BATTLE OF TITANS

IEBC clears 15 candidates for Matungu by-election

Mudavadi, Raila, Ruto will square it off in the race

In Summary
  • The Matungu and Kabuchai by-elections were occasioned by the deaths of Murunga and Lusweti.
  • Mudavadi and Wetang'ula are seeking to assert their authority as the region's political supremos, while Ruto and Raila Odinga are keen to challenge the grip by the two on Luhya votes.
ANC candidate for the Matungu by-election Peter Nabulindo (R) receives the clearance document from constituency returning officer John Kirui at Matungu centre on Monday, January 18, 2021
ANC candidate for the Matungu by-election Peter Nabulindo (R) receives the clearance document from constituency returning officer John Kirui at Matungu centre on Monday, January 18, 2021
Image: HILTON OTENYO

MP Justus Murunga’s widow Christabel Amunga and son Eugene Ambwere are among 15 candidates cleared by the IEBC for the upcoming Matungu by-election.

The two will run for the seat as independent candidates. Other independent candidates are Bernard Wakoli, Gregory Atoko, Kevin Nectus, Wilberforce Lutta, Athman Wangara, Anzelimo Kongoti and Samuel Munyekenye.

Also cleared for the race are Peter Nabulindo (ANC), David Were (ODM), Alex Lanya (UDA), Charles Kasamani (UDP), Paul Achayo (MDG) and Faida Auma of Maendeleo Chap Chap.

"We have cleared all 15 candidates who presented their papers. We urge them to carry out peaceful campaigns and stick to the electoral code of conduct," John Kirui, the constituency's returning officer, said on Tuesday.

The initial list had 22 aspirants, but some failed to present their papers for clearance, while some dropped out of the race to back others.

The Matungu and Kabuchai by-elections were occasioned by the deaths of Murunga and James Lusweti last year.

The by-elections now provide fertile ground for the fight over control of the vote-rich region by ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and his Ford Kenya counterpart Moses Wetang’ula on the one side and ODM leader Raila Odinga and DP William Ruto on the other.

From long convoys and choppers, key political players in the country have made a statement on the seriousness of the two by-elections.

Mudavadi and Wetang'ula, who are seeking to assert their authority as the region's political supremos, are carrying out joint campaigns for their candidates while Ruto and Raila Odinga are keen to challenge the grip by the two on Luhya votes.

ODM candidate David Were at Matungu centre after being cleared by the IEBC on Tuesday, January 19, 2021
ODM candidate David Were at Matungu centre after being cleared by the IEBC on Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Image: HILTON OTENYO

Political pundits say the race is beyond the representation of the people of Matungu, but is significant for 2022 positioning by key political figures in the country.

Political scientist Amukowa Anangwe said the race is not about candidates but political bigwigs flexing their muscles to see where they stand in the region ahead of the succession race.

A loss by Ruto would erode the momentum he began by backing Msambweni independent candidate Feisal Bader, who won against ODM's Omar Boga. For Raila, that will mean his grip on Western has loosened.

The Mudavadi-Wetang'ula team and the Ruto team led by former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama, former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale, Mumias East MP Ben Washiali and former Sports minister Rashid Echesa hit the ground on Monday after clearance of their candidates in Matungu.

Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang'ula in Bungoma on Monday, January 18, 2021
Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang'ula in Bungoma on Monday, January 18, 2021
Image: HILTON OTENYO

The ODM brigade, headed by deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya, secretary general Edwin Sifuna, director of elections Junet Mohamed and Siaya Senator James Orengo, popularised their candidate on Tuesday. Each camp is optimistic about winning the seat.

In Kabuchai, the candidates are Majimbo Kalasinga (Ford Kenya), Evans Kakai (UDA), David Kibiti (United Green Movement), Amos Wekesa (Federal Party of Kenya) and independents Gasper Wafubwa and Peter Kapanga. 

The withdrawal of ODM from the Kabuchai race effectively reduces the contest to a two-horse race pitting Wetang’ula against DP Ruto brigades.