Battle lines drawn as dates for MP, senatorial mini polls announced

Voters queue to cast their votes at Moi Avenue Primary school polling station during the 2022 General Election in Nairobi on August 09, 2022. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

An election mood is building up in a number of regions across the country as aspirants eyeing seats in by-elections scheduled for December 8 and January 5, 2023 step up their campaigns.

Some of the seats fell vacant after their holders were appointed to be part of President William Ruto’s administration while others were not contested in the August 9 polls after elections were postponed.

Already, political jostling is gathering momentum in Bungoma and Elgeyo Marakwet counties on one hand, and Garissa Township and Kandara constituencies on the other hand, as aspirants mobilise grassroots support.

In Bungoma, the race to replace Moses Wetang’ula, who resigned as Bungoma senator to take up the National Assembly Speaker’s seat, has begun in earnest.

Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga has thrown his weight behind Wafula Wamunyinyi as the coalition’s flag bearer.

In Elgeyo Marakwet, the race to replace Kipchumba Murkomen, who was appointed Roads, Transport and Public Works Cabinet Secretary, is intensifying.

Unlike in Bungoma where the contest is expected to reignite the bitter political rivalry between Azimio and Kenya Kwanza, the race to replace Mr Murkomen will be purely a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) affair.

More than 30 aspirants from UDA have lined up for the bruising political battle ahead of the January 5, 2023 elections.

The Bungoma senatorial by-election will be held on December 8.

Last Tuesday, Raila endorsed Wamunyinyi, who refused to vie against Wetang’ula in the General Election. He instead chose to defend his Kanduyi parliamentary seat.

The development came even as Wetang’ula hinted that Kenya Kwanza would field a single candidate after a decision between UDA candidate Mambu Mabonda and Ford Kenya’s Wafula Wakoli is reached.

Speaking in Mt Elgon constituency last weekend, Wetang’ula said he would look into how the Kenya Kwanza would tackle the race after some of the alliance leaders appeared sharply divided on who between the two contestants was better placed to fly their flag.

“We will have a sit down with President Ruto and decide who is more popular between the two candidates,” he said at the rally in Kapsokwonyi Town.

The divisions have seen Webuye West MP Dan Wanyama (UDA) back Mabonga’s candidature as Didmus Barasa (Kimilili, UDA) is behind Wakoli.

Wanyama, a third-term lawmaker, is of the view that Wetang’ula ascended to the Speaker seat courtesy of majority UDA MPs voting for him and should return the favour by letting go of the Senate ticket to the UDA contestant.

“A whopping 144 UDA MPs voted for Wetang’ula in the Senate, so he should reciprocate by supporting UDA candidate for the Bungoma Senate seat,” he said.

He said Mabonga, the immediate former Bumula MP, was an orator and mature politician who had all it took to be the county’s senator and it was just fair Wetang’ula let him be the sole Kenya Kwanza Alliance candidate in the race.

But Barasa sensationally claimed that he had President Ruto’s blessings to support Wakoli, a long serving Wetang’ula personal aide, for the seat.

This gave Ford Kenya MPs from Bungoma County, including Woman Representative Catherine Wambilianga and Kabuchai MP Majimbo Kalasinga, bragging rights to suggest UDA backs off from the race.

Other Ford Kenya lawmakers who view the seat as the Lion Party’s are Kanduyi MP John Makali and his Webuye East counterpart Martin Pepela.

Friendly fire

As the Kenya Kwanza friendly fire simmers, DAP-K secretary general Eseli Simiyu says that among the 10 vying for the seat, his party boss Wamunyinyi is the most qualified.

DAP-K patron and former Defence CS Eugene Wamalwa told The Sunday Standard that they were taking the nomination papers for Wamunyi to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on November 10.

Meanwhile, in Elgeyo Marakwet, two former MPs who were trounced in the August 9 General Election and a sitting Member of County Assembly (MCA) are among those seeking to succeed Murkomen.

William Kisang, who lost the Marakwet West MP seat to lawyer Timothy Kipchumba as well as former Keiyo South lawmaker Jackson Kiptanui, who was defeated by current MP Gideon Kimaiyo in the UDA party primaries, are in the race.

Entrepreneur Timothy Kipchumba, activist Jerotich Seii, university lecturer Benson Yano, former Elgeyo Marakwet Speaker Albert Kochei, Daniel Kipkemboi (aka Damboi), and businessman Dan Rutto, have also declared their interests in the seat.

Others are Soy South MCA Jonah Tanui, former high school teacher Lawrence Mutwol who lost the Marakwet East parliamentary seat to Kangogo Bowen and lawyer Kiprop Marrirmoi.

Kipchumba said he had the capacity to build on Murkomen’s track record.

Suitable candidate

“I have represented young people in the UK parliament and as Mandela Washington Fellow, and I am excited that we have the opportunity to build on the work that Murkomen has done in the last 10 years. The question is, who is more suited?” he said.

Mr Kisang said he was ready to take his 10 years’ experience at the National Assembly to the Senate, adding that he would use his influence to contribute to the county’s development.

In Garissa Township, the race to replace Aden Duale, has attracted six aspirants. Two of the aspirants, Abdullahi Gabane and Abdi Nasir Mohamed, lost the same seat to Duale in the past election. Former governor candidate Dekow Mohamed Barrow is also eyeing the seat after he lost the gubernatorial race in the August 9 General Election.

Abdi Nasir was the closest rival of Duale. He garnered 5,972 votes against his then competitor who got 9,905 votes while Abdullahi Gabane garnered 5,552 votes.

Former Fafi MP Osman Rati has shown interest in the same seat while Mulki Warsame who lost the Woman Representative seat in August, and Ibrahim Mallow Nur, former chief officer finance, are also in the race for the seat.

Rati was Fafi MP between 2017 and 2022, but failed to recapture it in the August polls. The by-election was occasioned by the resignation of Aden Duale who had recently took up the Defence Cabinet Secretary post.

In Mt Kenya, the race to succeed the Kandara Iron Lady, Alice Wahome, now the current Water Cabinet Secretary, has intensified. Already, 23 aspirants have declared their interest to succeed her in the January 5, 2023 by-election.

They are Nairobi businessman Andrew Kahenya, Bio medical engineer Raphael Kiome, US-based Chege Njuguna, radio journalist Evelyn Waithira Muithirania, and former nominated MCA Lucy Nyambura Ngugi. Others are University of Nairobi lecturer Injinia Mwaura, Ngacha Kinuthia, Eng Patrick Karaini, PMG Junior, Wakili Kamweti, Antony Njoroge, among others.

UDA Party’s National Election Board has given interested persons up to November 11 to comply with regulations set before they are allowed to participate in the nominations. Chairman of the election board Antony Mwaura is a resident of Kandara and a close ally of Ruto.

When Wahome was accompanied by Ruto on Sunday to Karigu-ini grounds for interdenominational prayers, she said she would keep her distance and allow voters to elect their leader.

John Kiboro, a leader in Kamurugu village, said Kandara was ready for a leadership change. “We need a leader who will listen to the people and ensure development is evenly distributed,” said Kiboro, adding that Kandara should go for a leader with a track record of assisting the less fortunate.

In Siaya, aspirants eyeing South Gem ward, which did not conduct elections after one of the candidates died, is also gearing up for polls on December 8.

[Reporting by Robert Amalemba, Stephen Rutto, Ibrahim Adan Ali and Boniface Gikandi​]