Major political parties have unleashed their top guns in Matungu and Kabuchai constituencies as campaigns for the by-elections enter the homestretch.
Top party officials and MPs from Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Ford Kenya, Amani National Congress (ANC) and United Democratic Alliance (UDA) have pitched tent in the two constituencies to drum up support for their candidates ahead of the Thursday polls.
Matungu and Kabuchai seats fell vacant following the deaths of MPs Justus Murunga in November and James Mukwe Lusweti in December.
Deputy President William Ruto’s allies MPs Oscar Sudi (Kapseret), Cornelly Serem (Aldai) and Wilson Kogo (Chesumei) are in Matungu to drum up support for UDA candidate Alex Lanya.
Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali, Didmus Barasa (Kimilili), Mwambu Mabonga (Bumula), John Waluke (Sirisia), politician Hadija Nganyi and former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa are also campaigning in Matungu with the hope of winning over the 60,000-odd registered voters.
The same team has also been traversing Kabuchai to campaign for the wheelbarrow party candidate Evans Masinde.
“We have to show the world that the people of Matungu are supporters of DP Ruto and the friendship he has shown here can only be rewarded if you elect Lanya as your MP,” Washiali told the residents.
They have also been amplifying the hustler narrative promising to empower locals, most them sugarcane farmers who have been impoverished following the collapse of Mumias Sugar Company.
Cases of violence have been reported in Kabuchai where Ford Kenya candidate Majimbo Kalasinga’s campaign trail was attacked by people allegedly hired by his political rivals.
Kalasinga vied for the same seat in 2013 but lost to Lusweti.
According to him, resilience, consistence and endurance has endeared him more to the voters.
He is banking on the support of Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula, a close friend and a local of Kabuchai.
Bungoma Woman MP Catherine Wambilianga, Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa and Kwanza MP Ferdinand Wanyonyi have thrown their weight behind Kalasinga.
Kalasinga also has the support of a majority of Bungoma MCAs who are Wetang’ula’s foot soldiers.
Dr Gasper Wafubwa, an independent candidate, has been campaigning with hope of eating into Kalasinga’s support base.
He is from the Omutukuyika clan, the largest in Kabuchai. Kalasinga’s mother belongs to the same clan.
Dr Wafubwa is a doctor who has been working in the USA for more than 25 years.
Masinde, who belongs the Bamutilu clan, says he has initiated many projects to support SMEs in the constituency.
He is a former Kenya Revenue Authority director and the director of EKV Consultants, a firm that specialises in business planning, consultation, tax planning and financial planning.
According to Philip Wekesa from Centre for Good Governance, Masinde would be the man to beat if he ran as independent candidate.
“Masinde appears popular but his undoing is the choice of the party as UDA has not resonated well with the locals,” he says.
The seat has attracted eight candidates but political commentators believe it is turning into a three-horse race between Kalasinga, Dr Wafubwa and Masinde.
In Matungu, ANC candidate Peter Nabulindo has been enjoying the company of Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala, Vihiga Woman Representative Beatrice Adagala and Lurambi MP Titus Khamala.
The seat fell vacant after MP Justus Murunga passed on last year.
Malala says ANC enjoys huge following in Western and that a win for Nabulindo will elevate the chances of party leader Musalia Mudavadi becoming the fifth President of Kenya.
ODM candidate David Were has been meeting targeted voters while avoiding public rallies.
The party secretary general Edwin Sifuna and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya have been accompanying Were or holding campaign rallies on their own.
Oparanya has marshaled ODM’s ward representatives to campaign for Were.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) said it is putting final touches to the polling exercise.
John Kirui, the IEBC returning officer for Matungu, said over 600 poll officials will be deployed in various parts of the constituency to boost surveillance on the day of the by-election.
“I can assure you no votes will be stolen as we have enough officers on the ground ready to do the job as per the Elections Act,” Kirui said.
The constituency has five wards – Namamali, Koyonzo, Mayoni, Kholera and Khalaba – with at least 116 polling stations.
Matungu has 62,386 registered voters.
In Kabuchai, returning officer Esuza Benson said they have trained support election trainers, presiding officers and deputy presiding officers who are ready for the exercise.
He said they were engaging security agents to guarantee the safety of voters.