Thursday, January 17, 2013



By Jerry Okungu
January 16, 2013
Nairobi, Kenya

By the time you read this article, Kenya’s primary elections will have been concluded. With that conclusion, many political careers especially in Nyanza and Central will have been cut short. This is because these are the two regions that normally vote as a block, making it possible to accurately predict the eventual winner by merely going through the primaries.

However, the events of Super Thursday put into disarray this norm. Much as it will work for most of Nyanza this morning, the same will not be said of Central where there was total chaos, disorder and mass migration of aspirants in all directions. It will not be until Friday or even Saturday night before we know who will bear the TNA flag in Central region. This confusion has spread to URP and Wiper regions in their strongholds forcing them to extend voting time to the second day with the attendant logistical nightmare of looking for fresh venues now that the government has chosen to reopen schools on Friday.

This year’s elections, the first under the new constitution, started generating fireworks before. With candidates gunning for at least six positions all at the same time, the competition will be stiff and the field crowded. The situation has been compounded by six major parties merging to form three major voting blocks.

Since the stakes are so high, it is expecting that this morning as winners rush to the IEBC offices to hand in their nomination certificates, losers will either be rushing to court to challenge the outcome or heading to other smaller parties considering the rumour that already some aspirants had been issued with nomination certificates from smaller parties just in case.

As I was updating this article, already Hassan Omar the Senator aspirant for Mombasa and Philip Kisia the governor aspirant for Nairobi had already switched from ODM to Wiper Democratic Party and Federal Party of Kenya respectively.

So far, this election has claimed two big names in politics- Cabinet Soita Shitanda of New Ford Kenya currently of UDF and Dr. Bishop Wanjiru. They were found to have fake degree certificates

However, if there are mass fallouts after these primaries, how will they affect the outcome of the main coalition parties? Will party leaders stem the unrest and stabilize the political environment? Are we faced with another face of political realignment before the general elections?

This year’s elections have brought with them unusual political decisions. We have seen political heavyweights retiring from politics without giving plausible reasons to do so. Those major players who have so far quit politics, at least for the time being include three cabinet ministers and a onetime MP for Mandera Central, Hon Abdikadir Mohammed. Abdikadir chaired the parliamentary committee of the all important Constitution review for the better part of the 10th parliament.
It is rumoured that clan elders in Mandera Central vetoed his candidacy and endorsed another candidate for the ODM ticket!

Others who have pulled out of the race include Fred Gumo, the outgoing MP for Westlands, Franklin Bett, the outgoing MP for Bureti and Beth Mugo, the outgoing MP for Dagoretti.
Of the three cabinet ministers, only Beth Mugo gave plausible reason for dropping out of the race. She took the decision on advice from her doctors following her battle with cancer in recent times.

Minister for Roads, Franklin Bett’s departure from elective politics was not taken kindly by his constituents prompting them to pour into the streets of Kericho to demand that he rescinds his decision. However, after he was appointment ODM Election Board Chairman, the die was cast.

Bett’s decision to bow out of politics could have been prompted by Rift Valley politics. He may have sensed that the URP would give him a run for his money, hence the decision to bow out with some dignity. It was also strange that just a few months earlier, Bett was upbeat and even campaigned to be nominated Raila Odinga’s running mate.

Others have suggested that Bett could have avoided elective politics to eye cabinet nominations in the ODM government. By avoiding acrimonious local politics, he would stand a better chance of winning parliamentary approval with the backing of South Rift MPs should he be nominated.

When Musalia Mudavadi’s UDF was being hatched by the Office of the President, there was a strong rumour that Abdikar Mohammed, the MP for Mandera Central would play a significant role. After all, the man had made a name for himself during the 10th Parliament with his competent stewardship of crafting Kenya’s new constitution. However, brilliant a lawyer as he was, there were some concerns about his dalliance with the not so progressive forces of the political class. His ambition to find space in the political arena might have led him astray to begin consorting with conservatives. Now, when political alliances started taking shape, he realized he had joined the wrong company with a real possibility of losing the next elections. He chose to cut his losses.

Fred Gumo, the MP for Westlands is synonymous with Westlands since the advent of multiparty politics. Mr. Kaa Ngumu has fought many bruising battles with formidable opponents for the last 20 years, 10 of which he spent as Kanu stalwart in Nairobi politics. His fierce battles with Haroun Mwau and Betty Tett are still very fresh in our minds.
Although Gumo cited his age, mid sixties as the reason for retiring from the game he loved, eyebrows were raised because he was definitely not the oldest if one remembers that MPs William Ole Ntimama and Stanley Githunguri are yet to call it a day.

Could some of these retirements have to do with the vetting process that will this time screen and lay bare dealings of those aspiring for elective office? Could it be that there are skeletons in their closets they are not in a hurry to get exposed? Could Gumo’s sudden retirement from politics have to do with retired President Moi’s car that was recently found in his possession under mysterious circumstances?

Yes, today is the D-Day when we will know the front runners from CORD, Jubilee, Narc Kenya, Amani and Eagle coalitions who will battle it out on March 4 2013.