Gatundu, Kenya: The National Alliance (TNA) candidate in the Gatundu South by-election seems headed to Parliament after his main challenger pulled out of the race on Friday.
Mr Kiarie Kamere, who was vying on the New Democrats party ticket against TNA’s Moses Kuria, withdrew his candidature to the disappointment of many of his supporters.
Speaking to the press at a Nairobi hotel, Kamere said he had taken the decision after wide consultations with his family, supporters and his campaign team.
However, his allies confirmed President Uhuru Kenyatta met him on Friday and prevailed upon him to quit the race.
But Kamere maintained he pulled out of the August 7 by-election for the sake of unity among Gatundu people, adding he did not wish to be the cause, or in any way be associated with political divisions in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s backyard.
“Political contests can be at times acrimonious and can cause rifts and I do not want to be part of that for the sake of Gatundu South residents, “Kamere said. His withdrawal was good news to TNA.
“I know many of my friends and supporters will be disappointed but it is important to step away from the tree in front of you, to behold the forest,” Kamere said.
This was Kamere’s second time unlucky in his quest to capture the seat. He finished second in last year’s election after the late Joseph Ngugi clinched the seat.
State House link
At the weekend, however, details emerged on how State operatives worked tirelessly to have Kamere step down in favour of Kuria.
One of Kamere aide disclosed to The Standard on Sunday how State operatives went for Mr Kamere at his brother’s home at 5am and drove him to State House for a meeting with Uhuru.
“Mr Kamere and a few of his family members went to State House but did not get the President. We were taken to his home where we met him,” the aide said.
The aide said it was Uhuru who prevailed upon Kamere to sacrifice and pull out of the race in favour of the TNA candidate.
The President reportedly acknowledged Kamere was a strong candidate but pleaded with him to consider the implications of his win to the national politics.
He is reported to have told Kamere that through his win, the Opposition would get an opportunity to enhance their political agenda.
“He said if the by-election was in for example Githunguri or any other constituency in the area, he would not have intervened,” said the aide.
Kamere, the source said, was promised a Government job and other benefits. But the New Democrats candidate denied accepting to bow out of the race after it was agreed he would be refunded the money he had spent on campaigns.
“There is no truth in that. I decided to pull out of the race out of my own will and with no conditions attached,” Kamere said.
Kuria also dismissed the claims, saying Kamere stepped down for the sake of the unity of the Gatundu South people. The contest for the Gatundu South parliamentary seat had shaped into a two-horse race.
Both candidates were initially vying on TNA ticket but Kamere ditched the party for the New Democrats after he felt cheated in the controversial party primaries on June 23.
This came after he lost a petition he had lodged at TNA headquarters jointly with Mrs Joyce Wanjiku Ngugi, the widow of former MP Ngugi.
A tribunal headed by Faith Waigwa cleared Kuria of any wrong doing, saying there was no evidence to support rigging allegations.
“As a tribunal we find no enough e evidence produced by the petitioner that meet the party’s threshold of reversing an election outcome,” Waigwa said.
Since then, TNA has been walking a tightrope as all the 13 Kiambu MPs, except Kiambu women representative Ann Nyokabi and her Juja counterpart Francis Waititu, declined to endorse Kuria’s candidature.
The MPs insisted Gatundu South voters should be left to elect their MP without undue influence. In a bid to save their candidate from defeat, TNA party moved to consolidate the support for Kuria by enlisting all Kiambu Members of County Assembly (MCAs) to campaign for him.
The party went ahead to issue a stern warning to party, saying disciplinary action would be taken against then for refusing to endorse the party flag-bearer.
“As a party, we have to ensure the law is followed. We will not hesitate to crack the whip by taking disciplinary action against elected leaders who will not support the party flag-bearer,” Secretary General Onyango Oloo said last Monday in Gatundu.
Kamere supporters are split on his decision to bow out of the race. Some are in support of his move while others are disappointed.
Joseph Gachemi, who was one Kamere’s key financiers and campaigner, said his move was a disappointment to the people of Gatundu.
Gachemi said the move by the powerful forces who prevailed upon the candidate to step down had set a bad precedence.
“It has now become clear that the voice of the people does not matter anymore. Democracy should always prevail,” he said.
However, another group of his supporters said he had acted in the best interest of Gatundu residents. “We fully support our candidate’s decision since we understand it is the President’s wish. We have no option but to accept since we cannot fight Uhuru,” said Paul Ngatho, one of Kamere’s top campaigners.
Kuria has extended an olive branch to his political opponents to join him in developing the area.
Hand in hand
“As a leader, I will seek to unite the people. I will work hand in hand with Kamere to make Gatundu a model constituency,” Kuria said.
The spotlight now turns to Central Kenya MPs who had refused to endorse Kuria’s candidature. The question is whether they will embrace him.
James Mwangi, a political analyst, says Kuria should now seek to mend fences with the area MPs since he will have to work with them.
“It is now high time he reached out to his colleagues in the National Assembly who refused to endorse his candidature and iron out their differences for the sake of unity. He will not work in isolation,” he said.
The analyst also called on the area MPs to embrace him and let by-gones be by-gones since according to him, the game is over.
Juja MP Francis Waititu has since said he would organise a reconciliation meeting between the incoming Gatundu South lawmaker and other MPs from the area.
“There is need to work as a team and I will personally seek to have my counterparts from the area work together with Kuria,” Waititu said.