BY-ELECTION

Handshake on trial in Kibra

Youthful football star presented to spite Raila and the Executive Handshake.

In Summary

• The field is crowded with contestants, issues and vested interests.

• Clashing presidential ambitions and expectations of a referendum make the race a microcosm of national politics.

The Handshake – the post-election peace bond for Kenya – is on trial in the Kibra parliamentary by-election. The principal signatories to the March 9, 2018, amity— President Uhuru Kenyatta and People’s President Raila Odinga—could campaign on different sides during the by-election.

The November 7 event represents a convergence of divisive political interests. It is a rehearsal for 2022 presidential ambitions for some. There is also the expectation of a referendum in the mix. The winning party in may feel energised for the bigger clashes ahead.

ODM wants to retain the seat that fell vacant after the death of party MP Ken Okoth. The late MP had a good performance record, which makes replacing him a huge assignment for Kibra and the party.

The first test for ODM was allowing party members to nominate a candidate. Direct award of party nomination certificate to a favoured aspirant did not work in Embakasi. It did not work in Ugenya, early this year. A goof in Kibra would have backfired.

The arrival of a factional Jubilee candidate, in spite of earlier expectations of the party working with ODM, complicates the contest. The William Ruto Jubilee faction has presented a candidate to try to derail the Handshake. The faction knows the former Prime Minister will campaign for the ODM candidate. They also do not expect Uhuru to cheer as the Jubilee candidate drowns. But Uhuru, hugely aware of his legacy issues, may not fall into the Ruto trap.

The by-election will test the bond that binds the Handshake. Raila, a former long-time Lang’ata MP and an iconic godhead of Kibra constituency, won’t want any other party, other than ODM, to grab its cosmopolitan turf. Even the margin of retaining the seat is crucial for the party.

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya hopes to muddy the field for Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress candidate. The Ford-Kenya aspirant is a carpetbagger from Ikolomani, with no political clout in Nairobi, Kibra, or Lang’ata. ANC and Ford-K count Western their home turf. It was hoped the two parties would present a viable contestant from Western for the Kibra seat. But they found no Luhya politician strong enough to galvanise the Kibra ethnic vote.

With 40 aspirants for the seat, Kibra is a melting pot of ambitions. Nine of the 40 graduated from aspirants to candidates on Monday, when they presented their nomination certificates to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

Most of the aspirants were political nonentities. Some seemed rented to cause post-nomination ruckus. But the people of Kibra reserve the right to choose. The nomination of Okoth’s brother, Imran, a Kibra NG-CDF chairman, and a slum boy, rallies ODM around a person who understands how the former MP worked.

Carpetbaggers sprouted, but that cannot stop the Kibra electorate from electing a tested resident. Kibra ODM voters want an indigene. In Imran Okoth they got one.

The field is crowded with contestants, issues and vested interests. Clashing presidential ambitions and the expectations of a referendum vote make the race a microcosm of national politics.

The Ruto Jubilee faction has presented a youth and a football star, through boardroom intrigues, to spite ODM leader and the Executive Handshake. The signing of McDonald Mariga, a Kibra outsider, hopes to exploit the dominant Luhya vote in the constituency. This vote will be divided among Ford-K, ANC and Tangatanga candidate Mariga, from Funyula, Busia.

The Kibra clash is an away match that should be interesting to watch. ANC picked Eliud Owalo, a Luo who lost the seat to Okoth during the 2017 General Election.

The by-election will test the bond that binds the Handshake. Raila, a former long-time Lang’ata MP and an iconic godhead of Kibra constituency, won’t want any other party, other than ODM, to grab its cosmopolitan turf. Even the margin of retaining the seat is crucial for the party.

Raila was Lang’ata MP between 1992 and 2012. He has an unchallenged following in Kibra, which was hived off the larger Lang’ata. The Ruto Jubilee faction hopes to loosen ODM and Raila’s hold on the youth and the Luhya of Kibra. The electorate will fall for the handouts, but their resolve for a strong replacement for the late Okoth may be unshakeable.

The field is crowded with contestants, issues and vested interests. Clashing presidential ambitions and the expectations of a referendum vote make the race a microcosm of national politics. Coming in the countdown to 2022 regime-change elections, it is an event to watch.

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