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Zoning, tribes and party waves dominate search for Kwale CEO

By - | February 4th 2013

By Tobias Chanji

Kwale, Kenya: A titanic battle is awaited between CORD and the Amani alliances in the Kwale gubernatorial race.

The county with 154,000 voters which is composed of Kinango, Kwale and Msambweni districts has been torn by separatism and insecurity inspired by the Mombasa Republican Council with most of the secessionist group’s leaders hailing from here.

MRC was also conceived here and its agitation against polling in Coast Province is responsible for the low voter registration in the area.

Besides constituencies of the same names as the foregoing districts Kwale also has a new constituency called Lunga Lungas.

So far, it is evident the battle for governor seat will be between CORD of Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Trade minister Moses Wetangula, on one side, and the Amani coalitions of Musalia Mudavadi and Eugene Wamalwa, on the other.

Already zoning has been done and even the electorate has been made to understand that the same criteria will be used in election.

ODM dominance

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There are three main tribes or clans in Kwale – the Digo, Duruma and Akamba. The Digos are the majority in Msambweni and Matuga while the Durumas are the dominant in Kinango. Most kambas are found in Kinango.

“The Kamba votes still remain very crucial to decide who the winner will be. ODM has been felt here for a long time and that is why it has most supporters,” says the former Kwale County Council Finance chairman Iddi Omar Boga in an recent interview when he tried to show case CORD’s head start in the gubernatorial race.

However, another candidate Mohamed WaMwachai rubbishes the argument that the more established parties and candidates have upper hand, saying it is misleading to declare popular candidates and parties.

“The votes are with the people,” he added when he confessed there is an informal agreement among leaders in the area to share key seats at the next month elections, with the governor’s seat reserved for the Duruma, senate for the Digo and deputy governor for kambas.

Tough contest

However, this deal appears to have broken with the entrance of former PS Mohamed WaMwachai of the Kenya National Congress into the gubernatorial race, a Digo by tribe. He is seeking the post against ODM’s Salim Mvurya of Kinango and former Kanu Chief Whip Simeon Mkalla of UDF who hails from Kinango and of the Duruma tribe.

Recent ODM primaries were the most hotly contested with the party holding contests for all seats in all the four constituencies while, virtually, their rivals in the Eagle, Amani and Jubilee alliances got direct tickets.

ODM leaders interpret this to mean the party and hence CORD is the most dominant political movement in the region, a fact that appears bolstered by the results of the 2007 polls when all civic seats in the county were taken by ODM including in Matuga whose outgoing MP Chirau Ali Mwakwere was in PNU and in Kinango whose MP Gonzi Rai was in Ford People.

Mwakwere factor

Additionally, the only other parties with a toehold in the region are Ford Kenya and Wiper Democratic Movement, but all are in CORD, a fact that raises Mvurya’s confidence level. However TNA’s support in Matuga and areas like Ukunda cannot be under estimated given Mwakwere’s own personal standing among the Digo.

Mwakwere is Jubilee’s point man in this region and a leading contender in the senate race against ODM’s Boy Juma Boy.

Meanwhile UDF and Amani coalition have a foothold in the area through Mkalla although the party is not felt in other parts of the county. URP’s governor aspirant is Kassim Riga who defected from ODM before the primaries.

Mvurya, with a woman as running mate, believes he is a leading contender.

The biggest hurdle for Riga, a former commissioner with the Public Service Commission, is his alliance with Mwakwere and Jubilee’s Women Representative aspirant Ntembe Makoti, an alliance of ethnic Digo that is seen as excluding Duruma and Kamba.

Meanwhile, TNA politicians from the region are still smarting from the zoning of the area into a URP zone.

Mkalla brings a high profile from his days as a former MP and MD for the Kenya Ports Authority, CEO of Kenya Ports Authority and recently resigned from the Kenya Sugar Research Foundation.

MRC influence

Despite promising to introduce changes in education and agriculture, he has an uphill task marketing UDF and the Amani coalition in the region.

The upcountry vote is crucial in urban areas like Ukunda where TNA is strong. Upcountry voters make up 40 per cent of Msambweni constituency and this vote will become more significant if indigenous tribes heed MRC’s calls to boycott the polls.

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