A 2013 pre-election pact, ethnic prejudice and unhappy ODM branch officials are likely to determine the outcome of the Homa Bay senatorial by-election.
The pre-election memorandum of understanding (MoU) is said to be the reason Moses Kajwang, brother of the late senator Otieno Kajwang, was given the ODM ticket. In the pact, county leaders agreed to share top elective positions among Homa Bay‘s three key regions.
The greater Rachuonyo area comprising Karachuonyo, Kasipul Kabondo and Kasipul constituencies was to get the governor‘s slot, the larger Homa Bay town, which covers Rangwe and Ndhiwa constituencies, was given the Woman Representative post, while the greater Suba block, made up of Mbita and Suba constituencies, was given the Senate seat.
That is how Governor Cyprian Awiti who comes from Karachuonyo, Women Representative Gladys Wanga who comes from Rangwe and Kajwang from Mbita got their seats. It is for the same reason that the Orange party gave (Moses) Kajwang the party ticket for the February 12 by-election.
But the decision has been met with resistance and is now presenting party leadership with a nightmare on how to quell the rising opposition. So far, Silas Jakakimba and former Rangwe MP Philip Okundi, who were among the seven aspirants seeking the ODM ticket, have resigned as party members.
Jakakimba has said he will vie for the seat on a CORD affiliate party ticket while Okundi will contest on a Maendeleo Party of Kenya ticket.
“I am the front runner in the race and I am not going to let a mistake made by ODM‘s National Elections Board (NEB) ruin my opportunity of serving my people,” Okundi said.
The decision has also angered local MPs and branch party officials who accuse the elections board of neglecting them when naming Kajwang. Sources indicate of the eight MPs, six are not happy and have vowed not to campaign for Kajwang. The county is home to some of the young MPs branded as party rebels.
ODM‘s decision has also split the county into two tribal blocs — Abasuba and Luo — who now accuse each other of mistrust and having been favoured by Raila Odinga when he was Prime Minister. The Luo say Raila nominated Millie Odhiambo as MP, made the late Kajwang Minister for Immigration, hired Caroli and Jakakimba in his office and has now made John Mbadi the ODM chairman. All the five come from Suba.
They say people from Rachuonyo, Rangwe and Kasipul Kabondo did not complain when the former PM sidelined them. Some leaders also accuse Mbadi and Awiti of being turncoats for supporting Kajwang‘s candidature.
Equally dissatisfied are the youth who held demonstrations in the county on Wednesday. They accused Raila of double speak and dictatorship. During a recent visit to Ligisa Secondary School, Raila assured residents that ODM will let party members in the county to participate in the nomination of the candidate because the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had extended the nomination period.
But a few days later, the party picked on Kajwang. Insiders say the decision was reached because Kajwang‘s father had pleaded with Raila to give his son the ticket.
This has left the Abasuba community bitter. They say one of their sons — Fred Rabongo, Caroli Omondi, George Mboya and Silas Jakakimba — should have been given the ticket. The community feels that Jakakimba and Omondi should have been considered because they worked for Raila for years. They allege Kajwang‘s grandfather Nyarkwamba migrated from Asembo in Rarieda, Siaya County, to Mbita and have vowed not to vote for an outsider again.
The Abasuba are accusing Raila and other ODM leaders from Siaya County of plotting to rule Homa Bay by installing “one of their own”.
But the Luo say the Suba region has been favoured for long by Raila and the pre-election pact should not be used this time round.
However, Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma supported the decision to give the ticket to Kajwang.
“The decision upholds the pre-election agreement that saw the county seats equitably shared across the three regional blocks. Okundi and others who hail from regions other than the Mbita/Suba region were not given the party‘s certificate on account of this consideration,” he said.
“In the Mbita/Suba region, Omondi and George Yoga who are from Suba were eliminated to effect a fair spread of ODM in the region. The region would have appeared to others over-favoured considering the ODM national chair also comes from there.”
But Kasipul politician Odoyo Owidi disagrees. “This trend should stop. The argument that the party had to give Kajwang‘s brother the ticket does not sell since Job Omino‘s brother and Orwa Ojode‘s wife were denied certificates when the two politicians died,” Owidi, who is also the chairman of the Luo Dialogue Initiative, said.
“The battle for Homa Bay is to restore order and democracy in ODM strongholds. A win for a candidate other than Kajwang will be a win for forces demanding democracy in the party,” he said.
Rabongo is said to be eyeing the Ford Kenya ticket while Aduke Ratemo will vie through the Labour Party of Kenya. Dr Kenneth Kambona quit the race saying that he wants to concentrate on capturing the seat in 2017. Mboya and Omondi are yet to declare whether they have quit the race or vie through other parties.
Ong‘ondo Were, the Homa Bay ODM branch vice chairman, said the party has let down the people and will regret the decision to hand Kajwang the ticket.
“We were never consulted as branch officials. We are now advising residents to vote for the best candidate,“ Were said. “Kajwang is a political novice. He has never been involved in any political contest. Our people are going to rebel against the party by voting for an independent candidate.”
But Kajwang expressed confidence he will win the seat, saying he was ready to carry the ODM flag to the by-election. “I thank ODM for trusting my ability to articulate the interest of devolution. I am confident about delivering the vote and I am a 100 per cent sure that ODM will retain this seat,” Kajwang‘ said.
Raila yesterday met all Luo MPs from Nyanza in a Kisumu hotel to strategise on how to ensure Kajwang wins the seat. ODM candidate will now face Kenya Professional Boxing Association (KPBC) chairman Hillary Alila, businessman Innocent Masara and Prof Medo Misama.