubilee secretary-general Raphael Tuju and the President’s ally, Mr David Murathe. This team meets frequently and consults widely on legal, communication and propaganda and logistical issues that may affect the campaign.
The team also consults with other influential but below-the-radar players such as billionaire businessman Peter Muthoka, among others. The second team is made up of regional Jubilee aspirants, the most notable being the Mt Kenya and Rift Valley groups led by MPs Moses Kuria (Gatundu South) and Joyce Laboso (Sotik). Christened “Mbele iko sawa”, the Kuria group held its first meeting in Murang’a on Friday. Its purpose is to drum up support for the President and also campaign for Jubilee party nominees. Dr Laboso’s team held its first meeting early this week in Kericho.
The third group comprises Cabinet secretaries and principal secretaries who are leading campaigns in their home regions. Devolution Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, his Transport counterpart James Macharia, Education CS Fred Matiang’i and Water CS Eugene Wamalwa, are notable names in this category, which has divided the country into Jubilee strongholds and swing counties.
The other critical group is that of communication, also made up of three interlocked groups. The party communications is led by Mr Getonga. He has been instrumental in championing the interests of the party at Jubilee headquarters.
State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu heads the presidential communication unit professionals. Their job is to ensure all meetings attended by the President and Deputy President get maximum publicity. Head of Public Communications Dennis Chebitwey, sources said, is in charge of propaganda and spin.
Also involved is the British consultancy company SCL (Strategic Communication Laboratories) Group, led by an Indian-British citizen Sabhita Raju. The company has footprints in various countries, including the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe, giving strategic political advice based on data. It was part of the 2013 elections.
Logistics for the campaigns are being handled by Mr Tuju and Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho.
For its part, Nasa named a 15-member team chaired by Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi to lead the campaign for Mr Odinga.
He is deputised by Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama, and ODM stalwart Olga Karani, while lawyer Willis Otieno will be the chair of the presidential campaign secretariat.
Below the three is a 15-member steering committee that has Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho, Siaya Senator James Orengo, ODM secretary-general Agnes Zani, party director of elections Junet Mohamed (Suna East MP), treasurer Timothy Bosire (Kitutu Masaba MP), and fast-rising Kajiado Central MP Memusi Kanchori. Others are Cynthia Mutere, chair of the Committee of Experts that drafted the 2010 Constitution — senior counsel Nzamba Kitonga, Mr Brown Makotsi, Mr Tirop Kosgey, and Mr David Kipyegon Sang.
The Nasa team has divided the country into 21 regions that will be manned by political pointmen in the strongholds, and professionals in areas that Nasa is trying to snatch from Jubilee.
Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok will man Turkana and West Pokot, Mr Joho the coast, Emgwen MP Elijah Lagat and Ms Karani will oversee Elgeyo Marakwet, Uasin Gishu, Nandi and Baringo, while Laikipia North MP Mathew Lempurkel will co-ordinate Laikipia and Samburu, with Kajiado Governor David Nkedianye manning Narok and Kajiado and Mr Ronald Ngeny in charge of Bomet, Kericho and Nakuru.
Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and Mr Muthama will man Nairobi, Mr Ken Ng’ang’a and Jacob Nasonga (Bungoma and Trans Nzoia), with Ken Njiraini handling Busia, Vihiga and Kakamega. Wiper deputy party leader Farah Maalim and Balambala MP Abdikadir Aden will handle Garissa, with Wajir Governor Ahmed Abdullahi handling his home county.
At the same time, son of independence hero Charles Rubia, Mike, will handle Central, with former Energy minister Kirugi M’Mukindia managing Meru, while Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki’s brother, Prof Isaiah Kindiki, is tasked with delivering Tharaka Nithi.
Mr Bosire has been asked to oversee campaigns in Gusii, while Mr Odinga’s elder brother Oburu Oginga and Homa Bay woman representative, the fiery Gladys Wanga, will deal with Nyanza.
Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana has been tasked with handling the Eastern region.
Report by Bernard Namunane, Wanjohi Githae and Patrick Lang’at.