A fierce battle for the Bungoma senate seat is looming between Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja.
Six candidates, including former Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi and his Bumula counterpart Mwambu Mabonga, are angling for the seat even before Senate Speaker Amason Kingi declares the seat vacant.
Others candidates in the race are Jacob Machacha Majembe, an ally of former Cabinet minister Fred Gumo, Bishop Harman Kasili who is the chairman of the Lake Region Economic Bloc private sector organisations, Wafula Wakoli and Aggrey Mutuma Namisi, a local politician. Mr Wakoli is a close confidant of immediate former senator Moses Wetang’ula.
The seat fell vacant after Wetang’ula quit to contest the position of National Assembly speaker.
Ford Kenya supporters have been piling pressure on Wetang’ula to endorse Mr Wakoli who also served as the party’s youth leader.
They believe Wetangula’s blessings are all Wakoli requires to bag the seat given the former’s political influence. However, the Ford-K party boss has kept his supporters guessing about his preferred candidate.
Mr Mabonga, who lost to Jack Wamboka of DAP-K in the Bumula parliamentary race, has a chance to salvage his political career. Those close to him say the former lawmaker was keen on vying on President William Ruto-led UDA party ticket.
When contacted earlier by The Standard on his next move, Mabonga declined to comment.
Speculation is also rife that Ruto and Wetang’ula could agree on who to fly the Kenya Kwanza flag in the race. ODM and DAP-K parties are also expected to agree on their candidate.
The Rev Kasili of the Lighthouse Church, who vied on UDP ticket, said he is the best suited for the seat “because I have the full backing of churches and the people of Bungoma.”
“I will be seeking Wetang’ula’s support despite the fact that we were rivals in the August 9 elections. I believe the people will give me a chance to serve them. In the absence of Prof Charles Ngome who was a strong candidate, I stand a chance,” said Kasili.
Prof Ngome, who vied on DAP-K ticket in the just concluded polls and came second to Wetangula, had earlier told The Standard that he would announce his candidature at the right time. Wamunyinyi, who is the DAP-K party leader, said leaders of the 10-month-old party would meet to deliberate on who to field for the senatorial post. According to Wamunyinyi, his name was among those being proposed but could not say with finality whether he will fly the party’s flag in the race.
“Let me not preempt the meeting’s outcome. That would be undemocratic. We (members) will decide then let the media know who our candidate for the seat is,” he said.
Wamunyinyi was among disgruntled Ford-K leaders who left and founded DAP-K after a botched coup in the lion party. Others who left were former Tongareni MP Eseli Simiyu who served as the party secretary-general and former Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati who lost to Kenneth Lusaka.
Mr Namisi, who lost in the Webuye East parliamentary race, said residents have been pushing him to go for the Senate seat.
“It is about the political dynamics at play, including regional balance politics. As things are, Mount Elgon has produced the deputy governor, Sirisia has the National Speaker slot, Webuye East has produced the governor but Webuye East has nothing. That is why people want me to vie,” said Namisi. Majembe, on the other hand, said he will try his luck once again after losing to Wetang’ula in the August 9 election.
“My desire to serve the people of Bungoma still stands and I believe with Wetang’ula out of sight, I will beat my rivals,” he said.
Both the candidates and voters in Bungoma will have to wait for the speaker of the Senate to declare the seat vacant and IEBC to set a fresh date for a by-election.