Murang’a factor in Nairobi county politics

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BY GODFREY WAMALWA

Political heavyweights with origins in Murang’a county and vast business interests in Nairobi are eyeing Jubilee Party nominations in the city where they will eventually battle it out with Cord candidates in next year’s general elections.

Leading the aspirants whose ancestral home is Murang’a county but either reside or have vast business interests in Nairobi is the gubernatorial aspirant, Peter Kenneth, who in the 2013 polls contested for the presidency but lost to Uhuru Kenyatta. If Kenneth decides to join Jubilee and run for the city’s most coveted and plum slot, it will complicate matters.

Kenneth, who was born in Eastlands in Nairobi and schooled at Starehe Boys’ High School, is a frontrunner for the city Jubilee Party ticket primaries given the fact that he enjoys overwhelming support from voters whose ancestral home is Murang’a but live or work in Nairobi, and others from different communities. The aspirant has also mended fences with Uhuru and William Ruto.

Kenneth has twice represented Gatanga constituency in the national assembly and is keen to win the city gubernatorial race.

Kenneth expects to get the backing of voters from his ancestral home, Murang’a, who form the largest concentration of hawkers and other workers in the informal and formal sectors of the economy. The former Re-Union Football Club goalkeeper also enjoys a good rapport with the youth from across the political divide and could beat Senator Mike Sonko and a host of other candidates for the JP ticket.

Indeed, Nairobi politics since independence has been under the control of leaders from Murang’a county with the tide only changing during the 2007 general elections.

In the Jomo Kenyatta era, the former president had to personally intervene to stop late Gerishom Kirima, from Murang’a, from unsitting his own daughter, Margaret Wambui as the mayor of Nairobi. Wambui served as the mayor of Nairobi between1970 and 1976.

But she was dethroned in a scheme organised by the moneyed group from Murang’a that installed Andrew Ngumba, then a councillor from Kiambu as the mayor.

Exit Kenyatta enters Daniel arap Moi who equally faced a daunting task of controlling Nairobi. Moi initially brought on his side Murang’a leaders including Julius Kiano, Charles Rubia, Maina Wanjigi and Kenneth Matiba in a bid to have a firm grip of Nairobi politics. The Nairobi City Council was then controlled by councillors whose ancestral home was Murang’a.

But the attempted coup d’état in 1982 helped Moi to escape a bad situation of having to rely on councillors from Murang’a to do his bidding in city politics. Moi hastily dissolved the then Nairobi City Council and appointed former cabinet minister, Fred Gumo as chair of an overseer commission. This gave Moi a political foothold in Nairobi and his candidates swept the political seats in the 1988 elections that went in history as the most rigged in independent Kenya.

In the first multiparty general election in Kenya in 1992, candidates from Kenneth Matiba’s Ford Asili won the lion’s share of seats in Nairobi. Matiba, whose running mate was outspoken Luhya politician, the late Martin Shikuku controlled Nairobi politics.

The Ford Asili led by Matiba won Dagoretti, Chris Kamuyu, Makadara, John Mutere, Starehe, Kiruhi Kimondo, Kamukunji, George Nthenge, Embakasi, Henry Ruhiu, Mathare, Muraya Macharia and also scooped majority of the civic seats.

Ford Kenya led by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga only won Langata, Raila Odinga while Kanu grabbed Westlands, Amin Walji.

In the 1997 general elections, Matiba declined to contest for the presidency citing pre-rigging but Maina Kamanda and David Mwenje were elected as MP for Starehe and Embakasi constituencies. Both have their ancestral roots in Murang’a and had served as councillors in the city council.

In the 2013 general elections, TNA scooped majority seats in Nairobi with most of them going to candidates with roots in Murang’a. They are Starehe, Kamanda, Kasarani, Njoroge Chege, Makadara, Benson Mutura Kangara, Roysambu, Waikhenya Ndirangu, Embakasi, James Gakuya, Embakasi Central, Ndirangu Kariuki and Embakasi West George Theuri.

In next year’s polls a number of aspirants with roots in Murang’a have declared interests in various seats. They are led by businessman Simon Kamangu who is eyeing the Starehe parliamentary seat currently held by Kamanda.

Kamangu, a media shy personality, is reportedly reaching out to the youth and women in his bid to unseat Kamanda. According to sources, he has already won the backing of influential businessmen from Murang’a such as the Rwathia Group of Companies. He has also been meeting the leaders of the hawkers, all in a bid to beat Kamanda during the JP nominations.

As for Kamanda, he is bracing for a battle of a lifetime and his recent appointment as a member of Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election team might turn out to be disadvantageous as he will be spending most of his time in the president campaign trail.

This, according to sources, might give one of his opponents a chance to unseat the veteran politician who has also served as a councillor in Nairobi.

Kamanda will also face one of his supporters in the nominations, councillor Julius Muchiri of Central ward, Nairobi. Mwaniki has been a close confidante of the Starehe MP and it will be interesting to see how the duo will battle it out given that in the two previous elections they have been campaigning together. Mwaniki also hails from Murang’a.

According to sources, both Mwaniki and Kamangu are capitalising on the fact that Kamanda is a pro-system leader.

To start with, their supporters argue that Uhuru has been shying away from addressing grievances by hawkers and other informal sector workers such as taxi drivers when their businesses are threatened either by the county government or politically well connected individuals.

As an example, last week taxi drivers, majority of them from Murang’a and operating in the Central Business District represented by Kamanda, protested the entry of Uber taxis in the business, arguing the taxis owned by tycoon Chris Kirubi and Uhuru’s son, Jomo, arguing they will drive them out of business. Neither any other elected Kikuyu leader came forward to defend the taxi drivers fearing antagonising the president.

But Kamanda and the other aspirants will also have to contend with the entry in the race of Steve Mbogo whose ancestral roots, however, is in Kirinyaga.

Mbogo, who intends to run on his party, Party of New Alliance which will be affiliated to ODM, is drawing his support largely from university students.

He is son of Joseph Ndwiga and his wife Francesca Ndwiga who runs a business in Kitale. It will be interesting to see who flies the JP flag in Starehe and other elective areas in Nairobi.

 

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