As the clock ticks towards the 2022 general election, the race to succeed Kisii governor James Ongwae is taking shape with clan politics expected to be a major determining factor.So far, all eyes have been focused on Nyaribari, the most populous and hitherto influential clan in Kisii county politics.Nyaribari clan constitutes of two constituencies – Nyaribari Chache and Nyaribari Masaba – which have a combined voting population of around 140,000 voters with Nyaribari Chache having close to 80,000 while Nyaribari Masaba has about 60,000 voters.Nyaribari is home of Simeon Nyachae and Senator Sam Ongeri and once considered to be the citadel of Gusii elitism and other dignitaries.Big names from the Nyaribari clan include businessman Jared Kangwana, former Kenya Ports Authority chief executive officer Daniel Manduku, renowned Barnabas Ariga, career civil servant Jeremiah Matagaro, scholar and politician Charles Maranga Bagwasi and East Africa regional court Judge Justice Charles Nyachae.
Manduku is under pressure to run for governorship but is playing his political cards close to his chest.Former cabinet ministers, the late James Nyamweya and Andrew Omanga who served during founding father of the nation Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi regimes also hailed from this clan. Notably, Kisii town which is the county headquarters is partly situated in Nyaribari Chache, boasting of Kisii Central ward while Bogetutu clan boasts of Kitutu Central ward with Kefa Mogaka and due Nyarang’o serving as the MCAs.
Current MPs are Richard Onyonka (Kitutu Chache South) and Richard Tong’i (Nyaribari Chache) elected on Ford Kenya and Jubilee party tickets respectively. This gives the Nyaribari clan some sense of entitlement to have the gubernatorial baton passed to them once governor Ongwae, who hails from the neighboring Bogetutu clan, calls it a day in 2022. And this has now aptly moulded into the Nyaribari factor in Kisii county politics and a number of candidates are already angling for the salivated gubernatorial seat come the next polls. Even so, within the Nyaribari clan in itself, candidates will have to contend with inherent sub-clan contention and sharing of available positions if anything, to consolidate their rich vote bloc as they face candidates from seven other constituencies and clans.
In Nyaribari, both Nyaribari Masaba and Nyaribari Chache constituencies, there are four major clans namely Botondo, Bosigisa, Boburia/Boguche and Kamba Nane which is a conglomeration of eight closely related subclans, otherwise known as ‘Nyaribari,’ collectively. Therefore, subclans constituting Kamba Nane, where the name Nyaribari is derived from, include-Bonyamasicho, Bonyameyio, Bonyakoni, Bomobea, Bogeka Mwaboto, Mwamonda and Mwamoriango. Currently, Kisii senator Ongeri who is the senior-most politician from the Nyaribari clan, and to some extent in Gusii politics, has declared interest to go for the gubernatorial seat where he is likely to battle it out with Nyairbari Masaba MP, Ezekiel Machogu, who both come from the Boguche clan. Already, there are undercurrents within Nyaribari with pundits averring that Boguche has had a lion share in leadership posts within the two constituencies.Interestingly, the MP for Nyaribari Chache, Richard Tongi, is also from Boburia-a subset of Boguche clan while nominated senator, Millicent Omanga also comes from from Boguche.Another candidate from the clan who has declared interest for the seat is land economist Rachel Otundo.Otundo twice contested for the Nyaribari Chache parliamentary seat, but lost to Tong’i before battling it out for the post of speaker to the Kisii count assembly where she lost to David Kombo, hails from the Mwamonda subclan of Kamba nane.Another candidate who has been mentioned to be in the race is Charles Matoke from Botondo clan.The Abanyakoni clan have produced Maranga Bagwasi who unsuccessfully contested against current governor James Ongwae.
It is interesting to note that it is Rachael Otundo, who is the only and first lady to have declared interest in the seat from Nyaribari Chache constituency because all the other candidates come from Nyaribari Masaba constituency.Otundo enjoys proximity to Kisii town, with women and youth who have been reaching out to her because she operates her business empires on Kisii unlike her competitors who are based in Nairobi.With 24 months away to the August 2022 general election, it should be noted that the election cycle begins from January 2022, and candidates have only 16 months to endear themselves to the electorate.Perhaps, this is why Machogu and Otundo have hit the ground to familiarise themselves throughout the expansive county with nine constituencies and 45 wards.
Machogu who has vowed not to let it go in favour of Ongeri who is his immediate neighbour in Nyaribari Masaba has been moving up and down to ensure that he leaves a mark on his development agenda thus making him to be among the front runners in the race. On his part, Ongeri prides in the advantage of being a household name across the county has remained silent and noncommittal on his next move but keen observers see him as the most runner in the race. Besides running his campaigns for the senatorial seat twice in 2013 and 2017 in a row, Ongeri had over the years engaged in political party campaigns throughout the county and he knows all the nooks and crooks apart from establishing active contacts and agents across the region which gives him an edge over the other candidate from Nyaribari. As a cabinet minister in various dockets during the Moi and Kibaki era, Ongeri is known to have initiated several development projects and programmes in all the areas. It is during his tenure as minister for Technical Training that institutions like Keroka Technical Institute in Nyaribari Masaba and the Kisii town Jua Kali sector and industrial area were initiated.
As minister for Local Government, Ongeri initiated town councils like Nyamache, Masimba, Suneka, Nyamarambe and Ogembo besides being credited for the employment of many youths in the councils besides Nairobi city council.