ODM candidate David Were at Matungu Centre after being cleared by the IEBC on January 19.
BY-ELECTIONS: ODM candidate David Were at Matungu Centre after being cleared by the IEBC on January 19/PHOTO/COURTESY

Eleven upcoming parliamentary and ward by-elections will be a test run for the 2022 presidential polls as heavyweights jostle to show their might.

With 16 months to next year’s general election, the country’s main political actors are leaving nothing to chance to firm up their grips on their strongholds and penetrate hostile territories.


The forthcoming by-elections — eight slated for next month and three yet to be declared — are expected to test the big guns’ war  chests, as they evenly spread countrywide.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is gearing up to conduct constituency by-elections in Matungu and Kabuchai on Thursday next week.

The Machakos senatorial poll will be held on March 18.

However, the IEBC is yet to schedule a by-election for the Garissa Senate seat following the death of Yusuf Haji.

There would also be by-elections in Bonchari and Juja constituencies after the deaths of Oroo Oyioka and Francis Waititu, respectively.

Apart from the parliamentary by-elections, there are at least five high-stakes stakes ward by-elections coming up next Thursday. 

They are Huruma ward in Uasin Gishu, Hell’s Gate and London wards in Nakuru, Kiamokama ward in Kisii and Kitise-Kithuku ward in Makueni.

On Thursday, ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna told the Star the by-elections are a major financial drain on all political parties but are in no way pointers to what will happen in 2022.

“By-elections are really straining parties in terms of resources and time invested but they cannot project how parties will perform in 2022 because by-elections have their unique dynamics,” Sifuna said.

He affirmed, nonetheless, that by-elections offer opportunities for parties to assess their growth or otherwise. They are also fertile ground to try and penetrate rival territories and shore up numbers in case of victories.

In Juja constituency, for instance, a fierce battle is looming between President Uhuru Kenyatta’s wing of Jubilee and Deputy President William Ruto whose allies are backing the UDA party.

Ruto’s allies have been going flat out to prove that Jubilee is losing its grip on the region following Uhuru’s falling out with Ruto.

In Bonchari and Kiamokama, Kisii — the perceived stronghold of ODM leader Raila Odinga — the handshake team led by Governor James Ongwae will be fighting to deliver the seat initially held by PDP to the party.

Ruto, who has been making inroads to the region, will be trying to upstage ODM, banking on his Tangatanga point men led by Deputy Governor Joash Maangi and South Mugirango MP Silvanus Osoro.

Tellingly, Maangi on Wednesday took Ruto to Ooro’s Kitengela home to console the MP’s family

In Garissa county, Ruto’s point man and former National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale will face off with the handshake team led by Governor Ali Korane in a battle for the Senate seat.

In what looks like a mid-term election for political parties, a showdown is  looming in Machakos where the UDA ‘army’ of heavyweights led by chairman Johnson Muthama —  staunch Ruto ally — is battling to capture the seat.

In a three-horse race, the Ruto team is coming up against Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka who is supporting Muthama’s ex-wife Agnes Kavindu, while Governor Alfred Mutua is seeking to assert his influence.

Mutua’s CCM has fielded former MP John Katuku in what looks like a titanic battle for control of Ukambani politics.

UDA is backing Muthama Ngegele.

Machakos Senate by-election candidate Muthama Ngengele and.Deputy President William Ruto .
BY-ELECTION: Machakos Senate by-election candidate Muthama Ngengele and.Deputy President William Ruto .
Image: DPPS

The DP will also use the by-elections to assert his influence in Rift Valley with by-elections coming up in Huruma ward in Uasin Gishu and Hell’s Gate and London wards in Nakuru.

Buoyed by its resounding victory in the Msambweni parliamentary by-election in December, the DP’s team is fronting UDA candidates in Rift Valley to upset the Jubilee.

The UDA party is also sponsoring a candidate in the Kiamokama by-election. ODM faces a litmus test here to retain the seat against a strong challenge from Ruto’s ally.

Asked whether the by-elections hold significance ahead of 2022, ODM treasurer Timothy Bosire said the BBI referendum, not the by-elections, will shape the 2022 polls.

“The political fight will be after the BBI referendum. It will have massive impact and significance bearing on the 2022 elections. After the referendum, which will be won by landslide, the 2022 battle will have been shaped,” he said.

Kabuchai parliamentary aspirant Majimbo Kalasinga.and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang'ula. e
KABUCHAI: Kabuchai parliamentary aspirant Majimbo Kalasinga.and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula/PHOTO/COURTESY

The Matungu and Kabuchai by-elections slated for March 4 give a peek at the nature of battles shaping up in the other nine electoral areas. The major parties are stepping up efforts to assert their authority.

The stakes are high in Western Kenya where ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula are fighting tooth and nail to shore up their strongholds.

The two have ganged up to reduce ODM leader Raila Odinga’s influence in the region and parry an onslaught by DP Ruto.

The two have come out to use the by-elections as a Luyha unity rallying cry against Raila’s clout as they raise their stakes at the national bargaining table after the BBI referendum.

As part of their unity pact, Musalia is backing Majimbo Kalasinga, the  Ford Kenya candidate and Wetang’ula is throwing his weight behind ANC’s candidate for Matungu constituency, Peter Nabulindo.

The ODM brigade is rallying behind former MP David Were in Matungu but it is not fielding a candidate in Kabuchai.

The United Democratic Alliance, UDA, associated with Ruto, is backing Evans Kakai in Kabuchai and Alex Lanya in Matungu as he seeks to  make inroads.

Tongaren MP Eseli Simiyu on Thursday said the two by-elections will test the “rudderless” and fledgling Sacred Alliance being cobbled together by the duo and Kanu chairman Gideon Moi.

“It is not surprising that Musalia and Wetang’ula have retreated to their backyard and joined efforts against Raila and Ruto. The stakes are so high that they had to make a trade-off,” he said.

Simiyu said Ruto’s significant inroads in Western Kenya had rattled the two but said a new political dispensation was on the horizon.

Most of the by-elections will coincide with the BBI referendum campaigns and are likely to be hotly contested. Pro-referendum teams will try to use momentum to upstage Ruto.


MPs Rahab Mukami (in white top), Susan Kihika (at the foreground) and Nyali's Mohammed Ali (in navy blue polo-shirt) after they were barred from accessing their meeting venue in Nakuru.
PROTEST: MPs Rahab Mukami (in white top), Susan Kihika (at the foreground) and Nyali’s Mohammed Ali (in navy blue polo-shirt) after they were barred from accessing their meeting venue in Nakuru/PHOTO/COURTESY

However, Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, a key Ruto ally from Western Kenya, said the by-election means a lot for the Tangatanga brigade that is marketing their 2022 manifesto.

“We are using the by-elections campaigns to take our message to the people at the grassroots and it is actually working very well. Our eyes are fixed on the ball and we are not turning back,” he said.

Barasa is among the Ruto allies leading campaigns for UDA candidates in Kabuchai and Matungu constituencies, test runs for 2022.