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March 22, 2018

NASA campaign wave has Jubilee worried

NASA leaders Kalonzo Musyoka (L) and Musalia Mudavadi (R) at Marima, Maara Constituency, Tharaka Nithi on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. /DENNIS KAVISU
NASA leaders Kalonzo Musyoka (L) and Musalia Mudavadi (R) at Marima, Maara Constituency, Tharaka Nithi on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. /DENNIS KAVISU

NASA raids on traditional Jubilee strongholds — and huge, back-to-back spirited rallies — have sent shock waves through the ruling party.

It's five months to the August 8 General Election.

The Jubilee administration is increasingly worried by the National Super Alliance's forays into its bedrock and fears the opposition may convert vast crowds into votes to make Uhuru Kenyatta a one-term President.

NASA principals Raila Odinga (ODM), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC) and Moses Wetang'ula (Ford Kenya) have stepped up their offensive.

Since last Saturday, NASA has held rallies in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu; and travelled around Meru and Tharaka Nithi counties. The optics are powerful but whether that translates into votes is unclear.

There has been no Jubilee countervailing push in recent days.

Analysts have been saying if the opposition remains united and speaks with one voice, then it poses a serious threat.

For the first time, Uhuru's diehard supporters have admitted the NASA wave should no longer be ignored.

Yesterday Igembe South MP Franklin Mithika Linturi said Jubilee is facing a serious crisis in Meru over unfulfilled pledges.

“It is four years down the line, yet nothing has been done. The miraa-growing areasare gone unless Jubilee makes urgent interventions to correct the situation,” he told the Star in an phone interview. Jubilee has set aside Sh1 billion for the industry, but little benefit is visible.

The opposition has also shaken Jubilee's traditional bastions of Masaailand, Meru and Elgeyo Marakwet. There, Deputy President William Ruto's key ally Senator Kipchumba Murkomen is facing a reelection challenge from former police boss David Kimaiyo.

In Narok, several Jubilee politicians, including Senator Stephen Ole Ntutu have defected to Chama Chama Mashinani led by Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto. The party leans toward the opposition.

Statistics show Raila defeated Uhuru in Narok in 2013, polling 118,623 votes against 109,413. Kenyatta only beat Raila in Kilgoris and Emurrua Dikkir constituencies and lost to the opposition in Narok North, East, West and South.

Last Saturday NASA stormed DP Ruto's Rift Valley turf with a successful rally at 64 Stadium in Eldoret, a major event that threw Jubilee operatives into a spin.

That first rally since unveiling he NASA coalition agreement last Wednesday was attended by thousands of supporters in the historic stadium, signaling shifting ground.

For the last two days, NASA has pitched camp in crucial Meru and Tharaka Nithi counties where Jubilee is facing strong resistance from Meru Governor Peter Munya's PNU party.

Outspoken Igembe South IMP Franklin Linturi said the region was desperate and would end up being swayed if roads and water problems are not addressed.

“I am speaking what the majority of my area colleagues are unable to say. But if the issues are not corrected, then we will not have a problem. Historical issues of unemployment and underdevelopment must be fixed urgently,” he said.

The Star yesterday established that days after NASA stormed the President's backyard and received a rousing welcome, top officials of the ministry of Transport have been mobilising contractors to fix Meru roads.

“If I told you the number of meetings for the last two days, the phone calls and consultations going on, there is a higher gear to correct the scenario,” a senior Transport official said. He declined to be named because he is not authorised to comment to the media.

But National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale poured cold water on NASA's forays, saying Jubilee's strongholds of Rift Valley and Mount Kenya are solidly in JP, as they were in 2013.

Instead, he said, NASA should worry about Jubilee inroads in opposition strongholds of the Coast, Western, Kisii and Ukambani.

“When President Uhuru held huge rallies in Mombasa, Kisumu, Nairobi and Western Kenya, it was never an issue. Why is it an issue now when NASA holds small rallies in Meru and Tharaka Nithi,” Duale told the Star.

“Our strongholds are solid, huge crowds do not mean votes."

The Garissa Town MP said the people of Tharaka Nithi and Meru know Uhuru will be their presidential candidate and whoever “is cheating NASA that they have votes there will lose at the election”.

But political Analyst Martin Andati said Jubilee was losing ground in Meru because of failure to help miraa farmers.

“The UK blocked the miraa market, Tanzania banned miraa. There are serious underlying issues the government has failed to address. If it's not careful, Jubilee will have serious problems in Meru,” he told the Star on the phone yesterday.

Speaking at a rally on Monday in Meru, Raila promised miraa farmers if they elect NASA, he will expand the cash crop's market to benefit all residents.

Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi said Jubilee is not perturbed by NASA's huge crowds.

“Numbers do not lie. Polls conducted in this country have been very consistent. We are not scared even for a moment when we see people coming out in Meru. We (Jubilee) do not doubt who we are, where we have come from and where we are going,” Wamatangi said.

Andati said Jubilee fortunes in its Meru and Rift Valley bastions are waning and people are shifting to NASA, posing a mathematical problem for JP.

He said heightened tension between Kanu chairman Gideon Moi and Ruto over control of the Rift vote bloc has diminished the DP's relevance.

“This tension has destabilised the DP and he has been forced to go back home to fire-fight. If he loses,he becomes irrelevant. If part of the Kalenjin vote goes, he becomes weak.

“If Kalenjin numbers disappear to NASA, this election will go to a run-off — if NASA holds and convinces Luhyas to vote as a bloc,” he predicted.


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