The Nation (Nairobi)

Kenya: Two to Face Off in Wajir North

Nairobi — Wajir North constituency made Kenyan electoral history at the polls last December when the two top candidates garnered the same number of votes, forcing the Electoral Commission to declare a "no result".

And in all fairness, the repeat election will only feature the two - Dr Ali Ibrahim of Kanu and Mr Mohammed Gabow of ODM - who recorded 3,675 votes each in the December 27, 2007, poll.

Dr Ibrahim, the former MP, has the backing of President Mwai Kibaki's PNU coalition, whose affiliates include Kanu, Narc Kenya, Ford Kenya, New Ford Kenya, Democratic Party, Ford People, Shirikisho and Safina.

The medical doctor has represented the constituency in Parliament since it was carved out of Wajir West in 1997.

But the politician isn't the least scared of his ODM rival, Mr Gabow.

He argues that he would have bagged the seat had the PNU alliance put all its eggs in one basket in last year's polls.

Narc Kenya had sponsored Mr Ahmed Omar who got 877 votes. Dr Ibrahim says Mr Omar is his cousin.

Dominant clan

And there was also another relative, Mr Abdullahi Abdi, who vied on a Kenda ticket. Dr Ibrahim says the 147 votes he got should also have gone to him.

"This time round, my family has decided to support me," Dr Ibrahim said in an interview.

Both Dr Ibrahim and Mr Gabow are from the Ajuran clan, which forms the majority of the population in the constituency.

However, the former MP has the advantage of hailing from the dominant clan, the Garen sub-clan. Mr Gabow comes from the Waqle sub-clan.

Nevertheless, the rapid influence of the ODM in North Eastern Province stands in the way of Dr Ibrahim and the entire PNU brigade.

Charged campaigns are therefore expected as PNU and ODM continue their duel for supremacy in the vast, but sparsely populated province.

Although its voting population may be insignificant by national standards, the province remains crucial during presidential elections because of the 25 per cent rule - the winning presidential candidate must secure more than 25 per cent of the vote in at least five of the eight provinces.

The virtually hung 10th Parliament also makes every seat of critical importance.

Although PNU and ODM are now partners in the grand coalition Government, the friendship will be put aside in the scramble for the five parliamentary seats and 53 civic seats.

Wajir North is set to attract more attention than ever before.

Currently, each party has five MPs in North Eastern, and a win in Wajir North would give the victorious party bragging rights on dominance in the province.

During the December election campaigns, ODM leader Raila Odinga, who is now the country's Prime Minister, made several pledges to the region's populace.

He promised to appoint one of the ODM MPs in the area to the Cabinet and transform the entire arid area by improving the infrastructure and providing the population with water for irrigation.

As such the creation of the Ministry of Development of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands, headed by Wajir East MP Ibrahim Elmi Mohamed, saw to the fulfilment of the promise. ODM also nominated two people as MPs from the region.

Such gestures have been received positively in North Eastern and will be played up during the campaigns.

The ODM campaign team will be led by Mr Mohamed backed by Mandera West MP, Mohamud Mohammed, who was appointed assistant minister for Energy after the formation of the grand coalition Government.

PNU's campaigns, on the other hand, will be led by Defence minister, Yusuf Haji.

The party will be keen to trumpet such a senior position alongside the development initiatives the Kibaki Government has initiated in the region.

On the clan issue, even if majority of the Ajuran back Dr Ibrahim, his ODM opponent is likely to get support from other smaller clans, especially Mr Mohamed's Fafi as well as the Garre ­- the third biggest clan.

Advantaged

Dr Ibrahim believes he has the advantage of incumbency, and also asserts that the ODM euphoria has waned.

He also boasts a good development record during his tenure. However, Mr Gabow too has development projects to his name.

While working with two development organisations - Sarn Africa and GTZ - he helped put up madrassa schools in the constituency.

He also helped the locals to build mosques.

Mr Gabow, who has a master's degree in sociology from the University of Nairobi, stepped down for Dr Ibrahim in 2002.

He now says it his turn because, he claims, Dr Ibrahim has failed to deliver.

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