Matiang’i, Ongwae face off ahead of next week’s Bonchari contest
Geoffrey Mosoku and Robert Ochoro
Next Tuesday’s by-election in Bonchari constituency, Kisii County, has turned erstwhile allies into rivals as Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i leads the Jubilee campaigns.
Matiang’i is now facing off with Kisii Governor James Ongwae as the two lead efforts by Jubilee and ODM, respectively, to clinch the seat that fell vacant following the death of Oroo Oyioka.
Although the CS is yet to personally campaign in Bonchari, his hand is highly visible with reports that chiefs and police officers in the area are actively campaigning for Jubilee’s Zebedeo Opore.
Last month, a bid to avoid a face-off between the two parties failed after a group of ODM leaders close to Matiang’i failed to convince opposition leader Raila Odinga to prevail upon the party’s candidate Pavel Oimeke to step down for Opore.
Ongwae is said to have avoided active campaigns for Oimeke until Raila asked him to take charge of the campaigns following an internal ODM report that showed the party leadership in Kisii county was missing in the campaign trail.
In the past, Ongwae and Matiang’i, who are also neighbours at Simbauti farm in Borabu sub-county, have been seen together and at one time the Kisii governor led Gusii leaders to endorse Matiang’i for a higher position.
In January this year, Gusii Council of Elders made an announcement after a meeting at the Agricultural Training Centre that they would support the CS for a bigger seat.
Governor Ongwae, his Nyamira counterpart Amos Nyaribo, Senators Sam Ongeri (Kisii) and Okong’o Omogeni of Nyamira county agreed to support the CS’s ambitions.
“As a people, we must be united and be on the high table so that we can benefit when the national cake is being shared,” Ongwae said then.
Their unity is now being tested as the two lead rival camps for the seat that has attracted 13 candidates.
As a sign of growing friction between the two camps,the opposition party has written to the elections agency to rein in Matiang’i after several ODM supporters were summoned by police over claims of involvement in poll malpractices.
As the campaigns reach the homestretch, candidates have been appealing for peace during the campaigns, election and after announcement of results.
The candidates are also imploring voters to elect a leader based on his or her development record and policies, not handouts.
United Green Movement Party candidate Mary Otara noted that some candidates were spending millions of shillings to influence voters.
“Do not vote based on money. Look for qualities of a leader who will serve you well once you elect him or her,” Otara said after a debate of the candidates hosted by Vuna Radio at the weekend.
She said the candidates were using social media to campaign, meet small groups of people at polling stations and churches in conformity with the government’s protocols on Covid-19.
Otara, who was Kisii County Woman Representative between 2013 and 2017, urged voters to embrace the Covid-19 guidelines to curb spread of the pandemic during the campaigns and voting.
Paul Matagaro (Mwangaza Tu Party), Victor Omanwa (Party of Economic Democracy), Kevin Mosomi (Party of Democracy Unity) and Teresa Gesare (Maendeleo Chap Chap), also pleaded with voters to elect a leader who would not let them down.
“I urge voters to elect a good leader regardless of his or her political party. It is not the party which works but a leader,” Mosomi said during the debate.
Matagaro said the Abanchari were peaceful people and outsiders should leave them to elect a leader of their choice.
Oroo’s widow, Teresa Bitutu, is vying on the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party, which is associated with Deputy President William Ruto. She has the backing of party leaders Omingo Magara and Manson Oyongo of the Kenya National Congress.
Clan dynamics are expected to play a big role in the outcome of the by-election that is expected to climax as vocting day draws closer.
Meanwhile, area Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) returning officer Benson Ambuko has reminded the candidates to wind up their campaigns by May 15 in compliance with the commission’s rules.