Will Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Party chairman John Mbadi survive a fresh onslaught to unseat him by Ford-Kenya’s Peter Ocholla, Caroli Omondi’s younger brother?
That is the question on many lips among Homa Bay County residents, who are waiting for the results of the Suba South parliamentary contest pitting Mr Ocholla and Mr Mbadi.
The duel between Mr Omondi and Mr Mbadi can be described as sibling rivalry in a constituency characterised by clan politics.
The two are from the same village and have worked in one office, under National Super Alliance (Nasa) coalition presidential candidate and ODM leader Raila Odinga when he was the Prime Minister in the Grand Coalition government. Mr Omondi was the PM’s chief of staff and Mr Mbadi an assistant minister in the same office.
After he failed to be on the ballot for the August 8 General Election following numerous court battles with Mr Mbadi over a dispute orchestrated by ODM nominations, Mr Omondi fronted his brother to unseat the party honcho.
Mr Omondi and Mr Ocholla, who are better known as “the Acholla brothers”, woo voters together with the elder sibling saying voting for his brother is like voting for him. Indeed, few residents recognise Mr Ocholla; so it is Mr Omondi seeking the seat in his brother’s name.
While campaigning at Magunga trading centre and Kisegi Beach, Mr Omondi said he has fronted his brother to wipe the tears of his supporters who were sad that the strict Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) timelines locked him out of the contest while he fought to have Mr Mbadi’s victory overturned.
“I am still seeking the seat, although through my brother,” said Mr Omondi. “Voting for him is like voting for me.”
The sentiments are backed by the soft-spoken accountant, Ocholla, who says he will work with his brother to bring development.
“I am seeking to accomplish my brother’s dreams because he was locked out of the contest,” said Mr Ocholla.
The stakes are high, considering the number of violent incidents pitting supporters in both camps.
Police at Magunga Police Station have recorded at least 10 cases of violence at Magunga trading centre and Lak Nyiero and Sindo markets pitting the two sides.
Factors likely to determine the winner include political inclination of clans and development record.
Mr Mbadi is from the Kalisuria clan, while Mr Omondi’s lineage is the Kadibuoro clan. Mr Mbadi’s clan is the biggest, but internal political divisions might work against the fiery lawmaker.
Other clans in the constituency are Kaksingri, Wagasi, Wakula, Wakeru, Ungoye, Uregi and Wasama. They are distributed in the four wards: Ruma Kaksingri (6,000 votes), Gwassi North (12,929), Gwassi South (15,626) and Kaksingri West (11,839).
Mr Mbadi enjoys the most support in Gwassi South and Mr Ocholla in Gwassi North.
Ruma Kaksingri and Kaksingri West are considered battlegrounds and whoever gets the highest votes there might win the seat.
Gwassi North MCA Evans Marieba supports Mr Ocholla’s bid while his Gwassi South colleague Tom Omuto is in Mr Mbadi’s camp.
Mr Evans Oloo Gor, a political activist in the constituency, argues that voter turnout in the two men’s strongholds could play a decisive role in the contest.
“Because the race is tight, each candidate must strive to mobilise their supporters to vote during the election,” said Mr Gor.
Mr Mbadi is confident of re-election after 10 years as MP, for what he refers to as development initiatives “galore”. He points out building of roads and dispensaries and improving the fishing sector.
“My development record speaks for itself,” said Mr Mbadi.
He added that he has improved roads, started schools and initiated solar- and electricity-powered water projects.
“My priority in the constituency has always been poverty eradication. I plan to do much more If I am re-elected,” said Mr Mbadi.
However, the Omondi-Ocholla duo has accused Mr Mbadi of doing little to improve the state of roads and other priority areas.
Mr Omondi and Mr Mbadi have openly differed over a new road set to be tarmacked, with each claiming credit for it. Poised to be the first tarmac road in the constituency, it will link Mbita town to Nyandiwa trading centre through Sindo market, passing through all the constituency’s beach centres along Lake Victoria’s shores.
Mr Omondi claims he lobbied for the road when he served in the PM’s office, while Mr Mbadi says he did it while in Parliament.
The local fishing sector faces a setback due to poor roads and lack of fish processing plants.
Tobias Okwiri, a fisherman at Nyandiwa Beach, said: “We ask leaders in this constituency to give the fishing industry priority because it has employed several residents.”