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Battle of titans as heavyweights plot for Bungoma Senate seat

By - By Stephen Makabila | October 6th 2013
New Ford Kenya leader Eugene Wamalwa and Amani leader Musalia Mudavadi at a past campaign rally. The Amani coaliton is divided over which candidate to support.  [PHOTO: FILE/ STANDARD]

By Stephen Makabila

[email protected]

Sharp divisions have hit New Ford-Kenya and partners in the Amani coalition on who should run against immediate former Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula in the coming by-election.

The intrigues have in turn thrown the ruling Jubilee coalition – to which the three main Amani coalition political parties (UDF, New Ford-Kenya and Kanu) are affiliated – into a spin.

Pressure is mounting on New Ford-Kenya leader, former Justice minister Eugene Wamalwa, to enter the race. But former nominated MP Musikari Kombo, who successfully petitioned the election of  Wetang’ula,   is firmly in contention.

“Yes, pressure is mounting on me to run but a decision is yet to be made. Of course if I run, it will be a battle of titans,” Wamalwa confided to The Standard on Sunday in an interview.

Investigations by The Standard on Sunday revealed that some powerful forces in State House were determined to have Wamalwa run to boost the chances of CORD losing the seat. During the interview, Wamalwa could not personally confirm or deny State House involvement.

New Ford Kenya (NFK) national organising secretary Dr Juma Mukhwana, has also vowed he will be in the race on his party’s ticket.

On Thursday, NFK MPs boycotted a meeting between Wamalwa and UDF leader Musalia Mudavadi at the UDF offices, where Mudavadi was quoted as indicating that Amani coalition will support Kombo in the by-election.

Compromise candidate

NFK Secretary General Canon Benjamin Mwema who had earlier told The Standard on Sunday the meeting between Mudavadi and Wamalwa had been cancelled, later said, “Our NFK MPs did not attend the meeting because they were busy elsewhere”.

The NFK MPs had earlier met on Wednesday at a Chinese restaurant off Dennis Pritt road, where they had reached consensus to back Wamalwa for the seat.

MPs at the meeting included Dr Reginalda Wanyonyi (Bungoma County Women Representative), Dan Wanyama (Webuye West) and Bonface Otsyula (Bumula).

Mwema and Webuye East MP Alfred Sambu of UDF who the NFK MPs wanted to chair the campaign preparations also attended the meeting.

“The consensus among the MPs was that Wamalwa be our candidate. But just as we were winding up, Wamalwa walked in with Kombo and everything stalled,” said Mwema.

Dr Mukhwana told The Standard on Sunday that among the three possible choices for the party (Kombo, Wamalwa and himself), he comes in as a compromise candidate.

“How do we explain that Bungoma, a county of 1.7 million people, should import a senator from Trans Nzoia County? Wamalwa’s original home is in Kimilili, the same place where Governor Ken Lusaka comes from. We cannot have a Senator and a Governor from one area,” argued Mukhwana.

Keep off campaigns

Governor Lusaka told The Standard on Sunday he was not supporting any side in the coming by-election, and that he will be ready to work with any Senator the people of Bungoma will elect.

“I will keep off campaigns because I am the governor for all the county. I do not want to take sides,” said Mr Lusaka.

Mukhwana, Mwema, a Bumula politican Jack Wamboka, and Federal Party leader Cyrus Jirongo among others, on Thursday night held a meeting at a Westlands hotel, in Nairobi where they discussed strategies for the by-election.

Mwema maintains that nobody else can purport to speak on behalf of NFK since he was the official party spokesperson.

“I am the secretary general and therefore the official spokesperson of the party. No one can, therefore, name our candidate without involving the party secretariat whose custodian I am,” said Mwema.

Wamalwa told The Standard on Sunday that as the party leader, what he was interested in is to see NFK reclaim the seat, which he said it won, but was denied through electoral fraud. “We are aware CORD campaigns will be about pure propaganda, painting NFK as a Jubilee project, and we are ready for it. The people of Bungoma should know the by-election would be about reclaiming an NFK win that was stolen in the March 4 general elections through fraud. It will be a contest between NFK and Ford Kenya and people should stop hiding behind larger coalitions,” said Wamalwa.

 The contest between Wamalwa and Wetang’ula, if it comes to be, may go down in history as the toughest and most bruising political battles in Luhya-land since independence.

Dr George Masafu, a Wamalwa ally who feels the former Saboti MP should go for the seat says, “Wetang’ulais a strong fighter and an aggressive politician and the contest would be too close to call”.

Locking out

Wetang’ula and his CORD partners seem ready and focused, with their only concern being to thrash out claims of voter bribery in the ruling, through an appeal he has filed in court.

CORD co-principals Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka are also likely to camp in Bungoma to ensure Wetang’ula, who was the minority leader in the Senate, reclaims his seat.

Raila who was in Bungoma on September 30 during the ruling that nullified Wetang’ula’s win, said the nullification was political, and vowed CORD will fight tooth and nail to reclaim the seat.

Wetang’ula said the party was ready for battle, telling his supporters to prepare their cards when the time for dealing with “Jubilee projects” comes.

CORD is also likely to paint Jubilee as a coalition that has no interest for the former Western province, after locking out the region in major political appointments through what some leaders from the region now refer to as “politics of exclusion”.

Bungoma County, especially, did not benefit from any appointments of principal secretaries named by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto.

The Jubilee government, some politicians in CORD argue, has also failed to show commitment on revival of the Webuye-based Pan-Paper Mills and save the financially ailing Nzoia Sugar Factory.

While Ruto has made several trips to the county since the March 4 general elections, the President is yet to tour the county, or any part of the former Western Province.

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