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Jubilee Party wrangles ignite fierce battle for Embu’s governor seat


Wrangles among Jubilee Party (JP) aspirants in Embu have triggered political re-alignments likely to shape the August 8 vote. Politicians, especially those eyeing the coveted governor’s seat are decamping, complaining of unfairness in the party ahead of nominations.

Already, Senator Lenny Kivuti has ditched JP to join Maendeleo Chap Chap, while development management consultant Kithinji Kiragu, who came second in the last elections and former Permanent Secretary Cyrus Njiru have joined the Party of National Unity (PNU).

Governor Martin Wambora, Kiragu Kivuti and former Cabinet Minister Njeru Ndwiga say the appointment of County Speaker Kariuki Mate as JP’s county coordinator contradicts statements by President Uhuru Kenyatta that there are no favoured candidates.

They argue Mate cannot referee the nominations while in the campaign team of Runyenjes MP Cecily Mbarire. “Mate’s appointment is unacceptable to Embu leaders and community as he is also a campaign manager of one of the gubernatorial candidates. His appointment is tearing up the party,” said Ndwiga.

These defections have raised political temperatures in the county, not only for the governor position but also for MCA, MP, Senator and Women Representative seats. Kivuti decamped to MCC together with Embu Deputy Governor Dorothy Nditi, Mbeere North MP Muriuki Njagagua, 10 MCAs and tens of hopefuls.

Kiragu, popularly known as KK, says he is ready to face off with Njiru at the PNU nominations.

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Wambora, however, denied murmurs that he too was set to leave JP, saying he was set to fight it out with Mbarire form the JP ticket: “I am in Jubilee to stay…all the way to nominations and the General Election,” he said.

And with these alignments, analysts are already drawing likely scenarios in the vote. Political Scientist Tom Njururi posits that if Kivuti, Wambora, Mbarire and Kiragu all end up on the ballot, the contest might be tilted towards Kivuti. This is because he hails from the Mbeere sub-tribe, where the senator belongs, is likely to vote as a bloc.  The other contestants are from Embu community and will share the votes.

“This scenario is probable and is strengthened by Kivuti’s choice of former Manyatta MP Emilio Kathuri. Kathuri can help Kivuti get votes from Manyatta Constituency (in Embu),” said Njururi.

According to the IEBC, in 2013 Embu County, a cosmopolitan county (consisting of Embu community having the largest population followed by Mbeere, Kamba, Kikuyu, Tharaka), had 227,286 registered voters.

The numbers

They were distributed as follows by constituency: Manyatta – 74,505, Runyenjes – 66,047, Mbeere South – 50,141 and Mbeere North – 36,593. The voter ratios are set to hold. Njururi considers a different situation where Wambora sticks to JP and participates in its primaries together with Mbarire. He says if whoever emerges winner gets the support of the loser, then it will not be easy for Kivuti when the Jubilee flag bearer is assured of majority of Runyenjes votes.

In terms of resources, Kivuti, Wambora and Mbarire have an upper hand over the rest of the candidates, which can enable them roll out an effective campaign machinery. Kivuti is endowed with massive monetary resources, Wambora has the advantage of incumbency while Mbarire is likely to enjoy the JP machinery and the endorsement of President Kenyatta if she will be the JP flag bearer.

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Kivuti’s defection to MCC could also endear him to the Kambas who reside in Mbeere South. The other contenders, including Psychiatrist Njagi Kumantha, who is eyeing DP ticket and businessman Leonard Muriuki cannot be underestimated as their votes could affect performance of the top contenders.

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