Kisii County Governor James Ongwae
Some of Governor James Ongwae’s rivals are anchoring their campaigns on claims he has failed to fulfil promises he made to residents in 2013.
They are also accusing him of nepotism in county government appointments.
However, despite politics in the county being largely clan-based it is too early to say for sure who is likely to carry the day, even though the incumbent is clearly a front runner.
Also, money will most definitely play a key role in determining voting patterns.
At least eight candidates are hoping to unseat Ongwae on August 8. They include Senator Chris Obure of Jubilee and Kenya National Congress’ Manson Nyamweya, who have been traversing the county trying to outdo each other. Nyamweya is the current South Mugirango MP.
Also in the race are Charles Omwega (NLP), Kepha Mogeni (PPK), Lumumba Nyaberi (Wiper), Samwel Nyamao (independent), Boniface Omboto (Maendeleo Chap Chap) and Charles Bagwassi (Chama Mwangaza Daima).
Ongwae was elected overwhelmingly in 2013 when he amassed 230,181. However, he now faces an uphill task in efforts to retain the seat as he faces eight rivals, including his former ally, Obure and his fiercest critic, Nyamweya.
Ongwae, who was Raila Odinga’s chief campaigner in 2013, will defend his seat on the ODM ticket. Ongwae, Obure and Nyamweya were all elected on ODM tickets in the last General Election.
Since then, a lot of water has passed under the bridge following high profile political realignments in the region and defections that have forced the Opposition to field new candidates in all the nine constituencies in the county.
Analysts argue people may cast protest votes against Ongwae and Obure with Nyamweya being the likely beneficiary. Ongwae has been accused of failing to fulfil his pledges while some are not happy Obure ditched ODM.
“People are not going to vote based on the name but the past track record. There is a general feeling the region is lagging behind in development because of poor leadership and recycling of leaders. Those with proved development record will have a field day in the August elections,” said lawyer Philemon Ochwangi.
Nyamweya has been criticising Ongwae’s leadership since 2013. He is said to have rejected Ongwae’s candidature prior to the last elections when ODM opted for boardroom democracy to share out seats among the major clans in the county.
The MP is hoping locals will elect him based on the development projects he has initiated in his constituency over the last two terms.
“My priority will be to have piped water in every five homes. We also need accessible roads in every part of the county because I believe we have enough resources to do so,” said Nyamweya.
Nyamweya says he will empower youth whom he termed a critical part in development.
“The current leadership has focused on employing the elderly who have not done much to improve the region’s economy,” he said.
He has declared his support for NASA a move that has seen his gain more support owed to the following the opposition commands in the region.
“We need to stop him and give chance to the young generation,” he said in reference to Obure’s candidature.
Ongwae has defended his track record. He says he has achieved a lot, particularly in the health sector.
“Some people started campaigning against me only six months after I was elected,” he said, singling out Nyamweya. “The MP abandoned his constituency and started campaigning to unseat me.”
“We were elected to serve our people. Equally, we were given resources to undertake various projects. Let’s not engage in petty politics to win over voters,” Ongwae said.
On his part, Obure accuses the governor of presiding over corruption. He said locals are yet to benefit from the huge allocations the county government has been getting from the National Treasury.
“There’s proof of plundering of public resources by the government. I doubt if anyone in Kisii can say they have benefited from these resources. The number of stalled projects, though fully, funded is alarming,” Obure said.
Ongwae, Obure and Nyamweya are all moneyed, having established business empires over the years.
They also enjoy support from various clans in the county. These clans will play a key role in determining who becomes the next county chief.
In addition, the choice of running mates will also play a critical role in deciding who will be governor.
Ongwae and Obure have picked Joash Maangi and Albert Nyaundi respectively as running mates. They both come from Abamachoge clan which has over 80,000 registered voters.
Political inclination of other aspirants, Senate, parliamentary and county assembly is also likely to play a critical role in the voting pattern.