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Cracks in Kenya Kwanza, Azimio as hostilities erupt

Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika and Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri. [Standard]

With barely two months to the General Election, emerging cracks within the Deputy President William Ruto-led Kenya Kwanza coalition are now threatening the outfit in Nakuru County.

Ruto's key allies in the county have in the last two days gone for each other’s throat, signalling an imminent fallout within the coalition and the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party.

For the umpteenth time, Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri and Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika have broken ranks with their rivalry coming to the fore during the Madaraka Day celebrations.

Ngunjiri, who is defending his seat on a UDA ticket, attended the county celebrations held at Kiamaina in Bahati hosted by County Commissioner Erastus Mbui and Governor Lee Kinyanjui.

In his address, Ngunjiri shocked the crowd after he openly threw his weight behind Kihika's rival for the county's top seat, Governor Lee Kinyanjui of the Jubilee Party - an affiliate of the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya alliance.

“Let us all campaign respecting each other’s space and rights. In the county, Jibu ni Lee (Lee is the answer) and here in Bahati, Jibu ni Kimani Ngunjiri (Ngunjiri is the answer),” said the legislator.

This is not the first time Ngunjiri is drumming support for Kinyanjui’s bid against Kihika over their differences in running UDA party affairs in the vote-rich county.

Daniel Kimani, who is vying for the Nakuru senate seat on a Ford-Kenya ticket, also weighed in backing Kinyanjui despite his sponsoring party being a major partner in Kenya Kwanza.

“Elect leaders, not politicians. Elect leaders, not noisemakers. That leader is Lee Kinyanjui for Governor and Daniel Kimani for Senate,” said Kimani at the same event.

Although Kimani and Kihika have been attending Kenya Kwanza rallies together, the two are said not to see eye to eye over the Nakuru UDA senate ticket.

Kimani jumped ship from UDA to Ford-Kenya weeks to party nominations over alleged favouritism towards a particular candidate by senior politicians in the county.

Senator Kihika who didn’t attend the event did not take the statement lightly, especially that made by Ngunjiri and responded in equal measure through her social media handles.

“Ati yule jamaa wa Bahati amesema nini leo? Kama maneno iko hivo na mimi nasema watu wangu wa Bahati round hii tucheze kama sisi, kwani iko nini? Aende home na hiyo jivu yake!” which loosely translates to; “What has the Bahati man said today? If that is how things are, I also urge the people of Bahati to do that thing. Let him go home with his ashes,” Kihika wrote on her Facebook account.

Although Kihika has denied links with the Jubilee Party candidate for the Bahati seat Irene Njoki, Ngunjiri has in the past accused the two of working together to dislodge him from the position.

The two have been blowing hot and cold about each other at their own convenience but their unity has never lasted longer than the period of their rivalry played out in the public gallery.

Friendly fires have also been witnessed in the Azimio La Umoja-One Kenya coalition in the county, a matter that the outfit's presidential running mate Martha Karua noted in her recent Nakuru forays.

“We are one family or a clan of many parties with one agenda. I understand that we have candidates of different affiliate parties but let us not fight. If we can reach consensus, the better,” said Karua.

In the Nakuru Town West parliamentary seat, the coalition candidates are facing tough competition from UDA’s Kamau Githengi.

For the MP position, the coalition has Samuel Arama of Jubilee, Dr Isoe Ochoki of ODM, and Jedidah Wairimu of Kanu who have presented a strong case to the electorate.

Nakuru West MP Samuel Arama during a presser in Nakuru on May 23, 2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

In the senate race, Azimio has two candidates comprised of former Chief Administrative Secretary for Industrialisation Lawrence Karanja and former Naivasha MP John Mututho.

Arama has been overshadowing his competitors during Azimio rallies in the constituency which sparked outrage from supporters of his opponents who demanded that they too be given an equal chance.

The coalition is also facing a challenge on the woman representative post which has Agnes Njambi of Jubilee and Eunice Mureithi of Ubuntu People’s Forum (UPF).

Andrew Nyabuto, a political commentator observes that the trend is set to continue citing that support for political parties, coalitions and their candidates is not homogenous for a six-piece vote in the 11 sub-counties of Nakuru.

“Politics is local and whatever is happening nationally may not automatically happen at the county and constituency level. The teams can only hope to have unity during the campaign period which is the most critical,” said Nyabuto.