October 17th 2017

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

Ruto proxy games undoing Uhuru's efforts to reach Kisii electorate

The Bagetutu have about 95,000 voters compared to Bagirango who are about 115, 000 voters. Because of this small difference in numbers the rivalry between these two clans is usually intense. Only a person with special virtues is able to cut across these clan boundaries.

By Free Press Correspondentnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comSunday, 09 Apr 2017 15:10 EAT

Mr Ruto addressing residents of Kenyoro, Nyamira County, during the president's recent visit there.

At a time the Jubilee Party was beginning to make inroads into Nyamira and Kisii counties following heightened fears about unfairness in ODM nominations and the shifting clan, personality and county governance dynamics, the party is undermining itself by imposing unpopular candidates on the electorate and driving many popular leaders from within its ranks.

In Nyamira County, Jubilee could well lose all the positions in the upcoming elections despite many of the races being wide open due to a number of factors, including poor performance by incumbents in the ODM party, anticipated unfairness in the party's internal nominations and the choice of small party candidates that would contribute to eroding ODM's base hence giving Jubilee a fighting chance.

Some Jubilee leaders, specifically deputy president William Ruto, have foisted a policy whereby in all areas where Jubilee is not the dominant party, the party's nominations should be by consensus among those aspiring for the positions of governor, senator and women representative. For the rest of positions Jubilee would conduct competitive nominations or give direct tickets to candidates who are unopposed.

In Nyamira, the policy has favoured old politicians who used their previous connections to the Jubilee leaders in particular Mr Ruto to get pole positions to influence events. Those leaders include Joseph Kiangoi, a member of the East Africa Legislative Assembly who is running for the senate seat; Walter  Nyambati, former Kitutu Masaba MP who is running for governor; Joash Nyamoko, Speaker of the Nyamira County Assembly and aspirant for North Mugirango MP; Shadrack Mose, an aspirant for Kitutu Masaba seat; and a self-claimed State House link-man Amos Abincha.

The rise of these leaders has pushed to the periphery two very popular candidates who do not ascribe to their school of politics. These are Dr Erneo Nakiba and Charles Mochama, both of whom were aspiring for the governor's seat on the Jubilee ticket. Sources close to the two aspirants told the Kenya Free Press that they have moved to PNU and Maendeleo Chap Chap parties respectively.

Jubilee supporters in Nyamira are up in arms against this move that has made them lose the two leaders. Mr Mochama is seen as the most likely winner of gubernatorial seat regardless of which party he vies in. Having been an ODM member in 2013, his supporters widely believe that his win was stolen at the party's nominations and the general elections in 2013 in favour of John Nyangarama, the incumbent governor.

Aged below 50, he is the youngest candidate for governor compared the incumbent Nyangarama who is likely to carry the ODM flag; Justice Onyancha Anassi, retired judge who will run on the Wiper Party ticket; former MP Kitutu Masaba Mwancha Okioma who will run on a Ford-Kenya ticket; and Dr James Gesami, the current West Mugirango MP who will fight it out with Nyangarama in ODM nominations, are all much older than him.

The incumbent, Nyagarama, Nyambati, and Onyancha are not only old but also haggard and of bad health. Mr Nyambati, who is the favoured candidate for governor, nearly fainted into the hands of the president as they were receiving th head of state in Nyamira three weeks ago. Worse still, his academic qualifications have been questioned. At a time when the issue of university qualifications has risen to the top of the national agenda, most voters who value integrity will not want to identify with someone with questionable papers whether they come from Bogetutu or Bogirango.

Nyamira is mainly composed of two major clans: the Bagetutu and Bagirango and in some cases voting is influenced by where the candidate comes from in the case of county seats. The Bagirango occupy West Mugirango, North Mugirango, and some big part of Borabu constituencies. The Bagetutu occupy mainly Kitutu Masaba although they also a substantial number in Borabu, which is a relatively new settlement made up of all the seven clans of Omogusii. When the Bagirango and Bagetutu in Borabu are subtracted, the remaining Borabu voters make a minority who do not have much impact in the elections. The Bagetutu have about 95,000 voters compared to Bagirango who are about 115, 000 voters.

Because of this small difference in numbers the rivalry between these two clans is usually intense. Only a person with special virtues is able to cut across these clan boundaries. In 2013, ODM’s Alice Chae, the incumbent Women Representative, won by a very big margin because she cut across these clans. Her presentations of programmes in Egesa, Ekegusii vernacular radio had made her a darling of listeners and voters not only in Nyamira but Gusii as a whole. Her closest challenger, Jerusa Momanyi, who is also from Bogetutu like Chae, campaigned exclusively within the Bagetutu with the belief that her clan had enough votes to see her through.

Many voters say Ms Chae did not do much to sustain this love, and that if she gets a stronger challenger she could lose. Women representative position is one Jubilee supporters think the party can easily win if nomination, whether through consensus or through voting, yields a strong candidate. But reports are filtering that Jubilee leaders have settled on Ms Momanyi, who incidentally is related and from the same ward with Nyambati who is Jubilee's choice for governor flag-bearer.

The Jubilee supporters argue that the imposed leaders are not only insensitive but also going against the 'Rigoma Declaration' where it had been agreed that women representative would come from Borabu. The Jubilee supporters argue that the women representative candidate should be decided from the two other contestants: Catherine Nyamato and Josephine Kerubo Nyarera. Both come from Borabu and have roots in Bogirango clan. The supporters believe that whoever becomes the flag-bearer will be able to mobilize Bogirango and Borabu to win the seat.

Ms Nyarera may be able to attract some votes fom Bogetutu given that her husband has roots in one of the sub-clans. A former high school English teacher and teacher trainer, she is a good public speaker in Ekegusii, Kiswahili and English, and has the advantage of name recognition having ran in 2013  and traversed the whole county.

However, the Bagirango votes may not be easily taken by the Jubilee candidates because there are two other contestants vying throw other parties. There is also Grace Nyamongo of Wiper and Janet Kumenda of FORD-K, who are both strong candidates. While Grace is capable of mobilizing votes across the county, Ms Kumenda has the money and grassroots connections because she is a minister in the current county government.

Anneate Nyakerario of KANU, Yunia Ochoki of Chama cha Mashinani, Joyce Kerubo of Amani National Congress and Mary Martini of Wiper Party, all from Bogetutu clan, are also running for the seat.

Given the foregoing dynamics, many analysts are of the opinion that Jubilee should tread carefully in choosing its candidates for the Nyamira seats.

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