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Winners and losers in review of Kenya boundaries

Saturday November 20 2010

Who’s for the plan: Lands ministerJames Orengo: Likely to contest in the newly-created Ugunja constituency. Who’s against the plan: Public Health minister Beth Mugo:Without a split in Dagoretti, she’ll have to contend with fierce competition from youthful politician John Kiarie.

Who’s for the plan: Lands ministerJames Orengo: Likely to contest in the newly-created Ugunja constituency. Who’s against the plan: Public Health minister Beth Mugo:Without a split in Dagoretti, she’ll have to contend with fierce competition from youthful politician John Kiarie.  

By EMEKA-MAYAKA GEKARA [email protected] and PETER LEFTIE [email protected]

Leading politicians, many of them affiliated with ODM, are perceived to be the biggest beneficiaries in the creation of 80 new constituencies, which has sparked a controversy.

At least eight members of the Cabinet have had their constituencies split, effectively relocating their traditional political foes to new constituencies, which is as good as guaranteeing them an easy run come 2012 should they choose to defend their seats.

The biggest beneficiaries of the alleged “gerrymandering” include Cabinet ministers Dalmas Otieno, Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, Henry Kosgey, Fred Gumo, Charity Ngilu, James Orengo and William ole Ntimama.

Others are Communications minister Samuel Poghisio and suspended Foreign Affairs colleague Moses Wetang’ula, whose constituencies have all been split in a way that separates them from their opponents.

Other big-time beneficiaries in the controversial split include Ford-Kenya chairman Musikari Kombo, Kilgoris MP Gideon Konchella, assistant minister Richard Onyonka, and MPs Chris Okemo, Philip Kaloki, and Kiema Kilonzo, among dozens others.

“I am now in Kabuchai constituency which covers Chwele and Nalondo, but it is still too large even after the splitting.

“It is a very easy constituency for me because I can now easily come back unopposed because my opponent comes from the other side,” boasted Mr Wetang’ula while praising the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission (IIBRC) chairman Andrew Ligale last week.

He was referring to the splitting of Sirisia constituency which has seen him move to the newly-created Kabuchai constituency while his fierce opponent, Major John Waluke, remains in Sirisia.

Former Kibwezi MP Kalembe Ndile says if the new constituencies are gazetted, Mrs Ngilu, whose Kitui Central constituency was split into Kitui Rural and Kitui Town, is expected to move to the latter where she is more popular.

Mr Ndile, who intends to contest in the newly-created Kibwezi West constituency (Makindu), says the new electoral units may lay the ground for the return of politicians who lost in previous elections.

“It is a blessing in disguise for some of us,” he said. “But some politicians who have not fulfilled their pledges will still be kicked out.”

Mr Ndile says once the boundaries are drawn, some politicians may lose clans or divisions which have been their support base. “Others may find themselves in trouble by facing stronger candidates.”

Ukambani received five additional constituencies, including Mwingi Central, carved out of the VP’s Mwingi North and Mwingi South. Others are Matungulu in chief whip Johnstone Muthama’s home and Mavoko from Wavinya Ndeti’s Kathiani.

Other politicians who may benefit from new constituencies in their backyard are Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim (Dadaab) and Hassan Joho (Nyali).

But the main losers appear to be politicians from parts of Central Province and their counterparts in Upper Eastern. Assistant minister Kabando wa Kabando has accused Mr Ligale of obvious and deliberate bias.

Mr Kabando says Ephraim Maina’s Mathira constituency and Kieni should have been split due to their high population and large size.

“Nobody knows why the commission did not consider to split constituencies like Mathira, Kieni and Ntonyiri with a population of 229,871 yet constituencies with less than 200,000 people such as Alego Usonga (187,243), Emuhaya (185,069) and Tinderet (199,514) have been split.”

But Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara and former Taveta MP Jackson Mwalulu expressed satisfaction with the new constituencies in the larger Meru and at the Coast. “We had recommended the creation of Buuri, a split of Igembe and the creation of Maara from another electoral unit from Nithi and that is what we got,” said Mr Imanyara.

Suspended Higher Education minister William Ruto on Saturday rallied  support  for the additional 80 constituencies.

“Let us give the Ligale team space and time to draw the boundaries and complete its work. The majority of Kenyans and MPs are happy with the new electoral units and I ask leaders to stop creating tension and crisis where  there is none,” said Mr Ruto.

North Horr MP Chachu Ganya and his Wajir South counterpart have accused the commission of giving them a raw deal. North Horr constituency, which is the size of Western Province, was not split.

Mr Mohamud Sirat of Wajir North accused Mr Ligale of ignoring the region in favour of “ODM friendly” constituencies in North Eastern province.

In Nairobi, Cabinet minister Beth Mugo has also cried foul, saying her large Dagoretti constituency should have been split. Without the split, Mrs Mugo faces stiff competition from youthful politician John Kiarie who mounted a strong challenge in the last election. 

The other is Cabinet minister Naomi Shaaban who hoped that Mr Ligale would split her Taveta constituency. Their Housing counterpart  Soita Shitanda of Malava has also expressed disappointment at the commission’s failure to split his constituency.

The split of constituencies sees Mr Gumo remaining in Westlands, while his opponents like Amin Walji may move to the Kenyan-Asian dominated Parklands constituency.

Mr Orengo now finds himself in the newly-created Ugunja constituency away from his perennial opponent and brother-in-law, Archbishop Stephen Ondiek.

Prof Nyong’o is likely to move to the new Seme constituency, away from his seasoned rivals such as Ochoro Ayoki. The new boundaries have also given former ministers Musikari Kombo and Mukhisa Kituyi a political lifeline.

Mr Kombo now moves to the new Bokoli constituency largely inhabited by the Bukusu sub-tribe of the Luhya community, away from his long-standing opponent, Alfred Sambu, who remains in Webuye constituency, largely occupied by his Tachoni sub-tribe.

Dr Kituyi moves to the newly- created Tongaren constituency away from current MP Dr Eseli Simiyu who remains in Kimilili.

In Busia, the creation of Matayos constituency from the larger Nambale is perceived as having resolved a potentially bruising contest pitting current MP Chris Okemo against Attorney-General Amos Wako should he choose to join politics in 2012. Mr Wako comes from Matayos while Mr Okemo remains in Nambale.

Another beneficiary of the split is Foreign Affairs assistant minister Richard Onyonka whose Kitutu Chache has been split into Mosocho and Marani constituencies.

The move will see Mr Onyonka opting for his Mosocho home constituency while former MP Jimmy Angwenyi is likely to lock horns with former PS James Ongwae in Marani.

The rivalry between former MPs Nyarangi Moturi and Geoffrey Masanya may also become a thing of the past if the splitting of the former North Mugirango/Borabu into North Mugirango and Borabu constituencies is anything to go by. Mr Moturi now finds himself in Borabu while Masanya remains in North Mugirango.

Besides the politicians, the new list of boundaries has been welcomed by some marginalised communities which have complained of domination by certain groups, as well as residents of violence-prone areas, especially parts of Rift Valley.

Division of constituencies appears to have been deliberately aimed at separation of communities with a history of conflict. In addition to population and land mass, the Ligale team seems to have considered clan rivalry, political competition and grievances revolving around marginalisation in mapping out the new units.

For instance, the Rabai, a Mijikenda sub-group which has been fighting dominance of the Giriama, got the new Rabai constituency.

In Trans Nzoia, the Sabaot community, who have always wanted their own constituency, will find solace in the formation of Endebess after the split of Kwanza.

In Luo Nyanza, the splitting of the former Rongo constituency has effectively put to an end the rivalry between Cabinet minister Dalmas Otieno and his nemesis Ochillo Ayacko. Dalmas remains in Rongo while Ayacko moves to Awendo.

Dynamic exercise

“Mr Ligale could not have satisfied everybody given that he had only 80 extra constituencies to create. Kenyans must accept that the revision of boundaries is a dynamic exercise and, with time, the injustices being pointed out today will correct themselves, so let us learn to accept things as they are,” the former MP said.

In some cases, new units  separated possible opponents.  The creation of Laikipia North from Laikipia East, for instance, separates MP Mwangi Kiunjuri and former Speaker Francis ole Kaparo.

Laikipia East is dominated by members of Mr Kiunjuri’s Kikuyu community while the north is inhabited by pastoralists who identify more with Mr Kaparo, a Samburu. 

And nominated MP Maison Leshoomo will easily call the shots in the new Samburu North constituency which has been carved out of rival Simeon Lesrima’s Samburu West.

The division of constituencies has also fenced off communities which have been at war with each other, especially in the run-up to elections.

For instance, the division of the conflict-prone Kuresoi into the North and South effectively separates the Kalenjin and Kikuyu communities.

With the division, the Kalenjin will dominate the South while the Kikuyu and Abagusii will be the majority in the North. Here the key beneficiary is current MP Zakayo Cheruiyot who will probably seek re-election in the Kalenjin-dominated South.

Mr Ligale’s team also appeared keen to stem violence in Kipkelion which split into East and West as well as in Nakuru Town where he created Nakuru Town West constituency.

Kipkelion East is dominated by the Kikuyu while the West is largely populated by the Kalenjin. The same applies to Nakuru Town.