The battle for the Kwale woman representative’s seat promises to be a tough political contest.
The race is shaping up to be a two-horse race between incumbent Zainab Chidzuga of Jubilee Party and ODM’s Zuleikha Hassan, currently a nominated MP, at least going by a debate organized by Human Rights Agenda (Huria).
Ms Chidzuga was elected on an ODM ticket and was given a direct ticket by Jubilee after she defected.
She now faces a political fight of a lifetime, not only from Ms Juma, but also from candidates from other political parties.
Also in the race are Fatuma Tabwara of Party for Development and Reforms, Ann Mburu who is running on Maendeleo Chap Chap and Mwanaalima Mwapheku of Kanu.
In the ODM primaries, Ms Hassan defeated her rival, Ms Fatuma Masito, to clinch the ticket, while Ms Chidzuga promises to do everything possible to retain the seat.
A one-time ally of ODM leader Raila Odinga, Ms Chidzuga has been working closely with the Jubilee leadership and argues that she is interested in bringing development to the county.
She exudes confidence that she will retain the seat based on her development record which, according to her, “speaks for itself”.
During the debate, Ms Chidzuga singled out her implementation of projects through National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF) in education, women table banking and issuance of driving licences which she said has improved the livelihoods of residents.
“Since I joined the ruling party, we have realised development in the region,” she said, adding that she has been at the forefront in pushing for development projects like the proposed construction of Mkanda and Mwache dams.
Ms Chidzuga says she is the ideal candidate to steer development for the benefit of the entire county.
CASHEW NUT FACTORY
Meanwhile, ODM’s Zuleikha Hassan, who praises herself for fighting to improve the lives of women and youth in the county, says she will build a cashew nut processing factory in Kwale if elected in the August 8 polls.
During the debate at the Kenya School of Government in Matuga, the MP argued that despite having many cashew nuts trees in the county, Kwale is still poor.
“Kwale County is ranked fifth richest county among the 47 counties but we are still languishing in poverty,” said Ms Juma, adding that the county has failed to utilise the opportunity to set up a cashew nut factory that would have changed the lives of the locals.
She blamed the county administration for not seeing value in the crop due to poor sensitisation and lack of proper policies on the benefits of the crop.
“I have already invested at least Sh4 million to set up the factory that will provide a source of income to people of Kwale. I don’t want my people to rely on the government for everything,” she said.
Other than setting up the factory, Ms Hassan said she will invest heavily in empowering women and bring to an end water shortage in affected areas.
She also said that she has already implemented a number of projects in the entire county and that her desire for leadership is to serve the people to the best of her ability to minimise poverty levels among Kwale people.
She also drafted a Bill to parliament aimed at making the presidency rotational.
“The principle objective of this Bill is to amend Articles 137 and 142 of the Constitution to provide rotational presidency to allow (all) ethnic communities equal accessibility of top leadership and for regional balance,” the Bill reads.
According to her, the country has been grappling with ethnicity and political marginalisation which has continued to worsen after every general election.
On her part, Ms Ann Mburu of Maendeleo Chap Chap said if elected, she will invest in empowering women and youth in the county to improve their standards of living.
“Women and youth issues are in my heart and I have been solving them before I even joined politics. The current leadership has failed and that is why we must change it,” said Ms Mburu.