Kenya Kwanza parties step up fight to clinch Bungoma Senate seat

Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi (left) and National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula in a meeting with Nzoia Sugar stakeholders on November 18, 2022. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Stiff sibling rivalry in Kenya Kwanza Alliance affiliates - United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and Ford-Kenya - has taken centre stage as campaigns to replace former Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula enter the homestretch.

UDA-allied MPs in the region have been campaigning for Mwambu Mabonga even as Ford-Kenya lawmakers push the tide in favour of Wafula Wakoli.

The former believe they played a critical role in making Wetang'ula Speaker of the National Assembly but the latter say the county is a Ford-Kenya zone and should, therefore, take up the senate seat at the December 8 by-election.

Recently, Wetang'ula, who campaigned for his party's candidate for 10 days, invoked the name of Ford-Kenya's founding member Wamalwa Kijana, saying it would be a "betrayal" to have a stranger to the party take the seat.

"I want you to elect Wakoli who has been a loyal member of my party so that in the event Wamalwa resurrects in his grave, he is happy that the party he so cherished is doing well. Look, we only had one senatorial seat in Parliament and we can't afford to lose it," he said at Nzoia Sugar grounds.

Wetang'ula called on the region's leaders to align behind Wakoli, but not all are playing ball.

UDA lawmakers say they supported him to become Speaker thereby creating the vacancy in Bungoma and he should reciprocate by endorsing their candidate, Mabonga, who is the immediate former Bumula MP.

"He (Wetang'ula) only had five MPs in the National Assembly. It took the effort of Dan Wanyama and I to convince the about 145 UDA MPs to elect him as Speaker," said Kakamega senator Boni Khalwale in Bungoma town. "You can't have the lucrative Speaker seat and also want the Bungoma Senate seat for your party."

Webuye West MP Dan Wanyama also said the seat should go to Mabonga.

But the attacks on Wetang'ula and his candidate have not been from Kenya Kwanza alone.

DAP-K Secretary General Eseli Simiyu claims Wetang'ula is fronting Wakoli so that he can talk him to step aside should he wish to vie for the same seat in 2027.

Simiyu faulted him for vying for the Senate seat even after Kenya Kwanza promised him the Speaker's seat.

He told traders in Kanduyi on Friday that the county will be better off with an Azimio candidate in the Senate now that it had Ken Lusaka of Kenya Kwanza as governor.

"It would be unforgivable to think that a Ford-K senator who was escorted by Lusaka to be cleared by IEBC will have the guts to check on Lusaka's excesses," he said.

But Lusaka believes his party boss and the party have the right to field a candidate.

In Wetang'ula's absence, he has been leading a legion of Ford-K MPs and MCAs to campaign for Wakoli.

"We (Ford-Kenya) are ready to employ the same strategies we used in August to retain the seat," he said.

Ken Echesa, a political analyst, believes that Wetang'ula and Ford-Kenya are a major factor in the polls as he is a respected leader in Bungoma just as his party.

He believes the majority elected under Ford-Kenya can help to some level in elevating their party's chances.

Herman Manyora, who teaches at the University of Nairobi, however, says the race is open and either coalition can bag the seat.

He also fears that Kenya Kwanza could suffer from the public disillusionment it is facing over the high cost of living that is currently hurting the common man.

"You see, the people especially the mama mbogas (and bodabodas thought that the cost of living would drop immediately Kenya Kwanza Alliance got into office. KKA will have a hard time selling their candidate to these groups without explaining why they have not made life easier as they promised," he said.