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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Wetangula, Eugene now licking wounds after URP thrashing

Our Reporter

Voters in Matumbei ward, Trans Nzoia county on December 29 2014 went to the polls in a by-election to elect a new rep following the death of Ronald Matangolo.
The results that followed the hot campaigns by political parties were more telling than all the expectations. Eugene Wamalwa of New Ford Kenya and Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya which had been marked as frontrunners were pipped by William Ruto’s United Republican Party and will have to blame themselves for failing to front one candidate. Former area civic leader Philip Sakong emerged victorious ahead of Matongolo’s widow Judith whom NFK had fronted to get sympathy votes to replace her late husband.
Perhaps, what Eugene battling with Wetang’ula forgot over the Bukusu sub tribe supremacy in the Kenyan political arena is that it has become almost impossible for widows to inherit their dead men’s seats. Even for him, it was impossible for Eugene to succeed his senior brother vice president Michael Wamalwa at the first attempt. He ought to have learned the political hard way since then.
 For Wetang’ula, the Bungoma senator and Cord co-principal, it was within his constitution domain for his party to field a candidate in Matumbei. His aides said his was not an attempt to outwit Eugene but to grant FK the participation rights. But after the “shocking” Matumbei outcome, questions still abound:  How did URP manage to outshine Eugene and Wetang’ula in the Ford parties’ zone? What was the secret formula? And could this be the starting point of URP’s entry into politics of Trans Nzoia county to make a strong foothold?
It only started on a low note with URP concluding its nominations with Sakong carrying the day against the forward Ken Ndibiwa who initially had been sacked by Endebess MP Robert Pukose as his constituency office manager.
Sabaot bigwigs such as book distributor Lisa Lisiang’a and Trans Nzoia URP chair, Simon Psiwa rallied behind Ndibiwa whom they hoped to carry the day. But things started taking a different turn with the arrival of Mike Mbito.
Armed financially to the teeth, and with a chopper to facilitate easy campaings, Mbito with the blessings from URP, MP Charles Keter, who is DP Ruto’s close ally and confidante, spent the Christmas holidays criss-crossing the ward. Mbito who caused ripples in the 2013 Trans-Nzoia gubernatorial  contest as the running mate of Kakai Bisau on NFK ticket seem to have realised that East or West, home is best as the old adage goes and therefore,  decided to camp in Matumbei for the sake of the URP victory.
Bisau has since deserted Eugene’s party and moved on to Wetang’ula’s FK on whose he intends to challenge Eugene in 2017 for gubernatorial seat. Tellingly though,  after Matumbei ward results saw Sabaot opinion shapers meet in Kitale and endorsed Mbito to fight it out for the governor’s slot alongside Eugene, Bisau  with the incumbent Patrick Khaemba.
According to elders Michael Chebus and Hezekiah Kiprop, there is nothing difficult in Sabaot securing the governor’s slot “if we could do in Matumbei”.  Chebus and Kiprop are supported by yet another elder, Mzee Pius Kauka who says Sabaots will team up with other smaller communities in the county to strike the deal.
Kauka, a former Kitale deputy mayor, says despite Sabaots fully backing Khaemba in 2013, he had only appointed one person from their community to his executive. But Mbito himself was reserved on his endorsement and only opted to say he is still considering several options before he could make his final decision.
 URP’s victory in Matumbei was however a wake-up call to the Luhya MPs who met later to make a Sikhendu Declaration in which they lambasted the idea of sharing political seats among the area tribes.
The Luhya legislators who included Chris Wamalwa (Kiminini), David Lazaro (Sabaot) Eugene and Janet Nangabo (women representative) discarded the 2010 Mabanga Declaration that brought together the Bukusu, Tesos  and Sabaots. Of particular concern was Trans-Nzioa senator Henry Ole Ndiema (a Sabaot) who was accused of having not implored on Sabaots to back his own FK candidate in Matumbei.
URP’s win is likely to alter the political landscape in the county with the party taking over the majority seat in the county assembly which had been held by NFK.
But Sabaot fraternity is not bothered by these threats and has vowed to go ahead with what they described as alienation of their community by Khaemba’s county government.
 For example, says Chebus, senator Ole Ndiema should not be sacrificed over the Matumbei seat since it is the Luhya politicians who divided themselves over the by- election. And for the activist, Ken Wafula who had called for Ole Ndiema’s censure, the Sabaot opinion leaders were united that the Eldoret-based human rights advocate was only making his wishful thinking.
But what lessons can be learnt from Matumbei? For how long will Eugene and Wetang’ula hold Bukusu at ransom? For one, the defeat of Eugene’s party at Matumbei begs more question than answers and his capability of bagging the Trans-Nzoia governor’s seat.
What next for Eugene after desertion of Bisau and now Mbito? Does Wetang’ula stand moral support to continue rivaling Eugene in Trans-Nzio. And should Trans-Nzoia voters accept to continue being dictated to of their vision by Eugene and Wetang’ula?
What will they have to explain to their people should the “other” communities decide on a common goal and lock them out because of their political differences? One thing is, however, clear here: the Matumbei by-election has evoked a new political strategic plan for the 2017 polls and the two ought to read the writings on the wall.
Already, Pukose has declared Cherangany to be a URP zone considering that the area MP Wisley Korir, on an independent ticket, is angling towards URP while former MP Joshua Kuttuny is regarded as TNA sympathiser.
For Kwanza constituency, it seems the area can go the Matumbei way with a crowded NFK and FK aspirants opening way for an easy catch for a URP man, DP Ruto’s legal adviser Abraham Sing’oei. Saboti seem also to be for grabs with Kiminini being the only safest haven where newcomers include businessmen Alfred Wamang’oli and Joseph Wafula.
All said and done, it will be interesting to see if the NFK and FK MCAs will close ranks to stop URP from assuming the position of the Leader of Majority in the county assembly as they have pledged.