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Kibra proved 'handshake’ naysayers wrong

By Maoka Maore | November 15th 2019 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

With the victory of ODM’s Imran Okoth in the Kibra, the Raila-Uhuru coalition demonstrated the significant progress that their joint political endeavour for uniting Kenya has made.

In the four months leading up to the November 7 ballot, political commentators emphasised Kibra as crucial in the run-up to the 2022 General Election. Created in 2013 by dividing up the larger Kibera constituency into two parts, Kibra has been represented by the ODM but remained an area troubled by an exceptional degree of poverty.

Poor constituency

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Many of the nearly 180,000 voters who live in the area earn less than Sh100 a day and have minimal access to basic services such as running water, electricity or medical care. The leadership that people in such disadvantaged areas turn to is arguably the one in which they see the potential for a better future.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has dedicated his entire second term to the so-called Big 4 Agenda, a range of development milestones that he would like to see Kenya reach by 2030. Importantly, food security, universal healthcare and jobs are feature prominently. The residents of Kibra have come to the realisation that receiving these services, which they so desperately require, will only come by supporting this agenda for peace and development.

Need for consensus

Given that Kenya’s political landscape is shifting, guaranteeing that there is continuity in the country’s leadership in working towards the Vision 2030 blueprint has never been more important. President Uhuru Kenyatta's collaboration with Raila aims to craft a broader consensus for the country for exactly this purpose. Divided, Kenya’s prospects for development remain dim; united, all is possible.

The campaign period preceding the Kibra by-election, served as a reminder that Kenya’s current political affairs continue to be heavily divided, emphasising why unity today is more important than ever.
Against Okoth, who was wholeheartedly endorsed by Mr Odinga, Deputy President William Ruto promoted former football superstar McDonald Mariga’s candidacy.

It would be a mistake however to see this as an adversarial zero-sum game, but rather as an opportunity for vast collaboration. Mr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta both represent the Jubilee Party. Though in recent months, it would seem as if Mr Kenyatta's ideaology and programme stand in direct contrast to that of his deputy. Instead of seeing the relationship between the two as potentially clashing, we must instead view both as strong advocates for the Kenyan people.

For Kibra to tick, leaders must advocate for improved standard of living by investing in the development of the road network, the number and quality of health and educational facilities, as well as clean water supplies.

Loyalty to ODM

For voters in Kibra, the ODM and Okoth represented a pragmatic choice. This is all the more significant in light of the fact that the party has faced a considerable degree of scepticism even as it plotted hard to recapture what it considered a "safe" seat. Despite voters’ long-standing support for the ODM, quality of life has remained undeniably low in the constituency.

Furthermore, ODM’s previous losses from by-elections in Ugenya, Embakasi South, and Wajir West constituency cast additional doubt on its predicted performance.

Despite the odds- and they were many- Mr Okoth earned approximately 60 per cent of the votes, representing a victory that many view as having been facilitated by the partnership Mr Odinga struck with Mr Kenyatta.

In terms of the ODM’s public standing, the party has, in the Kibra constituency, consolidated its position in an extremely delicate period of time. In the wider context of the ODM’s cooperation with President Kenyatta, it would be in order to celebrate the fact that a message of unity is slowly and surely being acknowledged and accepted by Kenyans.

A broader basis of political unity is coming to be perceived as necessary for guaranteeing widespread economic progress by more and more people. This is of paramount importance beyond a constituency like Kibra which many consider as having not yet fully enjoyed the benefits of ever being "fully in government".

This does not suggest, of course, that poor areas are poor because they have not supported government. Development projects should never be doled out on the basic of political support. Yet we cannot run away from the fact that by electing Mr Okoth, the majority in Kibra opted for Okoth as a ringing endorsement for March 9, 2018 handshake.

Mr Maore is Member of Parliament for Igembe North Constituency.

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