The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) emerged victorious in the Ganda ward by-election in Kilifi County, sending a warning shot to Deputy President William Ruto, who has been making inroads in the Coast region ahead of the 2022 polls.
The mini-poll was a do-or-die affair for Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, who fell out with ODM for supporting DP Ruto’s presidential bid.
ODM’s Reuben Katana was declared winner after garnering 4,177 votes to beat independent candidate Abdul Omar, who had 2,331 votes.
Mr Omar was tacitly backed by Ms Jumwa and was seen as Mr Ruto’s candidate in the battle against the ODM man.
Jubilee Party's Joseph Kiponda was third with 589 votes and followed by Kadu Asili’s David Mitsanze with 362 votes.
The result is a setback for Ms Jumwa, who is eyeing the Kilifi gubernatorial seat in 2022, given her failure to sway voters in favour of Mr Omar in her own constituency.
ODM’s victory was also celebrated by thousands of supporters of former Jubilee point man in the region, Gideon Mung’aro, who is now Lands chief administrative secretary.
It was also celebrated by former Jubilee parliamentary aspirant Philip Charo and former Malindi MP William Mtengo, who lost to Ms Jumwa in the ODM primaries in 2017.
The trio backed the ODM candidate to ensure Ms Jumwa’s political wings are clipped.
The vocal legislator has also fallen out with her colleagues in Kilifi County, who — together with Governor Amason Kingi — have been advocating coastal unity and formation of a party they will use in the 2022 elections.
Kilifi North MP Owen Baya and his Magarini counterpart Michael Kingi are among local leaders who celebrated Ms Jumwa’s “loss”.
The two legislators, Mr Mung’aro and Kilifi South MP Ken Chonga have also expressed interest in the Kilifi gubernatorial seat.
Political analysts say the Ganda mini-poll was a litmus test for Ms Jumwa to prove her political mettle against the Raila Odinga-led ODM in the Coast region.
Ms Jumwa fell out with the orange party after she began drumming up support for DP Ruto’s presidential bid. She has, on several occasions, vowed to wipe out the party in the region.
On Wednesday, the vocal legislator and her bodyguard were arrested and detained at the Port Police Station in Mombasa in connection with the chaos that erupted at Mr Katana’s residence, which led to the fatal shooting of the candidate’s uncle.
Ms Jumwa and her bodyguard have since been charged in a Mombasa court and released on Sh500,000 cash bail or Sh1 million bond.
Speaking after he was declared the winner at the Takaye Primary Tallying Centre, Mr Katana urged his rivals to put aside retrogressive politics and join him in serving residents.
“Let us stop political division based on party, tribe or religion … it is time to build the nation,” he said.
He was later escorted home by his supporters, including Mr Kingi and Mr Baya.
However, Ms Jumwa’s supporters claimed Mr Omar’s loss to Mr Katana — with a margin of 1,846 votes — was a result of her arrest and intimidation a day before the election.
Mr Juma Karisa, Ms Jumwa’s supporter in Malindi, said, “Jumwa battled alone, losing by only 1,846 votes, despite campaigns by ODM led by Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna, Governor Kingi and his deputy Kenneth Kamto, Mombasa Deputy Governor William Kingi, Mr Mtengo, Mr Charo, Mr Mung’aro and his team, and a group of about six Kilifi ODM legislators."