Unease, speculation in ODM as candidates prepare to vie for senator's seat

At least 15 candidates have so far expressed interest in the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket for the Homa Bay senatorial by-election.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has set February 2, 2015 as the date for the by-election following the death of senator Otieno Kajwang, and parties are expected to carry out their primaries on December 19.

There is apprehension on how these will turn out, with some candidates and ODM insiders saying clannism, party loyalty, closeness to the party leader, relationship to the late Kajwang and proximity to his former Mbita constituency may determine who gets the party ticket.

There is speculation that party leader Raila Odinga might have been preparing the ground to take away the seat when he announced at Kajwang's funeral that the seat will not necessarily go to Kajwang's family, clan or neighbourhood. Meaning it could go away from the Suba constituencies.

At the same function, Raila also stressed that he has rewarded 'young turks' with leadership in Suba MP John Mbadi and Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba since people were complaining that he just had old politicians around him. This has caused speculation that he could have been preparing the electorate for an 'old guard' this time.

Those who have so far expressed interest in the seat include Hillary Alila, who was second to Kajwang' in the 2013 general election. He contested the seat on a People's Democratic Party ticket after the region's chaotic ODM primaries.

Tough decisions

"I am back in ODM and will participate in the primaries. I already have the 60,000 people who voted for me last year. I am going to build on this and win the seat," he said.

Fred Rabong'o, a former National Social Security Fund board member is said to have already registered as a life member in readiness for the poll. He comes from Kajwang's Waondo clan and of all the candidates, is the closest to the late senator.

Caroli Omondi, who comes from the neighbouring Gwasi constituency, is another aspirant.

Mr Omondi comes from the same place as new ODM National Chair John Mbadi, which may complicate matters. Again, Omondi is not Mbadi's friend and there has to be a fair distribution of seats among constituencies in Homa Bay County. He however, has the advantage of being able to bankroll a campaign as he is arguably the wealthiest of the cast.

There is also Silas Jakakimba from Mfang'ano Island, the home of the Suba community. Though a loyal aide to Raila, his young age may not convince voters that his debut into politics should be as a senator. Worse still, his mother hails from Bondo as does Raila, and the people in Nyanza have become very sensitive to such relations.

Brian Weke, a friend and former colleague of Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo, is also in the race.

Rumour had it that John Mbadi had been prevailed upon to resign his Suba seat and run for the senatorial seat but he has since denied the claims.

"I appreciate those who have wished that I become a senator but that is not an option for me right now," he said.

Remote chances

Moses Kajwang, the younger brother of Otieno Kajwang, has also expressed interest in the seat.

Herbert Ojwang and Kenneth Kambona, both of Kabondo Kasipul constituency, come from the cluster of contituencies of Karachuonyo, Kasipul and Kabondo Kasipul where the governor hails from.

Odoyo Owidi of Kasipul constituency and leader of Luoland Dialogue Initiative had said he would vie for the seat in 2017, but he however stands a remote chance, being one of the few politicians from Luo Nyanza who have publicly criticised ODM nominations and demanded dialogue outside the party framework.

He is however an eloquent speaker and a favourite of vernacular FM radio talk shows.

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Orange Democratic Movement Homa Bay senatorial by-election Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission