Marsabit County Governor Ukur Yattani adress residents. (Photo: Boniface Thuku/Standard)
Clan politics and influence of the major coalitions will significantly define the outcome of the Marsabit governor’s seat race.
“Clannism is a big factor and whoever manages to marshall the support of other big clans like Rendille, Burji and Garre among others will carry the day,” argued David Timado, an economics graduate from University of Washington and a resident of Marsabit.
Mr Timado explained each clan would be keen to vote its line-up as it seeks to control the Sh5.7 billion annual allocation for the country’s largest county.
Governor Ukur Yattani, who was elected on an ODM ticket, is set to face off with his rival in the 2013 polls, Muhamud Ali.
Yattani is reportedly set to decamp to the ruling Jubilee Party, a development that has unsettled Ali’s camp.
Ali unsuccessfully vied for the seat on United Republican Party ticket.
Why Jubilee is fighting for control of Coast
He resigned from his position as chairman of the National Hospital and Insurance Fund (NHIF), to which he was appointed by the Jubilee Government, to contest the seat.
Ali has been endorsed by his Borana clan to battle it out with Yattani from Gabra clan.
Also in the race is Umuro Sora Adano alias USA also from the Gabra clan. The London School of Economics graduate is yet to declare on which party he would vie for the seat.
Ali’s camp is apprehensive that Yattani could be handed a direct ticket by the ruling coalition.
It is on the back of this concern that recently Jubilee Party (JP) leaders from Isiolo, Marsabit and Tana-River Counties demanded the party either conducts fair nominations in Marsabit or they bolt out.
MPs Tiyah Galgalo (Isiolo), Abdullahi Banticha (Isiolo South), Ali Wario (Bura) and Ali Rasso (Saku) called on JP to ensure credible nominations.
They spoke in Moyale Town at a rally convened by Ali and his key ally Marsabit Senator Abubakar Harugura (ODM).
Yattani is backed by some Borana leaders including Moyale MP Roba Duba and former Saku MP Jarso Jillo Falana. Both Duba and Falana said Yattani had incorporated in his administration all clans, adding they would rally Borana votes behind him in the polls.
The governor also has backing of Laisamis MP Joseph Lekuton (Rendille) and North Horr legislator Chachu Ganya (Gabra).
However, the aspirants would have to contend with Borana speaking politicians from Tana River, Isiolo and Marsabit who had formed an alliance in Machakos last year where they vowed to vote as a bloc for a party that aspires to develop their region.
During Moyale rally, where Ali announced his line-up for the August polls, the leaders from Isiolo and Tana River vowed to “go with him anywhere” if the JP nominations would not be fair.
“We call on our party to ensure that nomination is conducted in Marsabit and it must pass the test of being transparent. We will not accept anything short of that,” said Ms Galgalo who was elected on TNA ticket in 2013 polls.
Wario said “we have a pact as one people to back each other and take care of the welfare of our people. Jubilee should not be misled that there are more popular candidates than others”.
Mr Banticha of defunct URP concurred, saying the party should pick its flag-bearers after conducting fair nominations.
Harugura was more direct when he said both President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto should not interfere in local politics.
“They (Uhuru and Ruto) also have competitors, we in Marsabit are more interested in county politics because we want to know how our money is spent,” said the senator.
When the President visited Marsabit last month, sources told Siasa 2017 he implored both Ali and Yattani camps to agree on sharing of seats in the county that was hit by bloody clashes in 2013 and 2014 where hundreds were killed in Moyale.
Sources from Ali’s camp accuse JP of favouring Yattani’s side.
The former NHIF boss announced his line-up that includes Harugura (Rendille, Senator), a tutor from Nyahururu Teachers College Solomon Bubo (Burji, deputy governor) and it is spoilt for choice on woman representative between two aspirants from the Garre clan.
“My line-up comprises all big and small communities and we even have some backing from the governor’s community. This is the winning team,” claimed Ali, whose line up was endorsed by the leaders’ respective clans.
Ali and Harugura are traversing the vast county to popularise their team.
Adano, who is an international development consultant based in the United States, said the community “wants a person who will focus on development and work closely with all other communities in the county”.
Adano is backed by Sarah Godana, the widow of the late Bonaya Godana who was a Cabinet minister in the Moi era, who is from Gabra clan. Godaba died in the April 2006 Marsabit plane crash. Others supporting Adano are six MPs and Dibo Umuro, daughter of the late Marsabit North MP Umuro Issako.
Adano said: “I have a proven record of managing large multi-million-dollar development programmes and led many technical teams and facilitating complex negotiations involving multiple stakeholders, and achieving pragmatic, context-driven results in low-resource settings in several countries”.
Insecurity which had been a problem in the past might not be a major issue because it has been significantly addressed in the county.