Jubilee and CORD are gearing up for another bruising battle in the impending by-elections following the nomination of two legislators to the Cabinet.
The nomination of ODM Malindi North MP Dan Kazungu to the Mining docket is likely to trigger another round of acrimonious campaigns not much different from the Kajiado Central by-election which was called when former ODM MP Joseph ole Nkaisery was nominated then appointed Interior Ministry Cabinet Secretary.
Because of its strength in the larger Rift Valley, the Jubilee Coalition had considered the seat in the bag but Jubilee Alliance Party's Patrick Tutui was ignominiously defeated by Elijah Memusi of ODM.
In Kericho County, Senator Charles Keter’s appointment to the Energy docket has already opened the doors for former Roads Minister Franklin Bett and former ODM Chief Executive Officer Magerer Lang'at who are among the candidates who want to vie (see story on Page 20).
Former Assistant Cabinet Minister Paul Sang, who trailed Keter in the 2013 senatorial election, and two businessmen—Nelson Koech and Ken Mutai—have also been mentioned as potential candidates.
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Jubilee Coalition allied leaders from the South Rift are already sounding boisterously over confident. Ainamoi MP Benjamin Lang’at says the results are a foregone conclusion.
“At the by-election, it's not a question of debate, it's definitely a Jubilee coalition victory,” said Langa’t.
President Uhuru Kenyatta recently nominated Keter and Kazungu to the Cabinet and the Coast leader will be vetted by Parliament next week. The Senator will not have to undergo vetting because he has been vetted before — he was appointed to replace sacked Davis Chirchir as Energy Cabinet Secretary. If he goes through the vetting process, the Malindi MP will take over the Mining docket from Najib Balala who was moved to the Ministry of Tourism.
National Assembly Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso also thinks the Kericho seat is in the bag.
The ruling coalition will have learned some hard lessons from the Kajiado Central by-election fiasco and would not want to lose a seat in Deputy President William Ruto's backyard. The President, his deputy and MPs campaigned for the JAP candidate, complete with state machinery but their candidate embarrassingly lost to ODM.
There is little doubt that the Malindi and Kericho by-elections will provide Jubilee and CORD with a theatre to build momentum ahead of the 2017 General Elections.
Kanu has also joined the fray for the Kericho seat. Party secretary general Nick Salat said they would start campaigns once the seat is declared vacant.
“We will surprise them . . . we will launch a massive campaign that will convince people that the independence party is still very active,” said Mr Salat.
West Pokot Senator John Lonyangapuo said Kanu wants use the by-election to demonstrate its popularity.
“We want to offer new leadership through a new person to ensure representation of our people in every region. For those who will be looking to fill the position, let us meet at the Kericho contest,” he said.
Beisdes, said Prof Lonyangapuo, by-election will be used to strengthen the party.
“We will not disband our party which will be represented at all polls starting with the Kericho senatorial by-election,” he said.
In Malindi, three candidates want to vie—Nominated Senator Emma Bura, Kilifi County Secretary Owen Bayan and the county’s protocol officer John Kazungu.
ODM secretary general and Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba considers the region an ODM stronghold.
“We are very confident of returning the Malindi seat back home, the same way we did in Kajiado Central against monumental odds,” said Mr Namwamba.
He urged Malindi voters to replicate the Kajiado Central script of recapturing the seat to punish Jubilee for poaching ODM MPs.
“The trend is costly, a threat to pluralist democracy and a confirmation of bankruptcy of talent, brains and capacity in the Jubilee ranks. We will continue to humiliate them even when they attempt to raid our good brains,” said the ODM secretary general.
In regard to the Kericho senatorial seat, Namwamba said; “We have friends and partners all across the Rift Valley, indeed across the whole country. We will work closely with our friends in the South Rift in the battle for Kericho. As the party's secretary general, expect to see me personally leading the charge across the Kericho battlefields.”
Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar believes Jubilee does not stand a chance at the coast and the appointment of Malindi MP to Cabinet is inconsequential to voters.
“The only beneficiary in this appointment is Kazungu. Jubilee will not gain political leverage. They have just replaced Malindi MP with the other (former Labour minister Kazungu Kambi) who was sacked,” he said.
Omar said coast voters will not be fooled by tokenism.
“You do not expect to gain politically from a mere appointment to Cabinet when the economy is battered and the masses are feeling the pain of poor leadership. Jubilee has lost it completely,” said the Mombasa Senator.