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Why Mariga could be blocked from Kibra by-election

Football star is said to have been registered as a voter just two weeks ago

In Summary

• Ruto's allies put in place a team to coach Mariga on Kibra, the Jubilee Party policies and covered all the questions that he was to face

• Of the six National Elections Board members, Ruto draws loyalty from three of them and worked to tilt the scales

Former international footballer McDonald Mariga after submitting his nomination application papers for Kibra Parliamentary seat at the Jubilee Headquarters along Thika Road on September 2, 2019.
Former international footballer McDonald Mariga after submitting his nomination application papers for Kibra Parliamentary seat at the Jubilee Headquarters along Thika Road on September 2, 2019.
Image: FAITH MUTEGI

Former football star McDonald Mariga could be locked out of the Kibra by-election.

It is understood that Mariga is being fronted by Deputy President William Ruto against the will of some Jubilee leaders. 

One of the aspirants on Tuesday appealed the decision by the Party's National Election Board to give Mariga the Jubilee ticket terming it “unfair, deceptive and shrouded in secrecy, in addition to being in contravention of the Jubilee Party constitution".

 
 
 
 

In his appeal against Mariga’s nomination, Morris Peter Kinyajui, who also sought to fly the Jubilee flag, also alluded to claims that Mariga is not a registered voter.

“To make matters worse, the said selected person is not a resident or a voter of Kibra constituency and there are serious doubts whether or not he has ever voted," he protested.

"His candidature will be an impossible sell to the people of Kibra given the calibre of MP we had in the immediate past.”

Party secretary-general Raphael Tuju confirmed to the Star that an appeal had been lodged.

"The latest development means we will have to notify the IEBC of Mariga's candidacy while the appeals board deals with the matter," Tuju said.

If the complainant is dissatisfied with the decision of the appeals board, the candidate will be free to file a case with the Political Parties Tribunal and even the High Court.

Sources said Mariga was listed as a voter in Kariakor only two weeks ago and may not be considered as a registered voter in Kenya just yet. This is because the updated register has not been gazetted as required by law.

 
 
 
 

The last time Chebukati gazetted the voter register was in 2017.

But Jubilee Party NEB chairman Andrew Musangi quickly dismissed the claims as rumours, insisting one only needed to register to be a voter.

“The law only says that one should be a registered as a voter not gazetted to participate in an election, either as a voter or as a candidate. The gazettement does not make you a voter. It is the act of registration that makes you a voter,” he emphasised.

“Gazettement is only evidence, but if I register as a voter, you are given a voter’s card and this is what you walk with as a voter. So, these are rumours. And by the way, if there is an issue, the IEBC will communicate to us and we will respond as a party.”

Kinyajui said Mariga’s selection had triggered disgruntlement amongst Jubilee supporters — some of whom he said had vowed to support opponents.

In his appeal, he said the Jubilee Party constitution makes it mandatory for the party to conduct “open, free, fair and transparent nominations either through consensus, secret ballot or another democratic method acceptable to members”.

“Not only was there no nominations… but the National Elections Board arrogated upon itself powers it does not have to conduct the aforesaid selection,” Kinyanjui said.

Mariga’s nomination, the Star has established, was engineered by Ruto.

The DP, who is plotting to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta, worked behind the scenes to first persuade his boss to allow the ruling outfit to plunge into Kibra politics in a surprise move that shocked the opposition.

The President is said to have been initially reluctant to sponsor a candidate in Kibra in the spirit of his handshake deal with opposition chief Raila Odinga.

The DP is said to have pulled all strings in the Jubilee Party National Elections Board under Andrew Musangi.

Sources within the party say that of the six NEB members, Ruto draws loyalty from three of them and worked to tilt the scales with Musangi.

As a result, four members of the Elections Board gave Mariga more than 80 marks out of a possible 100.

Musangi gave Mariga 80 marks, Aden Noor Ali gave him 92 marks, Leah Ntimama (88), Samuel Kobia (72), Michael Waweru (75) and Carolyne Kamende (93).

Ruto's allies are said to have assembled a team to coach Mariga generally on Kibra politics and the Jubilee Party policies. The football sensation is said to have also heard the interview questions leaked to him early in advance in what gave him an edge over his ticket competitors.

At the end of it, Mariga, who is a darling of football fans in the country having played for the Harambee Stars and big teams in Europe, scored 500 out of a possible 600 marks.

Hussein Ramadhan Abdi came in second, scoring 371 marks, while Kinyanjui was third with 367 marks. Others were Walter Trenk, Ibrahim Said, Doreen Wasike, Oscar Kambona, Bukachi Chapia, Jane Githaiga, Jack Owino and Elli Rajab, Daniel Aden, Daniel Orogo, Frank Amollo, Timothy Kaimenyi and Geoffrey Mwangu .

NEB had said it met each of the aspirants and conducted in-depth interviews with a view to understanding the vision and aspirations of each hopeful for the great people of Kibra.

The elections body said it also sought to establish each candidate’s clarity of alignment with the Jubilee Party manifesto and to assess their ability to facilitate the delivery of the mandate of the party, not only in Kibra but also on the national stage.

Mariga's smooth sailing through the Jubilee systems despite being a political novice lifted the lid on Ruto's plan to flex muscles against Raila in Nairobi politics.

The move would also demonstrate Ruto's widening grip on the party ahead of the grassroots elections next year. The party plans to conduct polls in March next year to instal new officials ahead of the 2022 election.

The DP is keen to consolidate his control of the ruling party and is said to be working on an elaborate strategy to ensure his allies take over crucial positions to help his presidential campaigns.

However, the secretariat, led by Cabinet Secretary and secretary-general Raphael Tuju, has been seen as a thorn in Ruto's flesh as he plots a takeover of the party.

“Following consultation with the party leadership with respect to Kibra constituency, we would like to communicate to our membership that the Jubilee Party will be fielding a candidate in the forthcoming Kibra constituency by-election,” Tuju said when he announced the party's position on Kibra.

Ruto's resolve to push Jubilee to take on Raila in Kibra is said to have been buoyed by the surprise victory of Lang'ata MP Nixon Korir, his close ally, in the 2017 General Election.

Korir, popularly known as the General, beat ODM’s Oscar Omoke in 2017 election. This was largely blamed on rivalry between NASA parties. 

Yesterday, Korir, the first Kalenjin to win a parliamentary seat in Nairobi, told the Star their main challenge in the by-election is ODM.

 “Our competitor is none other than ODM. Democracy was the biggest beneficiary of the handshake and we expect all the parties and candidates to carry out peaceful campaigns. It will play out like a Mashemeji derby when they meet for a match [football clubs Gor Mahia FC and AFC Leopards],” he said.

Lugari MP Ayub Savula, who is also the Amani National Congress party deputy Party leader, downplayed the nomination of Mariga, saying the Luhya community in the constituency will vote solidly for their party candidate.

Former Raila's adviser in the run-up to the 2013 presidential race Eliud Owalo will fly the ANC flag in the by-election.

“We are right on course and determined to win. Mariga is from Busia county and the majority of the Luhyas in Kibra are from Vihiga and Kakamega, so Jubilee’s schemes to divide the Luhya vote will not work. We will go in as a united team,” Savula said.

He went on, “All the leaders from the Western region have each been assigned a ward in the constituency where they are leading door-to-door campaigns. Our party leader Musalia Mudavadi will also be joining us in these campaigns.”

(Edited by F'Orieny)


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