Race for Bondo parliamentary seat gathers steam ahead of elections

John Andiwo Mwai, a businessman who has declared interest for Bondo MP's seat in the 2022 elections. [Isaiah Gwengi,Standard]

With less than a year to the 2022 General Election, the race for Bondo parliamentary seat is fast shaping up.

Aspirants for the seat that is currently held by Gideon Ochanda have started traversing the county to popularise their candidature. Those who have shown interest in the race are Andiwo Mwai, Rachel Omollo, Andiwo Obondo and Linet Olima.

Mr Mwai, who lost to Mr Ochanda in the 2017 elections, hopes to make a bigger harvest this time. The businessman is a close ally of Siaya Senator James Orengo. He believes he is the best suited to unseat Ochanda owing to his clan and his financial muscle. Mwai says the incumbent should brace for a tough battle, as it will not be a walk in the park.

Of the four candidates who are seeking to represent the constituency after next year’s elections, the competition seems to have narrowed down to Ochanda and Mwai. Ochanda who is in his second term is yet to declare whether he is going to defend his seat.

Mwai garnered 8, 810 votes against Ochanda’s 63,846 votes in the 2017 general elections.

“We have been working with the people. We understand their issues and we are waiting for the appropriate time so that we hit the road,” said Mwai.

The two are embroiled in a bitter fight over whose clan is the largest in the constituency. The two major clans are Sakwa and Yimbo, with Ochanda coming from the latter who are perceived to be the minority.

Mwai, who is the patron of the Nyasimwa sub-clan of Sakwa is said to have mobilized the clan’s votes to both Ochanda and former gubernatorial candidate Nicholas Gumbo.

“In 2017 during the party nominations, I managed to mobilise for Mr Ochanda more than 20,000 votes when his Yimbo clan only gave him 4,000 votes,” Mwai claimed.

The businessman who has been campaigning on a platform of change, economic and youth empowerment front claims that his Nyasimwa clan has been sidelined in terms of leadership and development agenda.

However, MCAs allied to Ochanda have already declared their support for the MP to defend his seat on grounds that Oburu Oginga, who comes from the Sakwa clan has declared interest to run for the senate.

 “We are going to support Oburu and the MP’s seat must be from Yimbo for purposes of fairness and regional balancing. We need not to negotiate on this,” said Yimbo East MCA Francis Otiato.

Though regional balance is expected to be a factor in the race, candidates’ popularity among the people and ability to articulate issues related to oversight matter will also expected to play a role on who wins the seat.

Party dynamics will also be a factor. Candidates will be seeking to be in a party that sits well with the locals.

Also crucial will be the ability of the candidates to crisscross the six wards to market themselves.

Ochanda, who is banking on ambitious projects such as the free feeding program for primary school children and universal bursary distribution in the constituency, says he is still serving the electorates.

“I’ve been listening to people urging me to go for another position in the county but I will make the decision when the right time comes,” said Ochanda.