Why Migori top seat seekers can’t ignore Kuria tribe
Focus turns to Kuria East and West constituencies in Migori County, which are expected to provide the swing vote in the fight for governorship.
In the last two elections, incumbent Governor Zachary Obado picked his deputy from Kuria, in an effort to woo the region to vote for him.
The Kuria community accounts for 30 per cent of the Migori population. Obado’s deputy; Nelson Mahanga, a Kuria resident used his influence to amass votes from the two constituencies.
At the dawn of devolution, former Assistant Minister Wilfred Machage, demanded that minorities must be accommodated in the county leadership.
He then threatened that, if they are not brought to the negotiating table, Kurias would pull out of Migori and be part of Narok County.
Kuria’s neighbour the Maasai, the Kipsigis in western Transmara and the Luo om Migori.
The threat whether veiled or not, served as a warning to the county power men, who responded by allowing the Kuria’s to be given the deputy’s slot.
ODM leader Raila Odinga intervened in the 2013 General Election and gave the community three posts.
They got the Woman Rep slot (Denita Ghati), Senator Machage, Deputy Governor Mahanga.
But the Luo reclaimed the Woman Rep and senatorial seat, which went to Ben Oluoch Okello and Pamela Odhiambo.
Oluoch died- occasioning a by-election which was won by senator Ochillo Ayacko
Ayacko has declared interest in the governor’s seat and has promised to pick his deputy from Kuria. Others interested in the seat are former MPs Dalmas Otieno (Rongo) and John Pesa (Migori).
Also in the race are former Nyatike MP Edick Anyanga, Woman Representative Pamela Odhiambo, and businessmen Robert Okong’o, Phillip Ogari Mwabe, Owiso Ngao, Migori County Secretary Christopher Rusana and County Assembly Speaker Boaz Okoth.
Ayacko who has been making frequent forays into the region, was last week crowned as a Kuria elder.
But political analyst, Matiko Bohoko says the Kuria swing-vote narrative may not work this time round.
“Nearly all aspirants aim at picking a running mate from Kuria. This means, the votes will be divided among them.
This defies the essence of being a swing vote,” said Bohoko of the area with nearly 100,000 voters. But Ayacko says he is keen to bag Kuria votes, given the elders backing.
“It is my prayer that all will go well,” he said. Mwita Nyangi ;a political analyst says that members of their community will bargain for more seats.
“We will do our best to ensure we pick the best candidates. But if all the aspirants, decide to pick running mates from Kuria, then they risk making their chances thin,” said Mwita.
Ayacko was crowned a Kuria elder at Korosaro Grounds in Kuria West in a ceremony presided over by elders from Nyabasi, Bwirege, Bagumbe and Bukira sub clans.
Kuria East constituency is headquartered in Kegonga and Kuria West has a base in Kehancha, where Ayacko was coronated.
Ayacko was crowned and given the Kuria name ‘Mwita’, meaning the firstborn.
According to an elder Mwikwabe Nyamoita; such an initiation and installation is done by the elders as a sign of respect in bid to chart the community’s political future.
“Elders in Kuria always sit to offer key leadership direction, to guide the young people in making right and informed choices,’’ he says.
Traditionally, Kuria is a pastoral and farming community, which grows maize, beans, cassava, food, coffee and maize.
“The prioritisation of developing these sectors has always been top of the community’s priority in picking leaders,’’ says Nyamoita.
The community also keeps cattle and grow tobbaco; which is its major cash crop; whose industries the cokmmunity has been pushing to revive.
Currently, Kuria is divided into several clans, with some living in Kenya and in Tanzania.
In Kenya, the four clans are, the Abagumbe, Abairege, Abanyabasi and Abakira.
In Tanzania, they are 13 clans. These are the Abapemba, Ababurati, Abakira, Abamera, Simbete, Abanyabasi, Watobori, Abakunta, Wiga.
Others are Kaboye, Abakenye, Abagumbe and Wasweta, Abatimbaru. During the General Election, some of those living in Tanzania troop to Kenya and vote.
With the dual citizenship, the Kuria live and work freely in the two countries. They also own property in both countries.
“They are also allowed to work in either country without work permit or visas and can attend school in either country,’’ says Lucas Chacha, an opinion leader.
Pesa and Okon’go too have been making trips to the Kuria region.
Migori County has 388,633 registered voters and 826 polling stations. It also has eight constituencies namely Rongo, Awendo, Suna East, Suna West, Uriri, Nyatike, Kuria West and Kuria East.