April 29th 2017

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

Garissa governor 'smelling victory' in a two-horse race against Ali Korane

A senior official in Jama’s office told the Kenya Free Press that the two leaders were working on a partnership where ODM will not nominate candidates in areas where the Wiper Party is strong. The same thinking has been well received in Mr Odinga’s campaign secretariat, the chief officer told us.

By Free Press Correspondentnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comSunday, 11 Dec 2016 15:24 EAT

Governor Jama at the Garissa County Health Summit.

Campaigns for the Garissa gubernatorial election are in top gear. Only three candidates have so far declared their interest for the seat, and political observers and leaders here say the race is a two-horse contest between the incumbent, Nathif Jama of the Wiper Party (CORD) and former provincial administrator Ali Korane of Jubilee Party. Mr Jama is banking on incumbency, support across the clans inhabiting Garissa and the large non-Somali community in Garissa Town and adjacent areas.

Although he was initially beset by management challenges, the governor’s administration has gained tremendous support from the residents in the last two years. The executive committee and chief officer positions are widely seen as fairly distributed, representing all major clans and minorities in the region. Mr Jama’s inclusive leadership has helped reduce clan and inter-ethnic tensions and removed clan competition as a factor in the upcoming contest.

Performance-wise, there are those who say the governor has done commendably since taking over office in 2013. Such supporters point to open air markets that have been constructed in major urban centres, abattoirs, health centres, and agricultural projects throughout the county. However, there are critics who feel that Jama has been a very strong leader and that he dominated the county executive.

In June, all the 48 members of the county assembly rejected the governor’s Sh7.9 billion budget bill, gravely disrupting operations of the county by affecting the government’s ability to pay for goods and services already utilized or to procure new ones. The differences were later resolved and the bill passed. The governor blames the political wrangles witnessed early this year on the Majority Leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale, his number one critic in the county.

Being on two opposing camps, Jama and Duale have clashed repeatedly since 2013, only that the governor has no national platform and measures his words carefully whenever he speaks. The governor's other critics cite a perception of widespread corruption, after the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission ranked Garissa as the most corrupt on a scale where businesspeople were interviewed about corruption perception in counties.

As the election approaches, Jama is using new, such as water dams to reach out to regions where his influence is weak. In addition to massive support from his backyard, southerners support him solidly since he has expressed his intention to pass the ball to one of their own in 2022 when he retires. In October, the governor spent three days in Masalani Sub County where southern clans welcomed him heartily.

Another advantage he enjoys is his closeness to opposition leader Raila Odinga, whose increasing popularity in Garissa is expected to boost CORD candidates. When deputy president William Ruto visited Garissa this week to campaign for the Jubilee Party, he was shocked to hear the crowd responding in the name of Joho, Raila and other CORD leaders.

Being a member of Wiper Party, Jama also enjoys massive support from the Kamba community, the largest minority group in Garissa. Last month, Garissa-based Christian leaders, including many from the Kamba community, endorsed him for re-election. Speaking after the end of Garissa pastors meeting, the bishops led by Pastor Joseph Mwasiya said Jama was the best suited for the seat due to his development record and having helped unite communities in the vast county without a religious and tribal lines.

“After going through with the Governor all the pre-election pledges he made, we can confirm almost everything became successful and our workforce in the county government increased tremendously and that is why we understand this man did a lot for us,” the bishops said.

It is believed that Jama has formed a close working partnership with former deputy speaker Farah Maalim, who has recently followed Jama’s 2013 example by defecting from ODM to Wiper Party in order to reach the Kamba community better.

A senior official in Jama’s office told the Kenya Free Press that the two leaders were working on a partnership where ODM will not nominate candidates in areas where the Wiper Party is strong. The same thinking has been well received in Mr Odinga’s campaign secretariat, the chief officer told us.

On Mr Korane’s part, his campaign is premised on his closeness with the Jubilee government. In the initial days of his campaign, Mr Korane got intensive support from youths who were disappointed with Jama. However, the Nathif administration has explained some of the alleged scandals that Korane and Duale were using. This has reduced Mr Korane to a clan-based candidate.

Mr Korane has run also before and lost, and critics say that this time he is depending considerably on Majority Leader Duale to do campaigns for him. "If, as looks likely, Duale were to be part of an unpopular regime in Garissa, that would affect the aspirant's chances considerably," said a teachers' union official in Garissa Town who follows political matters closely.

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