Kuria, Washiali take route less travelled, drop out of race ahead of August poll

In a country where politicians would rather die trying to enter public office than quit, two MPs have made news by announcing they will not defend their seats in the August 9 General Election.

In doing so, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and Mumias East’s Benjamin Washiali join a rare breed that includes former Cabinet ministers Fred Gumo and Joseph Nyagah who also relinquished their Westlands and Gachoka seats respectively seemingly to avoid humiliating defeat at the ballot.

In a Parliament where at least 70 percent of MPs never return, Kuria will have served two terms while Washiali has been re-elected three times having first won the seat in 2007 on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket.

Until Kuria changed course, he and Washiali were staunch supporters of Deputy President William Ruto’s Hustler movement and worked against local dynamics to campaign for the DP as he seeks to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Kuria has since joined the Mt Kenya Unity Forum that seeks to ensure the next administration defends the region’s political and economic interests. The forum, which has Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua, is planning a Limuru III Conference at which it will reveal which presidential candidate it will back.

Alternative force

It has been sending feelers that it could throw its weight behind an alternative force that is neither Azimio La Umoja nor the Hustler movement that gravitates around the United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

Kuria, however, says his decision not to run for elective office is to afford him time to strengthen his Chama cha Kazi (CCK) party, which sent shock waves in the mountain region by clinching the Juja parliamentary seat and nearly followed with another win in Kiambaa before Ruto persuaded him not to field a candidate.

“At the moment, our focus is to build CCK as a formidable party. Believe it or not people have fears about the future irrespective of who wins the presidential race. What they are looking for is some sort of an insurance policy. Someone to guarantee them that there is going to be a team of men and women who will bat on the side of the people,” he told our sister paper, The Standard, in an interview last month.

“A team that will ensure that whoever wins will not destroy this great nation and the future of our children. It is such a heavy burden having to carry that assurance and that is what Chama Cha Kazi is all about. We want to trust people but with caution and some reasonable preparedness for the worst. I take this role to be a spiritual duty. The price of freedom is vigilance,” he added.

According to Kuria, away from the presidential contest, the remaining elective seats will be a two-horse race between UDA and CCK in Mt Kenya.

At first, it was believed that the MP, who has been undergoing treatment after suffering third-degree burns from an electric mat, was eyeing to become Ruto’s running mate.

The parting of ways could be traced to his refusal not to dissolve CCK, which saw some of Ruto’s allies such as Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua blast him.

On the other hand, Washiali was cagey about the reasons he will not be defending his seat, leading to protests by his supporters.

“It’s been an honour serving the people of Mumias East with gratitude. I appreciate you placed your hope and aspirations in me for the last 15 years. I have served diligently; I am grateful for the development strides we’ve made. Come August, I will not be running for office,” he tweeted early this week.

“It is with much humility that I therefore once again ask the people of Mumias East to elect a leader who will not only better the best that we have achieved and will also be tenacious and zealous in their service delivery,” added the MP, who was initially expected to go for the Kakamega senatorial seat. 

However, there is a feeling that the MP, who remains a staunch Ruto backer, was walking a tightrope given the politics around the revival of Mumias Sugar Company and the battle for the soul of Western pitting Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi.

In the last election, he clinched victory after garnering 13,848 votes against his closest rival David Wamatsi of ANC who got 9,315 votes.

His win was, however, marred by controversy after results from one of the 91 polling stations was not included in the final tally sent to the constituency tallying centre.

This is after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) returning officer Lazarus Emanikor cancelled the results from Muganga polling station after candidates’ agents failed to agree. In the end, his win was upheld by the High Court, which determined that the affidavits in opposition to the results were fraudulently procured.

It is rumuored his decision is likely to have been taken after realising the ground was not promising for him.

But whether Washiali will pursue a different line of public life, only time will tell.