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Kibra poll race promises to spawn political realignments

Friday November 8 2019

Kibra

Kibra residents vote in the parliamentary by-election at Ayany Primary School on November 7, 2019. The contest was turned into a battle between proponents of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and Deputy President William Ruto. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

LUCAS BARASA
By LUCAS BARASA
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The Kibra by-election is one of the most fiercely contested in the recent past, which has seen Deputy President William Ruto and his arch-rival Raila Odinga flex their political muscle.

The ODM leader’s former allies and partners in the National Super Alliance - Mr Musalia Mudavadi of the Amani National Congress (ANC) and Mr Moses Wetangula (Ford-Kenya) - also fielded candidates as the outfit that gave Jubilee Party a run for its money in the 2013 elections crumbled.

The mini poll that followed the death of Ken Okoth (ODM) exposed the divisions in Jubilee Party, with President Uhuru Kenyatta, who had earlier seemed to endorse McDonald Mariga's candidature, giving the campaigns a wide berth.

President Kenyatta’s allies in Jubilee, led by nominated MP Maina Kamanda and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, rooted for the ODM candidate in the “spirit of handshake” between the Head of State and Mr Odinga.

KEY VARIABLES

As a result, the contest was turned into a battle between proponents of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and Dr Ruto.

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“If you lose in Kibra, you must go back to the drawing board. If the BBI proponents win, it would bolster their campaigns ahead of 2022 elections,” said Mr JM Waiganjo, a Nairobi lawyer and political commentator.

The ODM candidate also enjoyed the support of Kanu, Narc through Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu, Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana’s Muungano Party, Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua’s Maendeleo Chap Chap and Chama cha Mashinani, signalling a new political realignment ahead of the next General Election.

Party politics, ethnic mobilisation, the BBI, the 2022 politics, divisions in Nasa and Jubilee and the rivalry between Mr Odinga and Dr Ruto dominated the search for votes in Kibra at the expense of issues affecting locals - including poverty, poor sanitation, poor infrastructure and health and education challenges.

TRIBALISM

And for the first time, Kibra residents said they witnessed huge amounts of money splashed by various candidates to win their support.

Mr Waiganjo said the political clout displayed in Kibra shaped the opinion of ordinary voters.

He said the stakes were high and whichever party wins the cosmopolitan constituency will increase its clout in the city's and national politics.

The Kibra campaigns, Mr Waiganjo noted, also witnessed the return of tribal mobilisation.

The campaigns saw Dr Ruto making inroads in Kibra, seen as Mr Odinga and ODM’s bedrock, as he strategises for a stab at the presidency.

Before Mr Mariga was given the nod to vie for the seat by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which was opposed by a faction in the ruling party dubbed Kieleweke, Dr Ruto insisted Jubilee Party would not compromise its support for the former football star for another candidate.

SABOTAGE

MPs Maina Kamanda (nominated) and Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany) maintained Mr Mariga was forced on the people and that his candidature was the brainchild of Dr Ruto’s Tangatanga team meant to scuttle the March 9, 2018 political pact between the President and Mr Odinga.

“Jubilee’s Mariga is among others. How can anybody contemplate our party, party leadership and machinery supporting any other candidate?” Dr Ruto tweeted. “The media should spare us these ugly shenanigans,” he added.

Mr Kamanda and other Kieleweke team members said President Kenyatta had thrown his weight behind Mr Okoth.

The hotly contested by-election attracted 24 candidates. The campaigns for the seat came to an end on Monday.

Kibra is one of the 17 constituencies in Nairobi County. It was created before the 2013 polls and has 118,658 registered voters.