Mini poll: Rehearsal for Jubilee and UDA ahead of next year’s elections

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto at the KWS academy in Manyani, Taita Taveta, October 16, 2020. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Next Thursday’s Kiambaa parliamentary by-election has yet again provided another battleground for Jubilee Party and the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) to flex their political muscles ahead of the 2022 General Election.

Going by the last-minute heated campaigns by both Jubilee’s Kariri Njama and UDA candidate Njuguna Wanjiku, the contest appears to be too close to call. At play in the bare-knuckled competition is a quest by Deputy President William Ruto’s allied Tanga Tanga MPs from Central Kenya to test their influence in the region. Both Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira) are angling to be Ruto’s point men.

On Thursday, President Uhuru Kenyatta who has kept off the campaigns hosted Njama at State House as a sign of his solidarity with the Jubilee candidate. The meeting was attended by some of the former aspirants from the Constituency that included Charles Munyui, Raymond Kuria and Lennah Koinange among others.

Njama, also received a boost last month after his Party of National Unity (PNU) competitor Lucy Wanjiru withdrew from the race and pledged to support him.

Over the past two weeks, Jubilee party bigwigs led by Secretary-General Raphael Tuju, and MPs Ngunjiri Wambugu (Nyeri Town) and Kanini Kega (Kieni) have been campaigning aggressively in all Kiambaa’s five wards ahead of Thursday’s mini poll.

According to IEBC, there are 95,413 registered voters in the five wards of Cianda (11,002), Karuri (21,634), Ndenderu (26,974), Muchatha (17,472) and Kihara (18,331).

Jubilee Juja lessons 

Earlier this week, Kega said the ruling party has done extremely well in drumming up support for Njama after the party changed tact following a humiliating defeat in Juja.

“We have about 70 per cent on our side and want to push it to 80 per cent by the time constituents go to the polls. We are not leaving Kiambaa until the very last day,” the MP said.

He said Njama is the most suitable having been a candidate in the constituency in 2013 and 2017 where he emerged second in both contests.

“He did not leave the ground and this means he is a person the constituents know very well, someone they relate with, who understands their needs and aspirations,” Kega added.

Jubilee MPs Kanini Kega (left) and Peter Mwathi (Limuru) in Kiambaa. [George Njunge, Standard]

The Ruto linked UDA party is also leaving no chances to test their influence in Mt Kenya region by scooping the seat. They hope to triumph against the seven candidates and started by consolidating their support base by withdrawing Kuria’s Peoples Empowerment Party (PEP) candidate.

The outcome of the poll is expected rekindle the bitter rivalry between the President’s Kenyatta’s party against Ruto’s UDA and its sister allied parties that hit the crescendo in March during Juja parliamentary poll when PEP’s George Koimburi defeated Jubilee’s Susan Njeri.

On Thursday youths drawn from DP Ruto’s ‘Hustler Movement’ camped in Kiambaa to drum up support for Wanjiku. The chair of Hustler Movement Youth Caucus Kariuki Ngunjiri said members will pitch tent in the constituency until the last day of the campaign expressing confidence that residents will overwhelmingly vote for the UDA candidate.

“We know we are facing a worthy opponent. However, we shall stop at nothing to ensure we deliver the seat for our party,” UDA Secretary-General Veronica Maina said recently.

Others in the race are Willie Mbugua (Independent), David Mugo (Independent), Isaac Karomo (Federal Party of Kenya), Evans Gichia (People’s Party of Kenya) and Richard Njoroge (The New Democrats). 

UDA affiliated MPs Millicent Omanga (left) and Alice Wahome (centre) in dance during a meeting in support of the party's candidate Njuguna Wanjiku. [George Njunge, Standard]

UDA has also fronted Joseph Githinji as its candidate for the Muguga Ward by-election still in Kiambu County. Analysts say the race will be a litmus test for the influence of DP’s confidants in the county including Kuria and Kimani Ichung’wa. Former Councillor Nderitu Karanja urged the parties to prepare and be ready to accept the results.

“There is a perception that has been created that Jubilee will be humiliated in the event it is defeated, but what about UDA that is attempting to win its first parliamentary seat after the resounding defeats in Machakos, Matungu and Kabuchai?” posed Karanja.

On his part Reverend George Githinji of Kiambaa Full Gospel Christ Churches, the biggest losers will be the locals if they do not make an informed choice but allow their decisions to be dictated by factors outside their constituency.

Since independence, the Koinange family has dominated Kiambaa politics. The first MP Mbiyu Koinange who is President Kenyatta’s uncle dominated local politics from 1963 to 1979.

Later on business mogul Njenga Karume took over from 1979 to 1983 during the Kanu era.

At the advent of multiparty-ism in 1992, Kamau Icharia trounced Karume for a single term on Ford Asili ticket. However, Karume made a comeback on Democratic Party ticket in 1997 and later through KANU in 2002 but lost to Stanley Githunguri in 2007. The late Koinange was elected in 2013 on a TNA party.