18 May 2017

Kenya: Political Landscape in Uhuru, Ruto Strongholds Headed for Shake-Up

The political landscape in strongholds of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto is headed for a major shake-up as independent candidates go into a contest with Jubilee Party nominees.

The independents, who have since formed an association, have been having meetings as they strategise on how they will fight for various seats even as they support the re-election of President Kenyatta.

Their main argument against being sidelined is that they will shore up numbers of the presidential overall tally and therefore they should not be ignored.

There are 4,950 independent candidates, according to IEBC records.

This number includes those who are supporting the candidature of Nasa's Raila Odinga for president, and it will be hard for the two sides to ignore them as elections approach.

After the Jubilee Party primaries President Uhuru Kenyatta, pleaded with the losers to accept the outcome, saying the process was free and fair.

But the politicians are undeterred by the President's word, and have vowed to go to the ballot box as independent candidates, rubbishing calls for a "six-piece suit" election.

Sources indicate that presidential campaign team is now mulling advising the President and his deputy to ensure the independents and their supporters are not alienated.

STRATEGY MEETINGS

The Nation has learned that the independents who didn't clinch Jubilee tickets have been having a series of strategy meetings, with the latest held on Thursday in Nairobi.

Tomorrow, they are expected to hold a meeting at Safaricom Stadium Kasarani gymnasium where they will spell out their agenda.

Sources indicated that they have invited President Kenyatta to the Kasarani meeting but it was unclear if he would honour the invite.

"We are expecting to fill the 5,000-capacity gymnasium. We have received overwhelming response from across the country from independent candidates who are supporting the re-election of the President," said Tetu MP Ndung'u Gethenji.

Kiambu Governor William Kabogo, who is seen as the unofficial leader of the group, spelt out the need to allow independents to campaign for the President.

"First it's a constitutional right for us but, secondly, we know that the presidency will be won on voter turnout. In 2013, the 50-plus one was realised by 8,000 votes. If say we are 4,000 independent candidates and each of us has a minimum of 100 supporters who may not vote if we are not on the ballot then that's a very big number to ignore," he said.

BUNDOTICH KIPROP

Uasin Gishu independent candidate for the governor's seat Bundotich Kiprop said Jubilee risks losing votes if independent candidates are frustrated.

"We have a situation where supporters of Jubilee candidates may not come out to vote in large numbers because they believe their preferred candidates will win anyway and that will push voter turnout down. But if there is a healthy competition then voter turnout will be high," he said.

The Saturday meeting is also set to deliberate on the criteria used by IEBC to recruit presiding officers for August 8 elections. Some aspirants are jittery that some of the presiding officers hired by IEBC were the same ones who conducted Jubilee nominations.

Even as independents face hostility from Jubilee winners, Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi ,who is eyeing the Meru governor's seat on a Jubilee ticket, broke from the norm and said independents should be free to campaign.

"Jubilee Party nominations did not eliminate anybody and since they are going to be on the ballot, we want the people to decide who the best to represent them is. Whether you are on JP or are independent, we will consider you as Jubilee as long as you support President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy," said Mr Murungi.

'IS ANTAGONISTIC'

He said: "The relationship between us and Nasa is antagonistic but this is not the case between parties and independents who want to see President Kenyatta re-elected; the relationship is non-antagonistic. So we and our other brothers and sisters are just playing a friendly match, but the real war is between us and Nasa."

Senator Murungi pledged to work with all the elected leaders in the county irrespective of their political parties if he wins, as long as they support President Kenyatta.

But the hostility that independents are facing is not likely to go away soon in central Kenya, as nominees continue to fight.

For instance, in Kiambu, Nyeri and Muranga counties, Jubilee aspirants have launched a scathing attack on independent candidates, terming them rebels who should be treated as part of the opposition. The aspirants have asked the electorate not to entertain them.

Report by Wanjohi Githae, Agnes Aboo, Timothy Kemei and Eric Wainaina.

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