Top Stories / 2017 Elections
Saturday, 19 Nov 2016 19:46 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
Kitui County is emerging as the political hotbed of Ukambani region due to the intense competition for the governor’s position, the retirement of an influential women representative after forty years in politics and the vacation of the senate seat as the incumbent has switched his interest to the governorship.
Incumbent governor Julius Malombe will be defending his seat but is increasingly tipped to defect from the Wiper Democratic Party. The entry into the governorship race by Senator David Musila, who is the national chairman of the Wiper Party, has triggered fears in Dr Malombe’s camp that the party could throw its full force behind Mr Musila.
Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka has declared neutrality in the race but this has not fully assured Dr Malombe’s supporters, some of whom have intimated to the Kenya Free Press that the governor could defect to Muungano Party led by his Makueni counterpart Kivutha Kibwana. In addition to Mr Musila and Dr Malombe is former minister for lands Charity Ngilu, who is also the leader of NARC party. The former minister is among the most influential leaders in the entire Ukambani, and she represented Kitui Central constituency in the National Assembly for 20 years between 1992-2013.
The three start the race with nearly equal chances of winning, but party dynamics and national politics could sway the race one way or the other. The alliances being crafted for the governor's seat will define the winning formula for the senate, women representative and MP positions for the eight constituencies. If Mr Musila gets the ticket and is fully supported by Mr Musyoka and other CORD leaders, his campaign would stand the best chances of winning.
The governorship campaign of the three titans has obfuscated other races, including the race to succeed women representative Nyiva Mwendwa who is retiring from politics after an active political career that began in 1974. Ms Mwendwa’s seat has attracted three main candidates, among them Ms Jane Kibati, who came second in the Wiper Party nominations in 2013, Ms Winnie Kitetu and University of Nairobi lecturer of mathematics Irene Kasalu.
While the latter is yet to declare the party she will run on, she is widely believed to be eyeing the Wiper nomination as well. She is currently a member of Ford-Kenya, on whose ticket she had run for the Nairobi women representative position. Having registered little impact in Nairobi, she is switching her political base to her home turf Kitui County.
An apparent dynamic of Kitui politics in the run-up to 2017 is the unexpectedly prominent role being played by Kitui West MP Francis Nyenze, who is the CORD coalition’s leader of minority in the National Assembly. While Mr Nyenze holds considerable sway in his constituency, up to this time he lacked a broad support base in the whole county, which he served in the late 1990s as Kanu chairman during his tenure as minister for Environment.
Local pundits hypothesize that his national leadership of CORD in Parliament and the close relations he has with Mr Musyoka and Mr Musila have reinforced his hand in county politics. Mr Nyenze is a key cog in Mr Musila’s governorship campaign which has drawn an alliance featuring senatorial candidate Elijah Muimi Kilonzi aka Ikonge and Ms Kibati for women representative.
The former Environment minister’s role in the shaping Musila alliance has come at some cost to his familial relationships. The senatorial race, for which he supports Mr Kilonzo, his former opponent for Kitui West parliamentary seat, pits Mr Kilonzo against Mr Nyeze’s brother-in-law Enoch Wambua, a journalist with the Standard newspapers.
Mr Nyenze feels slighted by the entry into the race by Mr Wambua, whom he considers his political mentee. According to information on the proceedings of a recent meeting of Kitui leaders, the two have differed politically and are campaigning on different political platforms, with Mr Wambua alleged to be supporting Mr Nyenze’s opponents.
Last Monday, the senate race was the subject of a meeting for Mr Musila who had addressed two rallies in Kwa-Vonza and Kiusyani shopping centres within Kitui Rural constituency. The rallies were hosted by area MP Charles Mutisya Nyamai. According to a source at the meeting, which was also attended by Ms Kibati, Mr Nyenze told the politicians that he was opposing Mr Wambua’s candidature.
“The MP told the leaders that he is the one who paid school fees for his brother-in-law and even helped him secure a job after his education,” said the source who attended the meeting, adding that the MP accused his brother-in-law of working with his rivals who are campaigning to oust him from the Kitui West seat.
However, Mr Wambua dismissed the allegations in communication with the Kenya Free Press, terming the allegations “laughable”. He said: “Since 1992 I have supported Nyenze for Kitui West MP. Nothing has changed”.
The Wiper Party remains the party to beat in the county contests and all eight parliamentary constituencies in the area.