How Ford-K, ANC bid to field one candidate in Kibra flopped

Monday, October 7th, 2019 09:00 |
Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula (2nd left) with the party flagbearer for Kibra by-election Khamisi Butichi and Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa at a recent rally. Photo/PD/FILE

A secret meeting between Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford-Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula early August backfired after the ex-Vice President backtracked on a deal to field a “neutral candidate” for the Kibra by-election, the People Daily has establised. 

The move plunged the duo into political confusion, with Ford-Kenya hastily opting to separately field a candidate. Politicians allied to both ANC and Ford-Kenya confirmed  the disagreement. 

In fact, when Mudavadi recently disclosed at a campaign rally in Kibra that he was under pressure to field a candidate from his Luhya community in the forthcoming by-election, he may well have been referring to Wetang’ula. 

The People Daily has since learnt that the two leaders from the former Western Province had entered into a pact to identify and back a “neutral candidate” from the Luhya community, with the aim of snatching the seat from former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM. 

According to a close confidant of the Ford-Kenya leader, who is privy to the plot, the identified contestant was to vie as an independent candidate: “That would have given both ANC and Ford-Kenya opportunity to jointly support the candidate besides avoiding open confrontation with Opposition colleague, Raila, by directly fielding a candidate in Kibra, considering it is an ODM seat,” explains the second-term legislator who spoke on conditions of anonymity. 

Contacted for comment, Ford-Kenya’s secretary general Dr Eseli  Simiyu was cagey about the Mudavadi-Wetang’ula “secret meeting”.

Although he neither denied nor confirmed existence of the said meeting, Eseli said they were “in continuous discussions” over the Kibra by-election. 

“In one of our meetings, we agreed on the need for a consensus in approaching the Kibra by-election. But even before we explored the matter, ANC announced a candidate and we felt  slighted by Mudavadi,” said Eseli yesterday. 

 The deal accordingly collapsed when Mudavadi “suddenly” identified Raila’s head of presidential campaign in 2013, Eliud Owalo, as his party’s flag bearer. Owalo hails from Asembo, Rarieda in Siaya. 

In essence, Owalo’s entry in the race on a presumed “Luhya party” marked the end of the Mudavadi-Wetangula secret deal. Ford-Kenya accordingly settled on Khamisi Butichi as its flag bearer in the Kibra race. 

Butichi unsuccessfully vied for Ikolomani parliamentary seat, Kakamega County, in the 2017 polls.  

With ANC and Ford-Kenya going for each other’s neck in the Kibra contest, there are fresh fears that Kibra could be the alter upon which the political marriage between Mudavadi and Wetang’ula could collapse.  

It appears the point of departure between Mudavadi and Wetang’ula is their political mobilisation approach.

While Wetang’ula is keen at solidifying his western Kenya support base, Mudavadi projects a national image by intensifying political activities across the country. 

According to ANC secretary general Barack Muluka, the Mudavadi-led party is a national outfit with political interests beyond western Kenya. 

This partly explains why the party settled for Owalo, a non-Luhya, as candidate for Kibra seat, which fell vacant following the death of area MP Ken Okoth late July. 

Even as the camps allied to Mudavadi and Wetang’ula scramble for the Luhya vote in Kibra, their duel is further complicated by the entry of the ruling party’s MacDonald Mariga. 

Though a political greenhorn, the candidature of the ex-international soccer star from Funyula in Busia has attracted a barrage of criticism from ANC, Ford-Kenya and ODM politicians. 

“There is a misconception that Mariga is the weakest candidate in the race. However the persistent attacks is a pointer of the opposite.

First, Mariga boasts of name recognition besides a powerful machine of the Jubilee ruling party, which is behind his candidature,” says Arthur Odera, a former MP for Teso North.   

He  maintains the Mariga factor will no doubt complicate the Luhya equation for Mudavadi and Wetang’ula.

The focus on the Luhya voting bloc, believed to be the majority, is similarly of interest to the ODM party, whose candidate for next month’s poll is the late Okoth’s brother, Imran Ochieng’ Okoth.

 In the meantime, Eseli remains hopeful that the ANC and Ford-Kenya merger “may come to pass” after Kibra poll: “This is the only development that will rescue the Luhya community politically.”

More on National