SECTIONS

Junet faces tough battle as six opponents keen to deny him third victory

 

Suna East MP Junet Mohamed. [David Njaaga, Standard]

He is one of the few politicians who have broken ethnic barriers and established themselves as influential leaders outside their communities.

Junet Mohamed has won the Suna East parliamentary seat for two consecutive terms, in a region predominantly inhabited by the Luo.

In ODM, he has worked his way up and established himself as one of the most trusted allies of party leader Raila Odinga, a feat most Nyanza leaders only dream of.

But now, with the clock ticking towards the August 9 elections, Mr Mohamed could be facing the toughest battle of his political career as six aspirants intensify the quest to dethrone him.

The rivals have been campaigning door-to-door with an aim of unseating a man who has proved that minority groups can also crack regional political equations.

And although he has dismissed his opponents as “political lightweights”, they have vowed to teach him a lesson, claiming he has been an “absentee” MP.

While he has been busy campaigning for Raila with the Azimio la Umoja brigade, his opponents are leaving no stone unturned as they pitch tent in the four wards in the constituency to market their bids.

His challengers are Mr Odipo Jawasweta, who is vying for the second time, businessman Bruno Liende, educationist Hezron Onyango, Mr Samuel Amimo, former Lands Executive Elijah Odhiambo and Kileleshwa MCA Elias Otieno.

Four of the aspirants will face off with Mr Junet in the ODM party primaries scheduled for April.

It, however, remains to be seen whether ODM will adopt consensus or majority vote in its primaries. Analysts believe that should the party opt for consensus, it would favour Mr Mohamed, given his position in the party as well as his strong links with the party leadership.

But the other aspirants have vowed to fight to the end.

One of the aspirants, Mr Otieno, has vowed to contest as an Independent candidate should he miss the ODM ticket. Mr Otieno seems keen to follow in the footsteps of Suna West Peter Masara. After losing in the ODM primaries in 2017, Mr Masara ran as independent candidate and won.

Political pundits and residents believe the factors likely to influence the race include party politics, track record and the unity of the aspirants.

Most residents have ruled out ethnicity as a factor given that Mr Mohamed has served two terms despite the fact that he hails from the Somali community which is a minority in the region.

In the past, residents also backed him for two terms as a councillor.

Interviews with the six aspirants established that all of them are busy strengthening their grassroots networks as they craft the winning formulas to unseat Mr Mohamed.

They described him as an absentee MP who has shifted his attention to national politics at the expense of serving the people of Suna East.

According to Liende, Mr Mohamed has failed in his duties and has done little to improve the infrastructure of the constituency despite serving two terms. “He is a no-show. He has left constituents like orphans and has only focused his attention on appearing on TV’s for interviews instead of serving the people,” said Liende.

Liende noted that the people’s cries were a wake-up call to him and he decided to contest in order to fix things in the constituency.

“I have been approached by many leaders and civilians drawn from all wards within Suna East, bringing different complaints about the current leadership. How ineffective it is has been for the past nine years. The public outcry was too loud to be ignored,” Mr. Liende said.

Mr Otieno, who is a ward rep in Nairobi, claimed that other first-term MPs in Migori County had performed better than Mr Mohamed who is serving a second term. “He is only seen on TV. People need someone on the ground who interacts and is there to carry out development projects that can help them,” Mr Otieno said.

Amimo noted that if elected he will ensure transparency, equity in terms of resource distribution and be more available.

“I will listen to people more instead of staying in Nairobi and coming back like a tourist,” Mr Amimo added.

Mr Onyango said his passion for education and achievements as a publisher would give him an edge over Junet who he claimed as done little during his tenure to support education.

“I am confident I will dislodge Junet (Mr Mohamed) from the seat. He has only been painting classrooms but does not have any meaningful development under his belt,” said Mr Onyango.

Mr Odhiambo who recently resigned Lands Executive to contest in the elections, noted that he would not dwell on what other people had done, but was determined to bring change to the constituents.

The Standard has established that Migori Governor Okoth Obado is planning to front a different candidate using the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to challenge Mr Mohammed.

However, it remains to be seen whether the efforts will bear fruit or will flop like in 2017. 

Mr Mohamed is undaunted by his opponents’ attempts to unseat him. He dismissed them as lightweights and vowed to hand them a heavy defeat. He refuted claims that he only makes appearances on TV, noting that he has been working and has been on the ground for the past two weeks.

“It is a big lie that I have not been on the ground,” said Mr Mohamed, adding that he does not see any serious competitor.

Mr Mohamed listed construction of classroom blocks, dining halls, administration blocks and roads, and issuance of bursaries as some of the development projects he has implemented within the constituency.

The legislator said that if re-elected, he would better the lives of his constituents.

Junet stated that plans are underway to tarmac major roads in the county before the August polls.

In 2017, Junet was declared winner with 20,956 votes. His closest opponent Patrick Odipo got 8,967 votes. Independent candidate John Pesa got 7, 831, RLP’s Tom Mboya 416 and Ford Kenya’s Hezron Onyango 107.

According to Nick Oluoch, a political analyst, unseating the lawmaker won’t be easy.

He noted that Mr Mohamed stands a high chance of clinching the Suna East MP seat for the third time given that he is close to the party and is popular. “Junet (Mr Mohamed) is popular with locals and within the party structures. He stands a high chance of getting the ODM ticket which is about 45 per cent plus,” Mr Oluoch said.