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Race for new Kibra MP intensifies as residents unite against tribalism

Residents minding their business in Kibra on August 28, 2019 as armed police patrol the area. Photo/CFM – MOSES MUOKI

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 29- Kibra constituency is unique in many ways, it is the face of what Kenya is; the story of haves and have nots.

Here, you will find one of the residence of one of Kenya’s richest man, Daniel arap Moi, who was Kenya’s second president. You will also encounter a golf club.

The constituency, hived off from Langa’ata, hosts the  Kibera slum which is famed as Africa’s largest urban slum said to host approximately 1.2 million dwellers on an area of 2.5 square kilometers.

It is a constituency widely seen as the heartbeat of Africa Union’s Special envoy for Infrastructure Raila Odinga’s politics, where he has a fanatical following, having been Member of Parliament there for long.

When Capital News visited Kibra, as it is on any other day, it was a beehive of activities, as men and women do all they can to make ends meet. But something else was also happening.

A man only identified as “Mzee wa Kijiji” could be seen with a loudspeaker making rounds while one could easily notice small group of largely men engaging in heated debates.

“It is about our future. Don’t vote for your tribe or political party, vote for the one who will change your life positively,” the man, with a sweaty face, would plead.

Evidently, political temperatures are slowly rising in Kibra, following the death of Ken Okoth, the area MP, in July-at a time he was serving his second term, under the Odinga-led Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party.

Who will fill in Okoth’s enormous shoes?

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The story of Kibra can only be told by locals, a reality that prompted us to join one of the groups, discussing the forthcoming by-election, slated for November 7.

With a cemented legacy in development, aspirants of the Kibra Constituency seat have the late Okoth’s development record to beat, locals who were in this group, mainly the youth said.

According to them, the man or woman, who will convince the residents that he can scale the constituency even higher, than where Okoth left, will carry the day.

This alone, they said, is not enough to guarantee one a chance to clinch victory, as Kenya’s main parties- Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress (ANC), ODM and the ruling Jubilee Party- battle out for the seat.

There is also the lot that will vie as independent candidates.

Party loyalists, however, pegs their support for their specific political affiliation on how the party primaries will be carried out and whether the people’s choice will be respected.

“This is largely an ODM stronghold. It is very unlikely for other parties to win, we wouldn’t want to disappoint Jakom (Raila Odinga),” Joel Oboya, who was being referred as the chairman of the group said.

But he cautioned that should the party he fondly loves, ODM, get it wrong in the primaries, they will lose the seat.

ODM leader Raila Odinga addresses a rally in Kibra in August 2019. Photo/CFM-FILE.

“We are worried of cartels who go seat somewhere and decide who should be our leader. We should be allowed to make a decision free from interference,” Oboya added, to a unison “hapo hapo (exactly)” from his colleagues.

“If the nomination exercise will not be free and fair, it will be an open race for all including the independent candidates.”

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Simeon Ogolla, gave an anecdote to explain his position; “we love our party (ODM), but it comes at a time when you can disagree with your father if, for example, he tells you to go and kill your mother. Kibra is our mother, we won’t destroy it.”

To shed even more light, he added, “If ODM interferes with the nominations, they will know we are tired of such politics.”

On August 25, Odinga led dozens of aspirants under his party, to a familiarization rally in Kibra, where he said, “the best candidate will carry our party’s flag.”

Ogolla and Obuya want those words to be respected, by the people they term as “cartels.”

Of those battling for ODM nomination ticket include Okoth’s brother Imran, reggae Deejay Kriss Darlin, the party’s National Youth Co-ordinator Benson Musungu among others.

Imran attempts to argue his case during the rally bore no fruits, as he was booed by the highly charged crowd, putting his ambitions into a spin.

Also in the race is Odinga’s former advisor and close ally Eliud Owalo, who will be flying the ANC flag.

In an unpredictable move, after Jubilee Party’s Secretary General Raphael Tuju announced that the party will also field a candidate, having invited applications by Friday.

Tuju has dismissed as fake a letter sent to the electoral agency, IEBC, purporting to nominate five candidates—including football star McDonald Mariga.

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-The party and tribe card-

Kibra is largely cosmopolitan and even so, those who spoke to Capital News said the tribe and party factor will be a major determinant, in how the by-election will go.

A section of Kibra, in Nairobi. Photo/MOSES MUOKI.

Just like at the national arena, where political heavyweights lobby support from tribal blocks, candidates there will need to align themselves along those lines, they said.

“I don’t want to lie, a tribe is a factor just as a party is,” Obuya said, adding “this at times has led us to get a raw deal.”

His sentiments were shared by Kennedy Ndinda.

“It is ODM that will give the rest a run for their money,” he said but insisted the nominations must be beyond reproach.

Political pundits say the move by Jubilee is set to ruffle feathers with ODM and put to test the dalliance the two parties share following the March 9, 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and the ODM leader.

It was largely expected that they will not field a candidate, over a perceived reciprocation pact the party had on fielding candidates on either’s stronghold regions in an event of a by-election like it was the case in Migori senatorial mini-poll and Kitui West parliamentary by-election.

ODM would later pay in kind after they failed to field a candidate for the Wajir West parliamentary- Ahmed Kolosh who had decamped the party was declared winner.

What Kibra needs

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While Okoth did a lot in improving the education sector, Kibra still lags behind in many other developmental fronts.

Their problems range from lack of water, poor sanitation, poor drainage, insecurity, and poverty, in what is an endless list.

It is a mountain of problems that can only be addressed one by one, the locals who have retired to fate, said.

“An MP cannot alleviate all our problems. But he or she can do something to improve our lives,” Janet Mwendwa, a resident said.

Hellen Atieno, on the other hand, wants their next leader to “empower women mostly those who don’t have husbands. Someone who will help us in our businesses.”

“We also want someone who will fairly give bursary fees to the needy children,” the fish vendor said.

Her sentiments were shared by Ann Kosgei, who said the next leader should serve all communities living there, without discrimination.

“Ken Okoth knew no tribal borders,” the single mother of four said.

Okoth succumbed to cancer on July 26.

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