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UDA stalwart to battle five rivals in heated race for Kandara seat

 

Kandara MP Alice Wahome. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

Kandara Constituency in Murang’a County is expected to experience an intense rivalry as a crowded cast seeks to fight the incumbent Member of Parliament (MP) Alice Wahome, who is defending her seat in the August 9 General Election.

The main competitors are Ms Wahome who will be seeking a third term, Murang’a Deputy Governor Maina Kamau who is also Ms Wahome’s predecessor, United Democratic Alliance (UDA) contractor Injinia Mwaura, human rights lawyer Mbiyu Kamau, Julius Kaberere and Peter Kinyanjui Ngugi.

In the 2017 General Election, a showdown between perennial rivals Ms Wahome and Mr Kamau was forestalled when the latter was picked as running mate by Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria in his re-election bid.

Mr Kamau, who represented the area between 2007-2013, has elected to return to his constituency where he claims he is perfectly in touch with the grassroots.

In the titanic race for the 98,633 voters in the constituency spread out in six electoral wards, candidates will also be looking up for the popularity of their parties to get a head start. In the enhanced voters registration exercise, the constituency registered 2,584 new voters.

Early indications show Ms Wahome will face the aspirants led by Mr Mwaura and Mr Kaberere, while other candidates are considering taking the tickets of Mwangi wa Iria’s Usawa Kwa Wote, PNU, The Service Party, Azimio la Umoja Initiative, The Service Party, Democratic Party and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria’s Chama Cha Kazi among others.

There are others who are preparing to run as independent candidates to avoid going through the expensive party nomination process.

Public concerns include increased sale of cheap liquor in market centres, low standards of education, poor physical infrastructure in some schools, and high poverty levels in the lower parts of the constituency.

Another concern is the dwindling fortunes of the main cash crops in the area - tea and coffee - plus horticulture products such as macadamia nuts and avocados.

The slow death of the coffee sub-sector has pushed many locals in the area to subdivide their land into plots for quicker returns. Kandara was one of the earliest constituencies in Central Kenya to pioneer avocado farming and has always been earmarked for construction of a processing plant, which is yet to materialise. 

According to political analyst John Kiboro, political muscle, party affiliation and financial strength among the candidates will determine who will get the most votes. 

That Ms Wahome has been mentioned frequently as a possible running mate of Deputy President William Ruto gives her national visibility and selling advantage.

“Of course, if she was picked for that position the race would be wide open,” added Mr Kiboro.

Julius Kaberere, who is vying on a PNU ticket, ventured into politics in 2013 vying for the Murang’a Governor’s seat. 

He says he will transform the constituency to ensure living standards of the locals are uplifted, with focus on improved education.

“My major concern will be in agriculture, health and education where I will ensure farmers are adequately compensated for their sweat and ensure all areas are developed,” he said.

Mr Ngugi observed that desperate youth are faced with myriad challenges due to lack of employment. 

He said he is interested in revamping the education sector and ensuring the bursary kitty is distributed equally to needy students at all levels.

“There are schools that have been completely ignored by the current NG-CDF,” claimed Mr Ngugi.

Ms Wahome and Mr Kamau come from the vote-rich Muruka and Ruchu wards respectively. Ms Wahome’s lieutenants claim in the past two terms, she had managed to transform the constituency through development and national visibility.

But the Deputy Governor, who had memorable political fights with Ms Wahome between 2007 and 2013, claimed her performance is below par and faults her for abandoning projects he had initiated earlier as MP.

A former Nairobi City Councillor before he became MP in the 2007 elections, Mr Kamau claims Kandara had been denied its due of development when the incumbent started opposing the government of the day.

“The proposed Kandara Level Four Hospital remains a mirage despite the NG-CDF spending millions of shillings because it needed a helping hand from the national government, which was not possible because of the political stance the MP took,” he said.  

Mr Mwaura, a construction and management lecturer at the University of Nairobi, agrees there has been a slow pace of development in the constituency after Ms Wahome plunged the constituency into a political mood.

“We have lagged behind as Wahome has been playing politics instead of initiating projects. The few projects in the constituency are located in the lower parts, ignoring the upper region, maybe because of past voting patterns,” said Mr Mwaura.

But dismissing the aspirants as busybodies, Ms Wahome said she has a track record that speaks for itself.

In the last election, Ms Wahome on the Jubilee Party ticket floored her rival, the late Wa Ruth Philip Njuguna alias PMG Kamau, after she scooped 48,925 votes against his 31,784 votes.