How Kibra's 'irreducible minimum' will shape race

In Summary

• Replacement of the late MP might be a hard nut to crack for both big and fringe parties.

ODM leader Raila Odinga.
ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Image: FILE

As the time ticks towards mini-polls to replace late Kibra MP Ken Okoth in Parliament, two factors are likely to define how the people in the informal settlement will cast their ballot.

The ‘outsider’ factor and modality of identifying a candidate in the Kibra by-elections are likely to shape the voting pattern in the November 7 vote.

Depending on how parties will balance the two, replacement of the late MP might be a hard nut to crack for both big and fringe parties alike.

Already some voters have insisted on the two as their “irreducible minimum” for their choice of candidate.

According to a number of residents who talked to the Star, Kibra will resist any attempt to impose a candidate through direct nomination.

The residents are equally unanimous that they will not vote an “outsider” – a johnny-come-lately – only interested in power but cannot identify with their plight. 

For them, it is one of their own to take over from Okoth who also rose from a ten-by-ten hovel his mother raised him up,  about 30 meters away from the railway line.

Kibra ODM branch chairman Jeckonia Onyango and organising secretary Sigar James Agumba  told the Star that any attempt to impose a candidate or introduce a non-resident will not go well with the electorates.

They warned the ODM party from issuing direct ticket, but instead demand a free, fair and transparent nomination exercise.

Jeckonia said the party risks losing the seat if their demands do not inform any method ODM will employ in identifying the candidate.

 

“As the area ODM chairman, we are strongly advising that our party subject all candidates to a nomination process and the winner presented on the ballot and we will carry the day on September 7,” Jeckonia said.

“Equally we would like to appeal to have one of our own just like the late Ken okoth was – we are opposed to people coming from outside the constituency as if we don’t have qualified people to represent us,” he said.

According to Jeckonia, any other arrangement will see the party face a difficult campaign as other disfranchised might back the opponent something that might give leeway to other candidates in the race.

Same is the take of ODM Kibra branch organizing secretary Agumba who insisted the party should realize that there are qualified men and women born and bred from the informal settlement who can represent the Constituency.

“Getting an outsider to contest in Kibra could only be possible if residents lacked qualifications for the position or are not willing to enter the contest. What reason will you give for bringing an outsider in a race where more than half of those who have expressed interest are from the area and are qualified? ”posed Agumba.

Kibra is one of Raila's foremost political support bases. He represented Kibra, then known as Lang'ata constituency, as MP for a record 18 years from 1992 till 2013.

ODM which is the dominant party in the area is keen on retaining the seat and has been weighing its options to avoid a repeat of series of shoddy primaries which a recent internal party report indicated was main undoing of the party.

The taskforce chaired by Catherine Mumma fingered the National Executive Committee and National Elections Board of running down the party by bungling primaries.

Speaking to the Star, ODM national chairman John Mbadi has assured residents of a free and transparent exercise in picking their candidate.

“As a party we will most likely meet on Friday as Central management Committee to agree on how to pick our candidate but I want to assure the people of Kibra the process will be democratic and voice of the people will carry the day,” Mbadi said.

Keen not to make a mistake after suffering twin humiliation in Ugenya and Embakasi South, ODM has sent clearest indication that all aspirants will square it on the ballot.

The party had put out a notice inviting applications from interested aspirants, a process ended on Friday and National Elections Board headed by Judy pareno will burn the midnight oil on Saturday to vet the applications to ascertain if they meet the minimum threshold as captured in the party’s constitution.

By Thursday, a record 15 aspirants had picked the application forms from Orange House.

ODM constitution provides for either universal suffrage, consensus among the aspirants or direct no nomination as a way of identifying candidates.

 Among those who have shown interest for the ODM ticket are Okoth’s younger brother Imran Okoth, former MCA Pius K’Otieno, Secondary School principal Joshua Orero,  and ODM national youth coordinator Benson Musungu.

Speaking to Star on Thursday, the younger Okoth confirmed applying for the ODM ticket in the race to replace his late brother.

“Yes, I did take applications form from our party headquarters,” Imran said on phone.

Others who had expressed interest are Ketta Onyango, who worked with Raila in the Langata CDF office when the ODM leader was the area MP and former Embakasi South MP Irshad Sumra.  

The 2013 Kibra parliamentary contendor Sigar James Agumba has also declared interest in the seat.

ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna’s name was also being floated as a possible aspirant for the seat.

Former Raila aide Eliud Owalo who resigned from ODM last week is also said to be warming up for the seat on ANC ticket.

On Saturday, former Kasarani MP Elizabeth Ongoro, whose name was also being floated as a possible candidate, bolted out of the race.

“I might not be available for the competition. There is no poverty of leadership in Kibra,” Ongoro said on Saturday after a service at Mathare North SDA Church.