Race to succeed Senator Kimani Wamatangi in Senate hots up
Buoyed by Senator Kimani Wamatangi’s intention to run for governor in next year’s election, five contenders have so far declared interests in the Kiambu Senate seat.
The five are the Director of Political Affairs in the Office of the President Machel Waikenda, former county Speaker Gathii Irungu, former County Youth CEC Karungo Thang’wa, Biashara MCA Njoroge Kururia and former Sigona MCA Mutonya Njenga.
While some of the aspirants are engaging in flurry of activities on the ground, others are mounting online campaigns where they, and their surrogates, are engaging voters on social media platforms.
Those who are already active on the ground are Waikenda, who has been running social economic programmes through his Waikenda Foundation since 2018, Gathii, who is reaching out to residents using his Wakili Gathii Irungu Foundation, while Njenga, a real estate dealer, has been sponsoring activities beyond his ward.
Waikenda, who is making a debut in elective politics, will be banking on his past encounter with the electorate, having served as county Youth Executive.
He is credited for pro-youth initiatives such as introduction of Baishara Fund, a revolving kitty meant to provide youth, women and people living with disability with affordable credit, organising trainings on entrepreneurship besides running talent and sports related activities.
“We have been working with the people. We understand their issues and we are waiting for the appropriate time so that we can launch the campaign.
But it is given that when time comes, we will be in the senatorial race because we have experience and ability to fight for the interests of devolution to spur growth in the county,” Waikenda, who hails from Gatundu in Kiambu East, told People Daily.
Prior to joining Kiambu County Government then led by William Kabogo, Waikenda worked as a communication strategist at the defunct The National Alliance (TNA) of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Gathii, a lawyer who was elected Kiambu Speaker in 2014 after the ouster of Nick Ndichu, will be making a second attempt in elective politics, having unsuccessfully run for the Ruiru parliamentary seat in 2013 and lost to Esther Gathogo.
The former Speaker, who is an ally of Kabogo, has been attending public events across the county to campaign for the seat and has also been engaging in community activities through his foundation.
“We want to bring our legal expertise and experience in legislation, having served as a Speaker. My plan is to support and protect devolution through Bills in the Senate.
We intend to push for a seamless flow of county funds and ensure it is increased so that we have equity in development and provision of services,” Gathii said.
Though regional balance is expected to be a factor in the race, candidates’ popularity among the people and ability to articulate issues related to oversight matter will also expected to play a role on who wins the seat.
In 2017 election, Wamatangi was re-elected with over 700,000 votes despite hailing from Kiambu West just like then governor candidate Ferdinand Waititu and running mate James Nyoro.
Party dynamics will also be a factor. Candidates will be seeking to be in a party that sits well with the locals.
Also crucial will be the ability of the candidates to crisscross the 12 constituencies to market themselves.
Karungo, a former MCA for Ngewa in Githunguri, is currently the National Organising Secretary of ex-Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri’s The Service Party.
This is the second time he will be contesting for the seat having failed to dislodge Wamatangi in 2017.
The former broadcaster, who also served as Youth CEC during Waititu’s short-lived tenure, was impeached in October 2019 by MCAs over claims of abuse of office. Waititu suffered the same fate barely two months later.
“I want to tell you that I will be contesting for the same seat (which he unsuccessfully contested for in 2017),” Karungo told a football event in Gatundu where he also declared his support for Deputy President William Ruto.
In 2017, Karungo who ran as an independent candidate, garnered 222,183 votes against Wamatangi’s 727,092.
Njoroge said that while he was still monitoring the political developments in the county and country, he was “very sure that I will not be defending the MCA seat”.
“It will either go for the position of MP, Senator or even governor. I have been a chair of the county Jubilee MCAs caucus, meaning that I have been a county leader already and again the work of a senator is to oversee counties, and I excelled in that having played a key role in the impeachment of Waititu,” he said.
Mutonya, who is allied to Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and his Chama Cha Kazi party, said he is confident that he has “the political know-how and ready to take up the leadership role of Kiambu senator”.