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Kalonzo faces tough battle in bid to tilt Machakos vote

POLITICS
By Erastus Mulwa | February 1st 2021
Machakos Wiper senatorial aspirant Agnes Kavindu at A.I.C Kasina in Mlolongo town, Machakos County, on January 17, 2021. [John Muia, Standard]

A supremacy battle is taking shape in the Machakos senatorial by-election scheduled for March 18 as key political figures seek to stamp their authority in the region.

Stakes are high as Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka seeks to recapture the seat his party lost to Chama Cha Uzalendo (CCU) in 2017 after former Senator Johnstone Muthama declined the party’s direct nomination to defend his seat.

Wiper has nominated Muthama’s former wife Agnes Kavindu to vie in the by-election.

Maendeleo Chap Chap (MCC) party leader Alfred Mutua, who is fighting to tilt the Ukambani political landscape, is rallying behind former Water Minister Mutua Katuku.

On the other hand, Deputy President William Ruto is looking to make inroads in Ukambani region through the newly registered United Democratic Alliance (UDA) chaired by Muthama.

The party has nominated Urbanus Ngengele to battle it out for the seat left vacant following the demise of Senator Boniface Kabaka.

Last week, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission cleared at least 10 candidates drawn from various political parties and others to vie independently, to contest for the seat.

Challenged his legitimacy

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In a show of political muscle, Kalonzo hosted Kanu chairman Gideon Moi and two NASA co-principals, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula, during a rally at Mulu Mutisya gardens in Machakos town to drum up support for Kavindu.

For the Wiper leader, the by-election is a litmus test on his grip on the region, which has been threatened by Mutua and Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana.

The two have challenged Kalonzo’s legitimacy as the region’s political supremo.

Wiper’s decision to field Muthama’s estranged wife, Kavindu, has been interpreted by analysts as a political ‘cut-throat’ strategy after a bitter fallout with the former Machakos senator, who has since declared himself the new Ukambani king pin.

In the recent past, Kalonzo has been chairing a series of meetings with elected leaders as well as professionals drawn from the lower Eastern region to craft a winning formula for the by-election.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka at Serena Hotel, Nairobi, on January 18, 2021. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

Sources who have been attending the meetings told The Standard that Kalonzo has been candid about his desire to win the by-election, failure to which his 2022 presidential ambition will be dealt a major blow.

“He (Kalonzo) told us the seat must be won at all costs. He tasked all Wiper party elected leaders within and outside Machakos to undertake vigorous campaigns to ensure the party delivers the seat come March 18,” said the source.

Another source revealed that the former vice president was ‘deeply worried’ about the possibility of defeat by either Mutua or Ruto’s candidates.

“A possible defeat from Mutua or Ruto is our party leader’s biggest worry. It is something he cannot imagine happening,” said another source.

Mutua, who has declared Machakos his political bedroom, has been holding a series of strategy meetings to seek support for MCC candidate Katuku.

The governor, who parted ways with his former party boss Kalonzo, clinched a second term through MCC, which he founded in the run-up to the 2017 General Election.

In one of the meetings, Mutua told residents that it was wrong for Kalonzo to pick Muthama’s ex-wife as Wiper candidate merely to settle political scores.

He urged voters to elect a visionary candidate who will help him implement development programmes.

“What Machakos people need right now is quality leadership at the Senate, not an individual hand-picked for purposes of fighting political wars extended to families.

It is an insult to the intelligence of Machakos voters and we are urging them to reject such games,” the governor said.

Former MP

Yatta MP Charles Kilonzo has been leading professionals, businessmen and MCAs in campaigning for Katuku, who is former Mwala MP.

“It is not the time to gamble about who the senator for Machakos should be. Machakos residents deserve the best.

Having been an MP and Cabinet minister for many years, Katuku will blend easily with his colleagues once elected and will begin delivering his services efficiently and without any delay,” Kilonzo said.

Muthama, who is leading the UDA battalion, has similarly chaired strategy meetings to campaign for Ngengele and forestall fallout with several aspirants who were not favoured by an opinion poll that informed the outcome of the nomination.

The former Machakos senator is banking on the support of MPs Victor Munyaka (Machakos Town), Vincent Musyoka (Mwala) and Nimrod Mbai (Kitui East) to deliver the seat to UDA.

During a rally in Machakos town, Muthama urged residents to choose the ‘hustler’ candidate, saying he represents the face of change. “The hustler movement will field candidates from the lowest elective position all the way to the country’s top seat. UDA will form the next government and our motivation is to transform the country through pure democracy and the rule of law. We urge Kenyans to rally behind us as we walk this journey,” he said.

CCU is fielding businesswoman Lilian Mwanzia, while the Grand Dream Development Party picked Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry finance director Simon Kitheka.

Others in the race are former regional police boss Francis Munyambu (Independent), Stanly Muindi (Party of Economic Empowerment) and Sabastian Nthama (Independent).

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