Scramble for Luhya votes begins with Matungu, Kabuchai by-elections

Scramble for Luhya votes begins with Matungu, Kabuchai by-elections

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The two by-elections in Luhyaland have laid ground to what political analysts term scramble for the rich but underutilized Western province vote bloc. That the by-elections in Matungu constituency in Kakamega county and Kabuchai in Bungoma have a serious political ramifications both nationally and in local politics signified in the manner in which ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and his Ford-Kenya counterpart Masika Wetangula entered into a deal in which ANC was to field a candidate in Matungu with Ford-K blessings with Wetangula party doing the same in Kabuchai.

Musalia Mudavadi

The Matungu seat fell vacant following the death of Justus Murunga who was elected on ANC ticket. By the time of his death although on Mudavadi party, Murunga was one of the Luhya MPs who had thrown support behind William Ruto’s presidential bid in 2022. As part of ANC-Ford K power deal to lock out what is now described as “outsiders” in Luhya politics, in Matungu, ANC is fronting a candidate who came second to the late Murunga in 2017 parliamentary race on Ford-K. ANC nominee is Peter Nabulindo. The decision by Mudavadi to hand over the ticket to Nabulindo did not go down well with party members.

Masika Wetangula

The contest is to be held on March 4 2021. In 2017, Nabulindo on Wetangula party got 10,636 votes. Weekly Citizen can authoritatively reveal that Nabulindo was favoured due to the influence of Kakamega senator Cleophas Malala also elected on ANC ticket. Malala is to be in charge of Matungu by-election and is to face his political sworn enemy Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya (ODM). Oparanya is set to co-ordinate the ODM brigade in Matungu by-election. During the burial of Murunga, ODM leader Raila Odinga dismissed those calling for his party not to field a candidate in Matungu by-election.

Late Justus Murunga

By then ANC politicians were arguing in the spirit of Nasa brotherhood, ODM since the parliamentary seat was won by its candidate in 2017, it be allowed to recapture it without competition. Raila is dismissing the suggestion claimed as Weekly Citizen had reported much earlier before the burial that ANC had fielded a candidate in Kibra by-election after the death of Kenneth Okoth. ANC in Kibra by-election, field Eliud Owallo a one-time Raila political strategist. The Owallo bid did not go in quite well with Raila camp which for now has decided to engage in what political analysts refer to as politics of revenge in Luhyaland.

Peter Oscar Nabulindo

Apart from ANC fielding a face in Kibra by-election Ford-Kenya also had Khamisi Butichi in the race. Bernard Okoth of ODM emerged the winner with 24,636 votes, McDonald Mariga (Jubilee) was second with 11,230 votes with Owalo who has since defected to DP Ruto camp coming third with 5,275 votes. Butichi was fourth with 260 votes. Just like in Kibra by-election where the Luhya factor featured prominently forcing Ruto to pick Mariga a Luhya in city politics and now the battle ground is in Mudavadi own hometurf. Political pundits say in Matungu the race will be a showdown between Ruto, Raila and Mudavadi as it happened in Kibra.

Cleophas Malala

As per late last week, sources in Matungu claimed, Mudavadi seemed to have an upper hand after getting Nabulindo on his side. Initially, the Ruto camp was luring Nabulindo to fly their flag in the area. Nabulindo at one time is said to have held talks with Ruto aides courtesy of Mumias East MP Bernard Washiali and former cabinet secretary Rashid Mohammed. Weekly Citizen has information Bulindo decided to avoid the Ruto side upon discovery, former Kakamega senator Bonnie Khalwale was not comfortable with him and was favouring one of the late Murunga’s wife to be funded with Ruto.

Wycliffe Oparanya

To complicate matters was the fact that infighting had rocked Ruto camp with Washiali, Echesa and Khalwale out to undo each other and coordinate the Matungu by-election to win DP fortunes and future favours. During the burial of the MP in the presence of mourners, Echesa attacked Khalwale claiming the senator, who used to enjoy unlimited money from Ruto requested Sh200,000 from one of the widows to have a case filed by one of the late MP’s lovers withdrawn from court to allow burial. Ruto like Raila wants to use the Matungu by-election to test his popularity in the region and against Mudavadi.

Benjamin Washiali

Apart from Malala others who played a role in convincing Nabulindo to join ANC were Lugari MP and deputy party leader Ayub Savula, Titus Khamala (Lurambi), Oku Kaunya (Teso North), Sakwa Bunyasi (Nambale) and Alfred Agoi (Sabatia). It is whispered that ODM had dispatched a top party official to talk to Nabulindo also. But the official was later to learn, ANC people had met twice at Gardens Hotel owned by Nabulindo and struck a deal. However, local ANC branch officials are against Nabulindo direct nomination. This group is led by Michael Matanji, sub-branch chairman. As major parties seem to be favouring certain candidates with direct nomination, majority of aspirants eyeing the seats have decided to go independent.

Bonnie Khalwale

The candidates are to submit nomination papers on two days of January 11 and January 12. The election date is March 4 with campaign period starting from January 11 ending on the midnight of March 1 2021. Those going independent are Athman Wangara. Wangara is well known in the constituency being the chairman of Matungu National Government Constituency Development Fund. He is also credited for having helped Murunga win the seat in 2017. In fact it is said, Wangara is being backed by a section of Murunga family against the candidature of late MP’s wife Christabel Amunga also running as an independent candidate.

Rashid Echesa Mohammed

Amunga is being pushed by a confidant of Ruto on the basis, the DP had a soft spot on late family and is likely to bankroll her. Surprisingly, one of the late MP’s sons is openly opposed to her step mothers bid. Another aide to the late MP Odanga Mutimba, the constituency manager, is also running as an independent candidate. A move by the late confidants not to agree to back one of them is likely to cost them. Also going independent is Bernard Wakoli who expected to land Ford-K ticket by virtue of being a party official. Ford-K is not fielding an aspirant as we have stated earlier. Charles Kasamani has gone independent just like Wilberforce Luttah, Stanlus Kubende, Samuel Munyekenye and Notcun.

Noah Shiunzi got a direct ticket to run on Roots Party of Kenya whose party leader is prominent city lawyer George Wajackoyah. The lawyer is close to popular Tanzania opposition leaders. ODM was torn between having Paul Posho former MP David Were and businessman Paul Achaya. Insiders well-versed with area politics say, DP Ruto strategists are reaching out to ANC officials bitter with Nabulindo nominations to back one of the independent candidates they favour. The strategy being all the independent candidates be bought with millions of shillings to step down in favour of Ruto candidate in Matungu by-election as a headstart.

The same strategy is in Kabuchai by-election where Ruto forces are backing an independent candidate Evans Kakai. The Kabuchai by-election is between Wetangula, Ruto and ODM. The stage is set for what is expected to be a dueling contest in the Kabuchai constituency by-election between the DP Ruto and Ford-Kenya party leader Wetang’ula. Wetang’ula is likely to pick Joseph Wekesa alias Majimbo Kalasinga who will battle it out with the independent candidate Evans Kakai. However, some of the DP’s close allies are likely to defy him and support Kalasinga. Such one person is Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa who rumours has it that he is already campaigning for Kalasinga after falling out with Kakai over business related issues sometimes back.

The legislator has not been seeing eye-to-eye with Kakai following the irreconcilable difference pitting them. This will deal a blow to the DP considering that Barasa is one of his underground mobiliser and an eloquent speaker who pulls masses through his rib cracking antics. The first time lawmaker was first elected in 2017 on a Jubilee ticket and has since attracted praise and condemnation in equal measure. He has remained a close buddy to the DP even during political turbulence and has always remained steadfast in protecting Ruto something that rubbed him a wrong way with some leaders in the current regime. “I will support Kalasinga, he is an eloquent speaker and understands his audience very well, he resonates well with the voters and has always worked with the late MP despite their rivalry,” said Barasa.

He said that he will campaign for Kalasinga alongside Bungoma senator, woman rep Catherine Wambilianga, Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa among others. “It is likely that the other camp will have Mt Elgon MP Fred Kapondi, Webuye West MP Dan Wanyama and Sirisia MP John Waluke but we will campaign vigorously to ensure a Ford-Kenya candidate clinches the seat,” he said. “It does not mean that I hate the choice of the DP but we got our own personal difference with his candidate. I have vowed to campaign for Kalasinga come rain come sunshine,” he said. The by-election has attracted scores of aspirants with majority of them vying for it as independent candidates.

Majimbo Kalasinga

Some of them are Gaspar Waffubwa, Peter Kapanga, DCC Eric Wanyonyi among others. The way politics is playing out in the country and in Bungoma county voters are going to experience political changes and alignments that will shock many people. The by-election arose from the death of the Kabuchai MP, Lusweti, who was buried on December 19 2020. The way observers are seeing it is that the political duel will pit a Ford-Kenya candidate against Ruto’s candidate. Kalasinga vied for the seat in 2017 and emerged number three while the second position was taken by an independent candidate Tale Nabangi, now deceased. After endorsing Kakai as his candidate, Ruto is likely to court Bungoma governor Wycliffe Wangamati and his brigade to support him owing to the political differences between the governor and Wetang’ula concerning Ford-Kenya party infighting.

It should be noted that the by-election in Kabuchai could revive Wetang’ula’s political star or sink it. If he loses the seat in his own bedroom, it will be the end of him but if his chosen candidate wins it will determine him as the political kingpin in Bungoma hence it will give him bargaining power in national politics come 2022. If it is anything to go by, the actions and reading his lips during the burial of Bumula MP Mwambu Mabonga’s father, Wangamati seemed to be drifting towards Ruto’s orbit. “Let’s support him, if somebody contributes to churches, funerals and fundraises for boda boda riders that is the best person so far,” he said.

Late James Lusweti

With the DP unveiling Kakai as his candidate to clinch the seat during the by-election, Wangamati is likely to support him both morally and financially. According to Bukembe East ward MCA Joram Wanjala who was behind changing the party to be used by Kakai, he said that if he had used the party associated with Ruto (United Democratic Alliance) it would have disadvantaged him fully and many people would have joined his rivals. “But as an independent candidate it attracts many people and Wangamati is likely to drum up support for him to clinch the seat based on his recent rapport with the DP,” said Wanjala.

Gaspar Waffubwa

The ward leader seems to be enjoying the trappings of power and it looks like he is the one advising the governor on political matters and which direction to take considering their working relationship. Joram looks like the centre of power that is running the show and seems to be creating a force and cutting a niche as a leader controlling Wangamati’s political diary. “I’m in the centre and I played part in directing Kakai to vie as an independent candidate for him to be supported by the governor, the party would limit him,” said Wanjala. He says that the contest will largely be between Wangamati and Wetangula.

On the other hand if political pundit’s reports are anything to trust, if Ruto and Wangamati join forces they will give the Wetang’ula’s camp sleepless nights considering the financial muscles the duo control. Kakai had announced to vie for Bungoma governorship in 2022 but forfeited it to vie for the parliamentary seat following the death of Lusweti. Others who have so far declared their interests include Nakuru deputy county commissioner Eric Wanyonyi, Gaspar Waffubwa (America), Peter Kapanga among others. It has not been confirmed but the actions by Wangamati of late looks like he has dumped Raila and is now close to Ruto. He is likely to go for nominations with senate speaker Kenneth Lusaka in the DP’s party that is yet to be unveiled.

Samuel Munyekenye

Wangamati has had a mutual working relationship with Raila as depicted during the Building Bridges Initiative popularisation rallies. Political pundits claim that Wangamati might have started strategising himself to face off with his bitter rival Lusaka in the race for Bungoma gubernatorial seat in 2022. If it is anything to go by, Wangamati has had a soft spot for Ruto despite the fact that he was his bitter critic in the past. Word has it that talks are at an advanced stage where Wangamati has been courting Ruto with the possibility of elbowing out Lusaka. Kapondi and Waluke are said to be the leaders who have convinced Wangamati to join Ruto’s side in preparation for the 2022 polls.

Charles Kasamani

Ford-Kenya party politics might have played out for him to start strategising and shopping for the party that might propel him to win in the next polls. Wangamati fell out with Wetang’ula after he staged a coup assisted by Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi and his Tongaren counterpart Eseli Simiyu. Since then, Wangamati has faced it tough from the Bungoma senator who claims to play his oversight role. Wetang’ula has openly criticised Wangamati especially on how he used the Covid-19 cash. While addressing mourners at Nakhwana Primary School during the burial of Bumula MP Mabongah’s father, Wangamati called on area residents to support a development conscious leader. “You have seen him contributing for boda boda groups, fundraising for women groups and building churches, a leader who supports the hustlers in the country needs our support,” said Wangamati