By Abdikadir Sugow
Clan affiliations continue to hold sway in Garissa and will play a key role in shaping the politics of the area ahead of the General Election.
Grassroots lobbying has kicked off in earnest, with current and prospective leaders’ crisscrossing constituencies to consolidate support for their political ambitions, even as the agenda for development increasingly comes to the fore.
Well-financed and organised groups are building support for their political kingpins to extend their influence in controlling the region – home of the Abudwak, Abdalla and Auliyahan sub-clans of the larger Ogaden clan.
Despite efforts by youths to re-align themselves and take centre stage in local politics, they are largely being overlooked by politicians, who have opted to marshal the support of different community elders.
Local politicians seem convinced that the elders will still play a key part in influencing who will ascend to power at the ward, constituency and county level, overlooking the youth, who form the highest percentage of voters.
Although betting on the elders, politicians are slowly beginning to accept that the youth are a great asset during the electioneering period since they hold the largest bloc of votes.
To compound the equation further, a significant number of youth have shown interest to vie for political seats and their ambitions cannot be dismissed as they are out to promote and protect their peers’ agenda.
The seat of Governor is the cornerstone of the local political landscape and all the three sub-clans are keen on backing their favoured candidate to secure control and running of the county’s proposed Sh4.1 billion annual budget.
Aspirants are busy on the ground strategising on how to appeal for and win the larger clans’ support. Among them is former PS and DC Ali Bunow Korane and outgoing Northern Water Service Board Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Maulid Shurie.
They hail from the dominant Abudwak sub-clan of retired Kenya military Chief of General Staff General Mohamoud Mohamed.
High-level secret consultations amongst the Abudwak Council of Elders, professionals and the business community are being held to prevail upon one of them to drop out of the race for the coveted seat.
Elders are also reaching out to the Abdalla and Auliyahan sub-clans to strike a compromise deal.
Apart from the two seasoned administrators, the seat has also attracted the former First Community Bank CEO Nathif Jama Adam of the Auliyahan sub-clan and Garissa High School Principal Harun Yusuf Mohamed of the Abdalla sub-clan.
The senator’s seat is being touted to go to Defence and acting Internal Security Minister Yusuf Haji, although Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim is also likely to throw his hat into the ring with the backing of his Auliyahan sub-clan.
Haji, it has been reliably learnt, plans to rally elders and professionals of his own Abdalla sub-clan and later organise a joint meeting with the larger Abudwak sub-clan and others. The consultative meeting will bring together community elders, businessmen, women, opinion leaders and youths.
Smaller sub-clans are expected to share other political seats including Dujis, Fafi, Ijara, Lagdera, Balambala and Modogashe constituencies, women and various ward representatives.
Residents say those seeking county leadership must vow to protect the world heritage of the rare antelope hirola, only found in the county. Apart from the clan factor, voters are seeking leaders with a vision, who can address the high levels of poverty in the county attributed to bad leadership. Endowed with natural resources, including livestock and tourism, Garissa County residents expect their potential leaders to exploit the natural heritage and fertile land, while making use of Tana River for irrigation.
The development agenda overrides clan and ethnic politics, making it difficult for mediocre and parochial politicians to control the destiny of Garissa County.
Those solely fronting clan-based and divisive politics while ignoring the restive and significant youth population in the quest for Senator and Governor’s positions could be in for a rude shock.