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It’s clash of titans as heavyweights join race to unseat Nyoro in Kiambu

Some of the politicians gearing up to contest for Kiambu Governor.

The decision by four political heavyweights to declare interest in the Kiambu governor seat under Kenya Kwanza Alliance has thrown the race wide open.

Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi, Chama Cha Kazi leader Moses Kuria, former governor and Tujibebe party leader William Kabogo, and County Speaker Stephen Ndichu all want to unseat incumbent James Nyoro.

The four on Sunday joined Deputy President William Ruto during a rally at the Thika Stadium where they pledged to support his presidential bid while drumming up support for their own quest for the Kiambu top seat. 

The move by Mr Wamatangi, Mr Kuria, Mr Kabogo and Mr Ndichu leaves Dr Nyoro as President Uhuru Kenyatta and Azimio Coalition’s point man in the populous county. It is widely believed Nyoro will defend his seat by flying the Jubilee party ticket in the August 9 polls.  

However, Ndichu has withdrawn from the race and instead said he will run for senator seat which has attracted Machel Waikenda who recently resigned from State House and former Member of County Assembly Karungo wa Thangwa.

Speaking in Gatundu town yesterday, Ndichu said: “I am a bishop representing the Church. I was Juja MP for 10 years and the Speaker of Kiambu County Assembly. I am the right person to articulate the issues of Kiambu as your senator.”

Unlike in 2013 and 2017 elections when the contest was a two-horse race, this time around it has so far attracted nine candidates.

Others in the race include Mwende Gatabaki, economist David Ndii’s wife; Agnes Ndung’u, a social and community development worker; and ex-county official Juliet Kimemia.

The entry of Wamatangi has complicated the arithmetic in the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) nominations as he is set to battle it out with Thika Town MP Patrick Wainaina and former governor Ferdinand Waititu.  

Whoever is picked UDA governor flagbearer will face off with Kuria and Kabogo, both of whom have strong following on the ground. 

During the Thika rally, Kabogo said he was the de facto Kiambu spokesman now that President Kenyatta is rooting for Jubilee candidates.

He is banking on his 2013-2017 record to try and convince Kiambu voters to give him another chance and has already hit the ground running with a number of campaign vehicles branded in Tujibebe party colours and logo. 

“I am a leader but in this I have to be a politician. I listened to the people. Azimio is very crowded and confused. I had a meeting with DP Ruto and as for me I want a person who will advocate for one man, one shilling because I am representing the people and the DP has agreed on revenue sharing. That is why I am backing him,” Kabogo told The Saturday Standard. 

He made it clear that even though he had joined Kenya Kwanza Alliance, he would be on the ballot through his Tujibebe party and ruled out stepping down for any of the coalition candidates. 

Ms Mwende said she would run as an independent candidate.

“It is clear those coalescing around the leading political formations do not have the interests of the common man in Kiambu at heart. If I win the seat, my first agenda will be to unify Kiambu County,” she told The Saturday Standard.

She said top on her agenda would be to actualise the social protection fund, address family break-ups and push for ways of addressing unemployment that has driven the youths into crime and suicide.

“Kiambu has been having the highest rate of suicide in the last few years. Records show that out of 500 suicide cases, 50 per cent are from Kiambu. We must address this societal problem,” she said.

The latest development has thrown the race wide open and it is still too early to tell who is likely to bag the seat. Nyoro, who is almost assured of the Jubilee ticket, is banking on his development record and President Kenyatta’s backing. 

“I am not scared of them coming together under the Kenya Kwanza Alliance. In fact, it has given us an easy time to remind Kiambu people to assess their record against mine. I’ll beat them at their own game. My record for the short time I have been in office surpasses all of them combined. Jubilee is still a strong party and we have over 500 aspirants in Kiambu only and more will join us,” said Nyoro.  He accused Wamatangi of misusing his oversight role to paint his administration in bad light.

“We’re focused on service delivery and development. You can tell by the massive and many projects we have been able to deliver in the two years that I have been in office. Ours is to unite Kiambu, not divide through politics as witnessed on Sunday,” he said.

Kuria and Kabogo are known to be good mobilisers who are likely to amass numbers on their own. Political commentators, however, say local political dynamics could work in their favour or deal them a major blow depending on how they play their cards.  

A candidate from Kiambu West may be forced to pick a running mate from the East to increase their chances of winning. It so happens that Kabogo, Ndichu and Wainaina hail from Kiambu East while Nyoro, Waititu and Mwende are from the West.

According to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Kiambu County has 1,180,920 registered voters. The county has 12 constituencies: Kiambu Township, Githunguri, Lari, Limuru, Kabete, Kikuyu and Kiambaa (Kiambu West) and Thika, Juja, Ruiru, Gatundu North and Gatundu South (Kiambu East).  

In 2013, Kabogo, who hails from Ruiru, tapped Gerald Githinji from Limuru as his deputy while Nyoro from Kikuyu had picked Elizabeth Wangui from Thika. In 2017, however, the geographical factor was subdued by the anti-Kabogo wave, which allowed Waititu, the former Kabete MP, to pair up with Nyoro despite them hailing from Kiambu West.  

When he officially decamped on Sunday, Wamatangi, who has been vocal about his affiliation with the Azimio la Umoja, said he made the decision to switch camps after intensive consultations between him and the electorate. 

“I have consulted mama mboga at the markets, the old men in their homes, boda boda youth and my family and all of them have told me the way forward is UDA,” Wamatangi said.  

But Wamatangi has been grappling with allegations of being an absentee politician in local Kiambu politics. 

“Wamatangi is hardly seen on the ground. He used to send text messages but after Kiambu people protested, he stopped. We hardly see him only his Wamatangi Foundation vans are seen in several places in the county,” said Clement Kimani, a Kikuyu resident. 

It is Kuria’s entry into the race that has caught the attention of Kiambu residents after he was given a rousing welcome during the Thika rally. The Gatundu South MP declared on February 26 that he would be contesting for the governor seat.  

Political analyst Prof Edward Kisiangani said it will be a more individualist approach influenced by one’s popularity, competence and financial muscle against party euphoria that has previously characterised politics here.