William Ruto has thrown his weight behind Wiper candidate Musili Mawathe in the Embakasi South by-election slated for April this year. Mawathe lost his seat after the Supreme Court nullified his election in a petition filed by his rival and former MP Irshad Sumra.
The by-election will prove a defining moment for the Nasa coalition considering that Kalonzo Musyoka has been piling pressure on ODM to drop its candidate. However, the Raila Odinga party has defied the calls and gone ahead to award Sumra direct ticket in preparation for a political showdown. Mawathe in his election had defeated Sumra by a small margin but the declaration by Jubilee party that it will not field candidate for the by-election is changing the political landscape in the constituency.
Embakasi South has 150,315 registered voters with five wards namely Pipeline, Kware, Kwa Reuben, Imara Daima and Kwa Njenga. During the last polls, the duo proved heavyweights even when they were competing in the same coalition after efforts to have Nasa field one candidate failed.
Mawathe won in his second attempt after being defeated by Sumra in 2013 elections. Sumra on his side had unsuccessfully tried to recapture the larger Embakasi constituency for three times until it was split in the run-up to 2013 elections.
Already, both have started campaigning with Sumra hosting ODM MPs from the city last week at a church event where they drummed up support for his election. The entry of Dr Ruto on the scene is causing ripples after it emerged that he is backing Mawathe to reclaim the seat.
Ruto hosted Jubilee Nairobi MPs at his office and whipped them into supporting the Wiper candidate even as he flexes muscles ahead of 2022.
To him, the Embakasi South by-election has given him an opportunity to battle with Raila in city politics especially now that he has the backing of Jubilee MPs who are solidly behind Wiper.
After the DP’s meeting, they later held a strategy meeting with former Machakos senator Johnson Muthama at his offices in Gigiri. During the meeting that lasted for hours, the leaders promised to rally Kikuyu votes in the constituency in favour of Mawathe. Those in attendance included MPs George Theuri of Embakasi West, Charles Njagua, Starehe, Simon Mbugua, Eala, Moses Kuria, Gatundu South and Makali Mulu of Kitui Central. Mbugua was said to be representing Governor Mike Sonko who has also thrown weight behind Mawathe.
Ethnic equation will play a major role with Sumra banking on a combination of Luo and Luhya votes to boost his chances. Sumra is of Asian origin but survives using his closeness to Raila.
On his side, Mawathe will enjoy the sizeable dominant Kambas votes in the constituency that borders Machakos county. Kambas are the leading community in terms of votes which will prove an advantage to Mawathe as he seeks to retain his seat. Kambas have strong presence in Pipeline, Kwa Njenga, Kware and Kwa Reuben wards which is sweet music to Wiper. Mawathe is a close confidante of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.
The support by Ruto will tilt the matrix considering that he will use state resources to campaign and at the same time endear himself to Kambas ahead of 2022. Already Kalonzo, has been reaching out to Kambas who had earlier indicated on running for the seat with a aim of consolidating the community votes behind the Wiper candidate. On his side, Ruto has vowed to wrestle control of city politics from Raila and will use the by-election to stamp his authority and by extension, mend fences with Kalonzo. Muthama on his side has vowed to ensure the seat remains held by Wiper and has blamed ODM for shortchanging the party and Kambas who have rallied behind their party leader for two successive elections.
Out of the 17 parliamentary seats, Wiper has only one and it is yet to be seen how the party will fight to hold on to the seat even as ODM tries to capture it. Sonko has also come out to fight for the reelection of Mawathe and is expected to lead Jubilee team from the county during campaigns