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Meru governorship candidate Kilemi Mwiria's shock as children and the able-bodied ask for 'listening fees'

By Wainaina Ndung'u | August 16th 2017



Dr Kilemi Mwiria on the campaign trail. [Peter Muthomi, Standard Digital]

If you ran for governor without Sh100 million-deep pockets, your goose was cooked right from the onset of your campaigns, believes Dr Kilemi Mwiria.

He blames his loss in Meru on the poisoned chalice that is Kenya's monetarised politics.

While conceding defeat after emerging a distant third in the Meru governorship race, Dr Mwiria of Maendeleo Chap was shocked at the level of monetary expectations from voters.

Dr Mwiria managed 17,350 votes against Kiraitu Murungi of Jubilee who polled 279,521votes while the incumbent, Peter Munya of PNU, garnered 231,244.

"It was shocking to see little children and able-bodied adults asking for what is called a 'listening allowance...people could only open their ears to me if they were bribed first.”
According to Dr Mwiria, any governorship candidate without a Sh100-million-war chest stood no chance of winning.  He estimates that a parliamentary candidate required Sh32 million and an MCA Sh5 million.
"Such figures discouraged, and will continue to discourage, most of us from ever participating in elective politics while those who can invest those hefty sums will surely look to recoup their investment once in political office," Dr Mwiria, a former two-term Tigania West MP and Education Assistant Minister says.
Pressed to say how much his campaigns took, Dr Mwiria’s response is that he resisted the urge to bribe and did not have such sums of money with his clean record at government service since  his days as a  university lecturer and staff union leader in the 1990s.
"I regret not being able to convince the Meru people that they deserve leadership that has their long-term interests at heart. And that small bribes can cure a temporary itch but will often leave a wound that will take much longer to heal,” he said.
Now Dr Mwiria wishes to work alongside young Kenyans who are embracing a money-free" election, such the independent Starehe parliamentary candidate and activist Boniface Mwangi, to start a movement to champion the ideal.
But he blames leaders and not ordinary Kenyans, whom he believes are victims of elite's narrow interests, for the malaise.
"What really matters is that the political class has and the rest doesn’t have....so I cannot blame them for taking advantage for those showering them with money, food and clothes.”
Gitobu Imanyara, who was fifth in the Imenti Central parliamentary race also on the MCC ticket, has also called for electoral reform to remove money from the heart of Kenyan politics.

"I hope the incoming Member of Parliament for my constituency will play a meaningful role in reforming our electoral process so that money does not become the sole criterion for entering elective public office in Kenya," Imanyara says.


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