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Independent candidates join hands to fight for their interests

By Moses Njagih | Published Fri, May 19th 2017 at 00:00, Updated May 18th 2017 at 23:30 GMT +3

Jubilee Party nomination losers Kiambu Governor William Kabogo (centre), Tetu MP Ndungu Gethenji and Murang'a Woman Representative aspirant Waithera Muitherania. Independent candidates will hold a major meeting Saturday. [File, Standard]

The decision by losers in the Jubilee nominations who are vying as independent candidates to form a coalition has created a dilemma for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election team.

The politicians, who resigned from Jubilee to protest the outcome of nominations, are keen to associate with the President and his deputy William Ruto in order to level the playing field against their opponents in the ruling coalition.

But it has emerged that with the UhuRuto campaign team eyeing every vote, especially in their Central and Rift Valley strongholds, the support base of the independents cannot be ignored.

Among the Jubilee campaign strategists, there are some who feel that the tension caused by this political competition may hurt the overall presidential campaign, and some are of the view that with primaries over, the President and his deputy should not fight the independent candidates.

The independents from the Jubilee strongholds have formed a formidable force, uniting behind the common protest against what they term as being rigged out of the party primaries, threatening to create tension in their backyard, which sources say the strategists fear could work against the UhuRuto campaigns.

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The group has organised a meeting tomorrow at the Kasarani Gymnasium to address their common challenges, and even invited Uhuru, who sources told The Standard, was considering attending the meeting.

While the number of pro-Uhuru independent candidates is not specifically known, majority of the over 4,500 candidates that the Registrar of Political Parties Lucy Ndung’u revealed Thursday to have been cleared by her office are those who sought the avenue after losing in the Jubilee nominations.

“I may not know the final number of those cleared by IEBC to contest as independents, but from our office we cleared over 4,500,” Ms Ndung’u said.

Tetu MP Ndung’u Gethenji, a close ally of President Kenyatta, and one of those organising the Kasarani meeting confirmed that they had invited the Head of State, but remained coy on whether he had confirmed his attendance.

“We are expecting all the aspirants contesting as independents and mainly those who are supporting the re-election of President Uhuru and his Deputy Ruto to come to the 5,000-seater venue. We have sent an invite to him (President). This is a big meeting considering the number of the independents who have been cleared to contest,” said Gethenji.

Kiambu Governor, William Kabogo another of the President’s allies, also confirmed that he will be attending. He defended the decision by independent candidates to form a coalition to champion their interests.

Mr Kabogo said the coming together of the aspirants should be positively considered in the Uhuru’s re-election bid, as the candidates have a following that both the President and his deputy would not wish to miss as they seek a second term in office.

“This is now the largest group of candidates. They number more than those presented by many political parties and anyone ignoring such a formidable group will be naive in his campaigns, especially in the fight for the presidency where every vote now counts,” he said.

Critical masses

Kabogo emphasised the need for both Uhuru and Ruto to embrace this group, adding that ignoring them could deal their re-election a blow.

“These candidates have critical masses who follow them and will only turn out to vote if their candidates are on the ballot. I don’t think the President or the deputy would ignore them,” added the Kiambu governor.

Zedekiah Bundotich Kiprop, a close ally of the Deputy President, who is eyeing the Uasin Gishu governor's seat as an independent, confirmed his attendance as did former Cabinet minister Musa Sirma.

Political analyst Macharia Munene of United States International University argued that the force of independent candidates could change the strategies of both Jubilee and NASA presidential teams. He said they may have to embrace those who lost the nominations.

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