BY-ELECTION

Kibra is intertwined with Raila’s past and future

The constituency is therefore difficult to manipulate both from within and from outside

In Summary

• When MP in 1992, Langata, specifically Kibra, became the epicenter of national political dynamics.

•  Kibra was also the launching pad of the development projects Raila has undertaken in his political career. This is why any election today in Kibra is intertwined with Raila’s past and future.

ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna, party leader Raila Odinga and Makadara MP George Aladwa in Kibra on Sunday, August 25.
TAKING ON RAILA: ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna, party leader Raila Odinga and Makadara MP George Aladwa in Kibra on Sunday, August 25.
Image: COURTESY

Kibra was hived from the expansive Lang’ata constituency during the Andrew Ligale-led Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission. 

Lang’ata comprised of two diametrically opposite social and economic classes. The western side was among most affluent part of Nairobi consisting of Karen and Lang’ata, while the eastern side was and still is the sprawling Kibra slums.

The old constituency had MPs determined elsewhere and largely imposed on them. This was until the advent of multiparty democracy in 1992, when Raila Odinga arrived and the constituency, previously held by Kanu’s Philip Leakey, suddenly became very famous.

Langata, specifically Kibra, became the epicenter of national political dynamics. Because of Raila’s stature, the constituency became synonymous with his brand of politics. Kamkunji in Kibra was always the preferred launching pad of his many anti-establishment crusades. It was the natural choice as congregation venue for the many protests Raila organised.

Kibra was also the launching pad of the development projects Raila has undertaken in his political career. This is why any election today in Kibra is intertwined with Raila’s past and future.

The political events are also a reflection of the residents’ resilience in the face of marginalisation and political oppression. The voters of Kibra have borne the brunt of state brutality, especially during elections. Whenever the residents protest against any real or perceived injustice, the police have always responded with maximum brutal force. Yet, they have never succumbed to such brazen intimidation and state-sponsored violence. They have equally suffered the ignominy of insecurity on account of state neglect. The crime rates have always been at an all-time high — residents are at the mercy of robbers, burglars and organised vigilante gangs.

On December 31, 1996, Raila pulled a major surprise by resigning from Ford Kenya and subsequently lost his seat in Parliament. He proceeded to reclaim the seat on a National Development Party with a comfortable margin against an onslaught of the ruling party, Kanu.

President Daniel Moi had nominated his old friend’s son Fred Amayo to fly the Jogoo flag.

Raila retained the seat in subsequent elections albeit on different party/coalition tickets — NDP in 1997, Narc in 2002 and ODM in 2007.

During his tenure as the MP, there are key projects that Raila undertook that endeared him to the electorate. For instance, to address the traffic gridlock on Langata Road, he sponsored a motion that led to the prioritisation of its dualling in the 1997-98 financial year.

 

During his tenure as the Roads minister in the Mwai Kibaki administration, Mbagathi Way was paved using concrete, a replica of the autobahns of Germany. The road has never needed repairs since its construction and remains a reference material for civil engineering students from universities and polytechnics.

He also launched the upgrading of houses in the slums with support from international agencies. The National Housing Corporation also came in with the Kibra Highrise slum-upgrading programme.

In partnership with health organisations such as Amref, an ultra-modern health facility was established at Laini Saba. The health centre was put up in collaboration with the University of Nairobi’s Housing and Building Research Institute (HABRI). The collaboration saw the use of affordable building materials in the form of Stabilised Soil Blocks (SSB) for the first time on a large scale.

Through collaboration, Raila Education Centre was established to support education.

Kibra constituency is therefore difficult to manipulate both from within and from outside. Any serious contender for the seat must contend with the twin issues of voter consciousness and Raila’s legacy. The refusal by the IEBC to clear Jubilee candidate, McDonald Mariga, is a function of fate but more the failure of reactionary forces to manipulate the people of Kibra.