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Show of might as rivals roll up sleeves for Coast by-elections

By PATRICK BEJA and TOBIAS CHANJI | November 10th 2013


It is all systems go as campaigns for Lamu gubernatorial and Lunga Lunga parliamentary by-elections enter the home-stretch after candidates were cleared.

In Lamu, it is a tight two-man race pitting rivals Fahim Yassin Twaha of The National Alliance and Issa Abdalla Timamy of the United Democratic Forum (UDF) who have already embarked on county-wide rallies.

“We have cleared Mr Twaha and Mr Timamy and they have already embarked on the campaign trail. We have asked the candidate to strictly observe the code of conduct,” said Ms Anastasia Mutua, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s North Coast Co-ordinator.

There are intrigues in the two mini polls as most elected Coast leaders have thrown their weight behind immediate Lamu governor Mr Timamy and Lunga Lunga MP Khatib Abdalla Mwashetani as their rivals dig in to block them. CORD Principal Moses Wetang’ula has already led a number of coalition leaders to drum up support for Mr Mwashetani.

The others are former Msambweni MPs Omar Zonga of URP, Abdalla Ngozi of Kenya National Congress (KNC), Benson Mutisya of TNA and Said Mwadzayo of Federal Party of Kenya.

Unity calls

Separately, Timamy and Twaha said their campaigns will be based on peace, harmony and pledge for rapid development of the cosmopolitan county. “I am going to stick to the message of peace, harmony and development. There is need for co-existence among Lamu county residents,” Timamy said, after addressing his first campaign rally at Mkunguni square on Lamu island on Wednesday. On his part, Mr Twaha exuded confidence that he would win the by-election saying it would send the message of harmony among various ethnic groups living in Lamu.

“We cannot achieve rapid development unless we are united in the county,” he said.

Both candidates are eyeing the traditional swing Kikuyu community votes in Mpeketoni area.

The two are fighting for 52,000 registered voters in the largely underdeveloped county whose the economy is mainly based on agriculture, fishing and tourism. Politics of land and the proposed Lamu port and associated transport infrastructure dominate the campaigns.

In a bid to get the support for CORD principal Moses Wetang’ula who seeks to recapture his Bungoma senatorial seat, Coast senators have resorted to horse-trading after they backed Mr Timamy UDF in Lamu.

Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar and his Kilifi counterpart Mr Stewart Madzayo say Timamy is the favourite of Coast elected leaders he actively advocated for land reforms and was friendly to them.

Across the divide

“Mr Timamy has articulated land issues and leaders across political parties want him back,” argues Mr Madzayo.

Lamu CORD women representative Shakila Abdalla and her Kwale county counterpart Ms Zainab Chidzuga also said Coast elected leaders backed Mr Timamy.

At home, Mr Timamy has had wrangles with most members of county assembly (MCAs) and recently publicly differed with Lamu East MP Mr Ali Athman Shariff of UDF and Lamu West MP Julius Ndegwa of Kenya National Congress (KNC).

Lamu Senator Abu Chiaba of TNA, acting speaker Mr Mohamed Hashim and Lamu county commissioner Stephen are close allies of Mr Twaha.

In Kwale county, leaders said they were consolidating their team to enhance the chances of Mr Mwashetani to recapture the seat against several odds.

Mr Mwashetani has been criticised for appointing Mr Abubakar Juma Manyenze from Matuga constituency as chairman of the Lunga Lunga constituency Development Fund for the short time he was MP. Mr Mwashetani has reportedly had sour relationship with Kwale governor Mr Salim Mvurya after announcing that he would face him in the 2017 elections.

But Ms Chidzuga said the matters has been ironed out by the CORD leadership to save the Lunga Lunga seat.

“We have already sorted out the matter. Even Mr Wetang’ula has in the past expressed his intention to run for the presidency against CORD principal Raila Odinga in the 2017 elections and the two are united,” Chidzuga said.

Mwashetani is also relying on one of Coast Jubilee pointmen and Kinango TNA MP Mr Gonzi Rai who has vowed to back the CORD candidate in the December 2 by election. “We sat down as Coast parliamentarians and decided that we will all support Mwashetani for the seat in solidarity,” argues Rai, throwing the Jubilee Alliance team into confusion.

Influential Mwereni URP Member of County Assembly Mr Kassim Pojo however dismissed the appointment of the CDF chairman and announced he had joined campaigns for the CORD candidate instead of Mr Zonga who has been sponsored by his party.

“There has been divisions in Jubilee coalition which has sponsored Mr Zonga and Mr Mutisya and I have decided to campaign for Mr Mwashetani,” Pojo said.

The Mombasa CORD team led by governor Hassan Joho and Omar has also thrown its weight behind Mr Mwashetani.

Lunga Lunga was carved from Msambweni constituency close to the last general election and borders the Tanzania to the south. There five candidates are fighting for the over 34,000 registered votes in the constituency.

Apart from dry parts such as Mwereni and Lunga Lunga locations, the constituency sits in a reach agricultural area that forms part of the sugarcane belt that is expected to feed Kwale International Sugar Company factory at Ramisi.

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