Kandara poll exposes infighting in UDA with CS Wahome on the spot

Chege Njuguna votes at Ng'angaria polling station in Kandara Constituency on January 5. Njuguna is the new MP for Kandara. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

The just concluded Kandara by-election has exposed the political differences in Murang’a County.

The seat fell vacant after Alice Wahome, who had been elected for a third term in the August 9, 2022, General Election, was appointed Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary. 

After resigning as MP, her closest competitor, Chege Njuguna, who emerged second with 12,313 votes, on a Chama Cha Kazi ticket, quickly joined the ruling United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ahead of the by-election.

Njuguna went ahead and won the by-election held on January 5, with 21,650 votes.

However, as he was receiving his winner’s certificate from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Constituency Returning Officer, some Murang’a leaders took on Wahome. 

Murang’a Woman Representative Bettie Maina and Maragua MP Mary Waithira Wamaua accused the CS of secretly campaigning for Ford Asili’s Njau Mbuchu who came second with 14,678 votes.

“Her preferred choice came a distant third during UDA party primaries and that is how she ended up supporting the runner-up. She was against Njuguna because he opposed her re-election bid,” claimed Maina.

Mrs Wahome did not respond to the allegations despite our attempts to get her comments via phone calls and text messages.

In not so kinds words against the Cabinet Secretary, Maina claimed that after getting wind of the plan, the UDA elected leaders joined hands and camped at the constituency to ensure the party does not lose the seat.

“She must keep off politics and concentrate on her new role of water provision in the entire country or else we shall deal with her politically,” said the woman rep. 

Maina said she will ensure Mbuchu gets a job in President William Ruto’s administration.

Wamaua said: “I request the president to direct all Cabinet Secretaries and other public servants to keep off politics and serve the people.”

Nominated Senator and UDA Secretary General Veronica Maina, who hails from Murang’a County, has called for unity in building and strengthening the party.

“We must remain united. We must build our party on unity and cooperation failure to which we shall not achieve our goals,” said Ms Maina.

While Wahome has remained silent over the outbursts and allegations levelled against her, her foot soldier in the constituency, Diana Muthoni, a nominated MCA, on Monday led a group of current and former Murang’a County MCAs and a host of locals to defend her.

“They claim Wahome is jealous and this is far from the truth. She helped some of them during campaigns but now they want to cut her to size. We shall not allow this to happen,” said Muthoni.

Habire Chege, a former nominated MCA, urged the elected leaders to join hands with Wahome to provide water to constituents instead of engaging in petty political wars. 

But is there more than meets the eye in all these political feuds?

In former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration, then Water and Sanitation Principal Secretary Irungu Wairagu was in constant fights with then Murang’a Governor Mwangi Wa Iria

Their fights were largely because of Wairagu’s numerous visits to Murang’a to launch water projects. Wa Iria, who hoped to influence the Murang’a governor election, accused Wairagu of using the national government projects to hoodwink the electorate.

Although Wairagu said at the time that he was not interested in any political position, he later vied to replace Wa Iria, only to emerge third. 

Pundits believe the wars between Murang’a leaders and Wahome is no different from that of Wairagu and Wa Iria. 

Kariuki Muchachu, a Kandara-based politician, said the Kandara by-election presented different perspectives beyond the parliamentary race.

To Muchachu, the only threat for all the leaders, in light of preparations for 2027 elections, would be Wahome and “that is why she seems to be the target”.

Kenric Maina called on leaders to stop the culture of fighting their own just because of local politics and “selfish interests”. 

“We experienced those fights in the former political dispensation and we are at it again. There is no point of bringing down a leader because of divergent views on a political contest. In other areas, government officials funded UDA rival candidates and we are not experiencing squabbles like in our county,” said Maina. 

Mbuchu, who is at the centre of the political supremacy contest between the leaders, has dismissed allegations that Wahome bankrolled his campaigns, saying he was on his own.

“I’m surprised by the allegations as I never saw Wahome in Kandara. She was doing her work in Nairobi,” said Mbuchu, 34, who runs a slaughterhouse at Kabati.

In the by-election, other candidates included Kiburu PMG Junior of Usawa Kwa Wote Party who garnered 1,469 votes, Samuel Kioni (TND) 201 votes and Joseph Mbugua (JFP) 107 votes.

The independent candidates were David Kamweti Njuguna (207 votes), Pius Muiruri (100) and Erastus Gatehi Nyoike (36).