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Analysis: How ODM won hotly contested Kibra MP seat

Saturday November 9 2019

Raila and Imran in Kibra

ODM leader Raila Odinga confers with the party's Kibra MP contestant Imran Okoth, during a meeting with members of the Akamba Community living in Kibra, at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation's grounds on November 2, 2019. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

SARAH NANJALA
By SARAH NANJALA
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The Kibra by-election race was tight, if the campaigns and the politicians involved are anything to go by.

Among the 24 candidates were McDonald Mariga of Jubilee Party, Imran Okoth of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Eliud Owalo of Amani National Congress (ANC) and Khamisi Butichi of Ford Kenya.

President Uhuru Kenyatta assured Mr Mariga of his full support while Deputy President William Ruto was toe to toe with ODM leader Raila Odinga during weeks of campaigning.

ANC boss Musalia Mudavadi toured Kibra to campaign for Mr Owalo while Mr Butichi had the backing of his party leader Moses Wetang'ula as well as Wiper Democratic Movement's boss Kalonzo Musyoka.

LANDSLIDE VICTORY

Dr Ruto said over and over again that the Jubilee candidate would win but he conceded defeat to Mr Okoth shortly after vote-counting began following the by-election on Thursday.

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Through Mr Okoth, ODM proved it still has overwhelming support in the constituency in Nairobi County.

The by-election resulted from the death of MP Ken Okoth, who was the brother of the MP-elect and a member of the orange party.

With more than 10,000 votes ahead of his closest rival, Mr Odinga's party made its presence and relevance in Kibra.

Mr Okoth carried on with his brother's projects, all the while praised for admirable qualities meticulousness, transparency and humility.

But what other factors saw ODM win the contest?

Raila and allies campaign in Kibra

Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, Kirinyaga's Anne Waiguru, ODM leader Raila Odinga, Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, Kitui's Charity Ngilu and MP candidate Bernard Imran Okoth during a campaign rally at Woodley grounds in Kibra on November 3, 2019. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

STRONG HISTORY

While campaigning for Mr Okoth, Mr Odinga referred to Kibra as his bedroom and said nobody else could be allowed into it.

ODM has enjoyed fanatical support in the area since Mr Odinga served as Lang'ata MP for 20 years, from 1992 to 2013.

For this and other reasons, Mr Odinga told his supporters not to embarrass him, but to instead turn up in large numbers and vote for Mr Okoth.

Also worth noting was the party’s campaign slogan ‘ODM ni Kibra ODM is Kibra' and precedent - ODM led in Kibra during elections even before it was declared an independent constituency prior to the 2013 elections.

A LOCAL

ODM's candidate has lived in Kibra since childhood. He was born in Kisumu Ndogo to a family that later moved to Makina and then to Karanja Estate.

Mr Okoth now lives with his family in a house next to Kibera Primary School, where he, Mr Odinga and his wife cast their ballots.

These factors highly likely swayed a significant number of voters to Mr Okoth's side on the basis of his perceived understanding of their problems and thus an ability to step into his brother's shoes.

Mr Okoth also had a good relationship with his brother, judging by the fact that he was his trustee when it came to management of projects after he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and travelled abroad for treatment.

He served as his personal assistant, carrying out duties such as distributing cheques from the Constituency Development Fund to schools.

Mr Okoth's nephew, who did not want to be named, earlier told the Nation, “He was the project manager. He was the one overseeing all the projects that Ken had back home while abroad. He trusted him with all the donor funds he sent back home to run the foundation,” the nephew said.

“He has always been the quiet one in the family but very involved. They say behind every successful man is a woman, (but) behind the success of Ken was Imran. He is the only person he trusted back home."

On the other side of the spectrum, Mr Mariga faced criticism for being a new entrant into the political scene and into Kibra.

During a campaign rally in Kibra, Siaya Senator James Orengo once said, "In the Constitution, to be an MP you have to know mother tongue, Kiswahili and English. Mariga knows none. He even doesn't know sign language".

McDonald Mariga votes in Kibra

McDonald Mariga, Jubilee Party's candidate for the Kibra by-election, is pictured at a polling station in Mashimoni on voting day, November 7, 2019. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

STRATEGIC CAMPAIGNING

Weekdays were dedicated to door-to-door efforts and group meetings while weekends were reserved for rallies in Kibra's wards.

It was in these weekday meetings that ODM forged alliances and gathered massive support.

The party liaised with communities such as the Agikuyu and the Akamba, through politicians such as Governors Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) and Charity Ngilu (Kitui).

These new alliances were largely pegged on the handshake between Mr Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta, with the former urging Kikuyu residents in Kibra to support Mr Okoth in the spirit of the unity deal.

Others from the Jubilee camp who showed support were Mugumo MP Ruth Mwaniki and nominated MP Maina Kamanda.

And after his victory, Mr Okoth said, "I will start working immediately after I’m sworn-in. I request my opponents to support me in serving the people of Kibra. It is only through unity that Kibra will develop. I support the handshake since I am the first handshake MP."

Imran Okoth in Kibra

Kibra MP-elect Imran Okoth addresses the press, flanked by ODM's Director of Elections and Suna East MP Junet Mohamed (R), after the IEBC declared him winner of the contest on November 8, 2019. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

JUBILEE DISPUTES

Jubilee was disadvantaged by supremacy battles that saw the rise of the Kieleweke and Tangatanga factions, but this was to ODM's advantage.

The Kieleweke faction supports the handshake while Tangatanga is allied to the DP.

As the two fought to settle scores, Odinga used the opportunity to gather as much support as he could for his candidate.

Still, on election day, ODM and its followers left nothing to chance. They guarded against incidences of bribery, duplicate votes and other election malpractices and closely monitored the vote count.

However, there were a few cases of voter bribery at polling stations such as Mashimoni as well as chaos at Lindi Mosque and DC Grounds.