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Jubilee wars spill over to Embakasi South by-election

By Jacob Ng’etich | January 27th 2019

Former Embakasi South MP Irshad Sumra,ODM politician Beatrice Kwamboka and Julius Mawathe at AIC Pipeline. [David Gichuru, Standard]

A political battle is shaping up in the Embakasi South parliamentary by-election between ODM and Wiper, stoked by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party.

Handshake, dishing of seats in NASA and the tribe factor have begun to take centre stage in a poll that could be a power-testing contest.

The immediate former MP Julius Mawathe (Wiper) and his predecessor, former Embakasi South MP Irshad Sumra, are locked up in a supremacy battle ahead of the by-election on April 5.

The Supreme Court nullified the election of Mr Mawathe as Embakasi South MP on December 21, last year, on grounds that there was no evidence to support the results that the IEBC used to declare him winner.

But, notably the former MP and Sumra -- though the contestants in the seat -- are now turning out to be just pawns in what seems to be a bigger political war.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s ODM party has vowed to upstage their coalition partner and wrest from its pouch the only parliamentary seat they have in Nairobi. In their bravado, ODM leaders have even declared that their coalition arrangement died a year ago.

ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna said they would humiliate NASA affiliate parties' candidates. 

Surrender the seat

Ruaraka MP TJ Kajwang’ told Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka not to field a candidate if he expected to continue working with them.

But Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior said they would not relinquish the only Wiper seat in Nairobi. He instead asked ODM to drop their candidate in favour of Wiper. 

The entry of Kenyatta’s party adds to the intrigues in the supremacy battle. Last week, Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju announced that they would not be fielding a candidate in the by-election.

But it emerges that the contest between Mawathe and Sumra has higher stakes for Jubilee, with factions now pulling in different directions.

While Tuju, who claims that their move to surrender the seat ‘in the spirit’ of handshake with Raila could have got the brief from the party leader, a group of party politicians allied to Deputy President William Ruto have come out to declare support for Mawathe, setting the stage for a bruising contest.

Insiders insist that Jubilee’s decision to stay away from the by-election was in line with the President’s bid to endear himself further to his erstwhile political foe-turned buddy, Raila.

There is no love lost between the DP and Raila, and the Embakasi South seat now offers the DP an opportunity to test political waters in the city.

On Tuesday, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and a section of Central MPs declared support for Mawathe.

Mr Kuria’s move was informed by the feeling that Raila had been unfairly handed a through-pass uto boost his standing at the expense of Ruto in the political scheme of things.

“In the spirit of the handshake and the Building Bridges Initiative, like-minded leaders and I, in our individual capacities, have today resolved to support Musili Mawathe,” Kuria said

In Gatundu South MP’s team are Embakasi West MP George Theuri, Charles Njagua (Starehe), Makali Mulu (Kitui Central), Simon Mbugua (Eala) and former Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama.

A Jubilee MP who sought anonymity said they would marshal all arsenal to ensure the Wiper candidate wins.

“We know that the victory will send a clear message to some people that those agreements by a few people will not have their way now and even in 2022,” he said.

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