Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga
EYES ON KIBRA: Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga
Image: FILE

The upcoming Kibra by-election will be an all-out battle for Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi.

The by-election provides a fertile ground for the three political heavyweights to flex their muscles and test their political clout in the city ahead of the 2022 battle for the presidency.

The three harbour presidential ambitions and all but Raila have publicly declared they will be in the race for the country’s top seat in 2022.

Each has fronted a candidate for the by-election slated for November 7, a move observers say is an attempt to gauge their political strength as they prepare for the 2022 race.

“Raila’s support has been eroding, not only in Kibra or Nairobi but in the entire country. The opponents, especially Ruto, will be trying to shake his [Raila’s] dominance and if he [Ruto] gets good numbers, then he will go into 2022 with a lot of strength,” political analyst Macharia Munene said Friday as quoted by The star on Saturday.

The Kibra seat became vacant after the death of Ken Okoth, who had been elected on an ODM ticket. He died of colon cancer at The Nairobi Hospital on July 26.

Ruto bulldozed his way to have football star McDonald Mariga picked to fly the Jubilee party flag in the polls.

Sources intimated he piled pressure on President Uhuru Kenyatta for the party to field a candidate. The President was reluctant to challenge Raila in his backyard following their March 9, 2018, handshake.

The DP’s agenda to upset Raila in his political stronghold is, however, threatened by the infighting and split in the ruling party over the Mariga candidature.

A section of Jubilee MPs christened Kieleweke accuses Ruto of plotting to antagonise the handshake through “his candidate”.

Mudavadi’s party has fronted Raila’s former campaign manager Eliud Owalo, a grassroots mobiliser who understands every corner of the slum.

ODM will conduct its nominations Saturday to pick a candidate from a pool of 11. The party has assured the prospective candidates of a free and fair exercise.

By last evening, election materials had been distributed to all the IEBC polling stations in the five wards in the constituency. About 700 police officers have been deployed to ensure security.

Christone Odhiambo, popularly known as DJ Kris Darlin, Peter Ochieng, Tony Ogola Sira, Reuben Ojijo and Stephen Okello will take part in the primaries.

Others are Bernard Otieno, Erick Ochieng, Brian Owino, John Otieno, Benson Musungu and Patrick Lumumba Owade.

Raila has controlled Kibra politics for decades – himself having been area MP for 21 years. He enjoys near-fanatical support in the fairly cosmopolitan slum constituency.

His foot soldiers are confident that his clout in Kibra will hand the party candidate an early and easy victory.

“We are winning this seat come rain, come shine. After the nominations, we will go down there with our candidate on Monday and start the campaigns proper,” Makadara MP and ODM Nairobi chairman George Aladwa said.

Aladwa dismissed Ruto and Mudavadi as ‘busybodies’ who are out to create unnecessary competition.

However, the Raila dominance in the constituency is not guaranteed as Ruto and Mudavadi have vowed to teach him a lesson.

The opponents say the poll will be a turning point for Kenya’s politics. They are keen to gauge their strength in the capital – the epicentre of the country’s politics.

Raila has ruled out handpicking a candidate to forestall a revolt that could work in the favour of his rivals.

ODM lost the twin Ugenya and Embakasi South by-elections early in the year. Observers saw the loss as a protest by the electorate after the party handpicked the by-elections’ candidates.

Munene says Raila is facing a test of his life in the upcoming poll because of the threat from other parties. “The threat is real. Raila must not be sleeping because, while Ruto and Mudavadi might be interested in winning, the numbers that they will get there will be crucial going forward.”

With Kibra all set for the by-election, ODM has been left with only six out of the 17 constituencies in the capital to control – Ruaraka, Mathare, Makadara, Embakasi East, Westlands and Dagoretti North.

Political analyst Javas Bigambo says that Ruto and Mudavadi will seize the opportunity to gauge their strategy in outwitting opponents ahead of the 2022 duel.

“This by-election will test the place of political strategy in upstaging the opponents. It will be a near-standard expectation that ODM should retain that seat without a sweat, but not so now with the entry of opponents,” he said.

Musalia warned the rivals that ANC “will teach them a lesson”.

He said, “Owalo is a strong candidate. He was born and raised in Kibra. As a party, we are confident that we will win. We will surely teach our competitors a lesson.” 

ANC secretary-general Barrack Muluka sent a similar message, saying the elections will be a turning point in the country’s politics.

“Kibra is going to be a turning point. It is a new beginning not just in Kibra, but in the whole country. History is going to come. On November 8, we shall be talking about how history has started,” he stated.

Lang’ata MP Nixon Korir alias Generali was optimist that Jubilee will carry the day, adding that the party will bank on its candidate’s popularity and the government’s projects to stage an upset in the election.

“Looking at what Jubilee has done before through NYS, it has opened up Kibra – built roads and constructed ablution blocks to ensure there is good sanitation – we are sure of a win,” the DP ally said.

The Kieleweke wing of Jubilee has vowed to ignore Ruto and go ahead to drum up support for a candidate that will be nominated by ODM  in support of the spirit of the Uhuru-Raila handshake.

The looming encounter is likely to heighten the political tensions roiling the ruling party amid growing suspicions and mistrust pitting Uhuru’s and Ruto’s troops.

Nominated MP and former Starehe lawmaker Maina Kamanda yesterday insisted he will lead the anti-Jubilee brigade in the Kibra parliamentary race.

“Regardless of the Jubilee party position, I will be leading campaigns for an ODM candidate. Those who are pushing Mariga have no votes in Nairobi,” declared Kamanda who is the ringleader of the Kieleweke team.

The MP accused the DP of engineering wars to undermine the handshake, a truce hailed for stabilising the country’s political climate.

“Ruto wants to rock the handshake by bringing divisions in Nairobi. The DP doesn’t know what the handshake has done to Nairobi. He wants to bulldoze his way the way he did in Lang’ata,” Kamanda said.