Clans, incumbency and parties to decide Wajir governorship battle

Wajir Governor Mohamed Mohamud will be defending his seat. [Edward Kiplimo]

Wajir County is set for a tough contest driven by clan affiliations to decide who will be governor after August 9.

The race has attracted six contestants, including the incumbent Mohamed Abdi, who will battle it out to lead the county of 781,263 people in northern Kenya.

With slightly over three months to go before the country goes to the polls, the contestants are ramping up their campaigns. The last two weeks have been eventful.

Jubilee Party issued its ticket to former NHIF boss Hassan Adam. Spurned by the party and eager to start on a clean slate after a difficult tenure, Abdi will defend his seat as an independent candidate. 

On the ballot for Wajir governor will also be the former governor Ahmed Abdullahi of ODM, as well as Deputy Governor Ahmed Ali Mukhtar. Others in the race are Wajir Senator Abdullahi Ali and Wiper’s Siyad Abdullahi. As the race takes shape, aspirants are racking their brains over their lineups. The first two county elections have set a precedent for the sharing out seats to ease interclan competition.

Governorship has been a preserve of the Degodia. Abdi and his predecessor Abdullahi came from the Degodia, albeit different sub-clans. The clan is the majority. The deputy governor and Woman Rep seats went to the Ogaden, who are the second largest. The third largest clan, the Ajuraan occupied the Senate seat.

But ahead of August 9, governor aspirants are coming up with lineups that ignore previous mutually-agreed unwritten rules.

Although running as an independent, Abdi holds the advantage of incumbency. He is campaigning on the platform of funds that have been devolved to the wards. Under his tenure, the area has also seen relative calm from the interclan clashes.

Abdi launched his re-election bid last week in Wajir where he named Abdifatah Sheikh Mohamed Diriye as his running mate. “Those people that wanted to be governor made false claims against me hoping I would be stopped from defending my seat,” Abdi said in Wajir last Sunday.

“We gave each of the 30 ward Sh25 million,” Abdi said. Abdullahi, the ODM candidate is from the Matan sub-clan of the Degodia, while his running-mate Ahmed Muhumed is from the Ogaden. By putting Muhumed on his ticket, Abdullahi closes ranks with one of his 2017 rivals. Muhumed came third in that election behind Abdi and Abdullahi.

The next contender is the UDM candidate Abdullahi Ali aka Kabretta who’s the sitting Senator. Kabretta is an Ajuraan. The rest of his lineup is comprised of the Degodia.

The other contestant is Deputy Governor Mukhtar who comes from the Ogaden and is being fronted by UDA. Jubilee’s Hassan and Governor Abdi come from Fai sub-clan of the Degodia. Wiper party’s Dr Siyaad Abdullahi is from the Mithimal sub-clan of the Degodia.

Senate contest

In the arithmetic, the senate position seems to be a headache. In Wajir since 2013, the senate is traditionally a preserve of the Ajuraan. Adan Enow, an Ajuraan, closely associated with Jubilee’s Hassan, was the Ajuraan nominee for senate in 2013. He lost to Ogaden’s Abdirahman. Now, the new hopeful is Mohamed Abikar from the Gashe sub-clan. He is the vice-chairman of the UDP and has links with an influential politician from the region. He was the runner-up in the 2017 Senate race. He lost the Ajuraan vote to Senator Ali Kabretta. The third contender is Abdullahi Shallow from the Waqle sub-clan. He is the nominee of the controversial Ajuraan National Council and is allied to UDA. The fourth contender is Rtd Col Abdirahman Maalim of ODM. Since he is from the Gelbaris sub-clan just like Aden Omar Enow, they’ll share their votes.

Maalim, is joining former Governor Ahmed, who took sides in the hotly contested Wajir North by-election of 2019 by endorsing Ahmed Kolosh, a Degodia against Ibrahim Sheikh Mahmoud, a fellow Ajuraan. The Ajuraan who have not forgiven him to date.

The fifth contestant is Wardere Hassan from the Gashe sub-clan of the Ajuraan. He belongs to UPIA. He’ll share his sub-clan’s votes with Abikar. The sixth is Ibrahim Sheikh Mahmoud of Kanu from the Waqle sub-clan. He could overshadow clanmate Abdullahi Shallow due to his deep involvement in Ajuraan and Wajir matters.

Sheikh has huge support among the Ajuraan. He is a favourite senate pick in most of the lineups. Even he is yet to declare his entry, he could be the kingmaker. “The Ajuraan are the kingmakers. This explains the overtures towards senior Ajuraan politicians, with particular interest in Sheikh,” said political observer Mohammed Hajji.