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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Behind-the-scene deals in Homa Bay by-election

The one million dollar question as to whether Cord leader Raila Odinga is losing grip over Luo Nyanza political panorama and by extension his Orange Democratic Movement of which he has spearheaded wholeheartedly will finally be answered when Homa Bay voters cast their votes in the senatorial by-elections slated for February 2 this year to elect their new senator following the demise of the late Gerald Otieno Kajwang.
And to forestall an impending humiliation and fallout, Raila is said to be secretly holding talks with a number of candidates vying for the seat to step down in favour of his ODM preferred candidate.
That things are not good for Raila in Homa Bay was well manifested when the house of an ODM official Andrew Okun was set to be burned down on allegations that he was going to host the ODM party leader.
Flashback! What happened in Gatundu South constituency by-election where president Uhuru Kenyatta prevailed upon MP Moses Kuria’s opponent Kiarie Kamere to step down to avoid a defeat is bound to happen in Homa Bay.
 Sources privy to the political intrigues told us that those targeted are candidates from the Suba clan. Raila is said to be well informed of two faces, Hillary Alila and Philip Okundi, that they cannot step down for their perceived principality. Caroli Omondi, a former Raila aide, has kept many guessing as events unfold in the county.
Analysts say Raila’s preference of Moses Kajwang, the late Otieno Kajwang’s younger brother, will either make or break his dominance in South Nyanza politics as signs indicate that he is most likely to be humiliated at the mercy of the voters.
Sources say Raila had divulged to his confidantes that he was under pressure from Kajwang’s father to push for Moses to get the slot while Raila himself, was for former Rangwe MP Phillip Okundi. However, for him not to be seen to annoy the Suba clan in the county, he had to back one of their own. Okundi is not a Suba.
Going by the unfolding events and the kind of rebellion Kajwang and his campaign team have met since they launched their campaigns, it is now emerging that Okundi and Alila are the frontrunners, so to speak, and the prediction is that Moses could finish a poor third. Another formidable face in the race is Fred Rabongo.
To show how rebellious Homa Bay voters have become, during one of the rallies to drum up support for Kajwang the younger, the rally ended tragically with scores of people hurt. Sources say even attempts by ODM chairman John Mbandi to cool tempers of the rowdy youths fell on deaf ears as mayhem took centrestage. 
The ugly incident happened at Olare market which is Okundi’s political bedrock in Rangwe constituency. Kajwang’s caravan  which  took  off  from  Chabera market  near  Sondu  in Kabondo  Kasipul   snaked  through  market  centres, including  Kabondo, Oyugis  town, Kosele  Kendu  Bay, Nyangweso, Olare  and Kochia.
All the areas were peaceful except in Rangwe where Okundi supporters could not listen to Kajwang’s request for votes.
What this means, therefore is that Rangwe is locked out and is likely to vote as a block for Okundi. The same scenario is likely to be witnessed in Ndhiwa where Alila is also expected to lock out other candidates.
Already, MPs have taken sides and are either secretly or openly supporting their preferred candidates.  In Kajwang’s camp are Mbandi, governors Cyprian Awiti of Homa Bay and Cornel  Rasanga  Siaya. Others are nominated MP Oburu Odinga, Sillvance Osele, Kabondo-Kasipul, Oyugi  Magwanaga, Kasipul, TJ Kajwang of Ruaraka, Onyango K’oyoo, Muhoroni, Fred Outa, Nyando, Opiyo Wandai, Ugunja and Homa Bay women representative Gladys Wanga. Incidentally, majority of those backing the young Kajwang are outsiders.
Equally, divided over who to support are professionals from Homa Bay county who are torn apart in supporting the ODM candidate and their preferred candidates who are not in ODM. The Homa Bay county so-called Salvation Front Lobby Group has told voters to weigh all candidates individually regardless of party affiliation so that the county can get a good representative in the Senate.
Another Kajwang’ rally almost ended prematurely in Alila’s bastion in Ndhiwa where they received a hostile reception  by his supporters forcing the caravan to speed off but at one stage, it was blocked by rowdy hoodlums forcing the entourage to shift route and skip some rallies programmed in the itinerary.
Analysts now say Kajwang  is  political novice whose  name  only appeared in newspapers  after  the  death of his  brother. Sources say giving Kajwang a direct ticket is a big blunder and Raila will pay dearly for it as it is likely to bring to an abrupt end the Odinga influence in greater South Nyanza. There are even claims Moses has never voted in any election.
Kajwang’ is now banking on the Suba votes which sources say he is likely to get as a block. However, the Kajwang family of Waondo clan has an insignificant number of registered voters. It is non-indignant clan whose roots could be traced in central Nyanza and  does not belong to the Suba group and is classified as a minority of  immigrant sub-clan of not more than 50 homesteads.
Analysts further say that as much as Raila is expected to pitch tent in Homa Bay, it will be a tall order for him to succeed in mounting an effective campaign to propel his choice to clinch victory in hostile circumstances that are now prevailing in the area. 
It is now emerging that with Rangwe, Suba, Mbita and Ndhiwa votes almost decided in backing one of their own man to man, the constituencies that are likely to provide swing votes are Kasipul-Kabondo with 79,000 registered voters, Karachuonyo (65,000) and Homa Bay town with 36,000 registered voters.
Kajwang must again work on how to contain Silas Jakakimba who has defected to UDP. He comes from Mfangano Island. He is now being seen by ODM as a spoiler for Kajwang since he is likely to split the Suba votes. Fred Rabongo who also defected from ODM after ODM handpicked Kajwang’ is also in the race and has further complicated things for Kajwang. However, there have been rumours that both Rabongo and Jakakimba are likely to withdraw from the race to support Kajwang’ at Raila intervention.
As campaigns gain momentum, it is now emerging that it could shape up to a two-horse race between Alila and Okundi on the other hand. Sources say the two are currently neck to neck with Okundi now being said to be enjoying support in Karachuonyo constituency.
He and Alila are also being said to be enjoying sympathy taking into account that they were all along the leading contenders until Raila came up with his project Kajwang to pacify the family of the late senator. A number of Luo MPs from within and out South Nyanza region, are secretly backing Okundi including Raila’s brother Oburu.
Alila enjoys the support of the youthful vote that propelled him to be second to Kajwang in 2013. He is seen as a neutral face in Kajwang and Okundi’s political duels.
Those who have been keenly following the Homa Bay events as they unfold say that Raila was under pressure to back Okundi, a man who has for many years stood by him but has abandoned him at the hour of need.
There have been rumours that Okundi was one of the financiers of Raila’s 2007 and 2013 campaigns. Another key player from the county is Nairobi governor Evans Kidero. He has remained silent and is said not to be backing any candidate for now. During the nominations process, he was out of the country.
Recently, Okundi took Raila headon and accused him of double standards and highhandedness and terming the ODM nominations as shambolic and undemocratic. Okundi is running on Maendeleo Democratic Party ticket. He accused Raila of betrayal for picking the least qualified candidate to fly the ODM flag.
It is emerging that ODM did a survey to determine who among the aspirants was popular and sources say Okundi was the most preferred candidate.