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Senator Boy Juma’s death opens new battleground for political rivals in Kwale

President Uhuru Kenyatta listens to Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya (right) during a past function. The governor has ditched ODM for Jubilee. [PHOTO: FILE]

 

President Uhuru Kenyatta listens to Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya (right) during a past function. The governor has ditched ODM for Jubilee. [PHOTO: FILE]

Political realignment and heightened consultations are under way in Kwale County following the death of Senator Boy Juma Boy.

A number of aspirants have already declared interest in the senatorial seat even as political heat builds up in the race for governorship.

Political analysts and politicians project Boy’s death has dealt ODM and the National Super Alliance (Nasa) a huge political blow since he was expected to retain his seat easily in August as it seeks to unseat Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya who last year ditched ODM for Jubilee.

Although Boy floored former Cabinet Minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere for the senatorial race in 2013, their recent brief union in ODM was seen to have rattled Jubilee and its new point man in Kwale Mvurya.

The death has altered the political plan particularly for ODM which has to race against time to get Boy’s replacement and also power the local team against the Jubilee brigade.

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Mr Mwakwere has resigned as high commissioner to Tanzania to wrestle the gubernatorial seat from Mr Mvurya who enjoys unwavering backing of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto. Jubilee is seeking to penetrate Kwale County which has been an ODM stronghold since 2013.

“Boy’s death offers Mvurya a huge relief. He can now breathe easy. He could have faced a vicious political battle from Boy and Mwakwere who are both political heavyweights in Kwale,” argues Halim Shauri, who hails from Msambweni constituency in Kwale County.

Prof Shauri, who teaches at Pwani University, says ODM and NASA have to go back to the drawing board to strategise on who to replace Boy and how to guard its turf ahead of the August 8 elections.

Boy, who was an astute debater in Kiswahili, was known for defending Kwale people on land rights and also his political party. He died on the same day Mr Mwakwere was to be received by ODM party leader Raila Odinga and his deputy Hassan Joho at the Kenya-Tanzania border in Lunga Lunga constituency in a huge convoy. Mwakwere’s presumptive running make Simeon Mwero Mkalla is optimistic that Boy’s death would not shake the Opposition as he was only a member of a big team.

“We have been campaign as a team with the senator as a member. The team has remained strong and we have been going round county campaigning. We have covered most of the county and we will be touring Kinango constituency next week,” Mkalla said.

In ODM, Mwakwere is set to face Mr Nicholas Zani, Kwale County Assembly Speaker Sammy Ruwa, Gereza Dena, former Permanent Secretary Mohamed Mwachai and Plan International Uganda Director Issa Chipera for the gubernatorial primaries.

Meanwhile, those lining up to succeed Senator Boy are former Matuga MP Suleiman Kamole of Amani National Congress (ANC),  Kinyasi Ginora (ANC), former Kwale County Council Chairman Mshenga Ruga of Jubilee and Rashid Mzinga of Kanu.

Mr Kamole who floored Mr Boy as Matuga MP in 1997 has already resigned as chairman of the Coast Development Authority to join the hot race.

“I have been in Jubilee for quite some time and had vowed to vie on the same party but as I was planning, my friends were scheming against me and that is why I have bolted out,” said Mr Kamole.

Mr Mzinga, who in 2013 contested the Msambweni parliamentary seat on a TNA ticket, dumped Jubilee for Kanu claiming the nominations will not be free and fair as there are too many political brokers.

“There have been too many brokers and many times even the funding does not reach aspirants,” he said.

But Kwale County Jubilee coordinator Fatuma Nchidzumo said the party has no preferred candidates. She instead said those who have bolted out fear facing each other in the party nominations.

Pundits, however, say that ODM is still by far the party to beat come August, this year.

The entry of Mr Mwakwere is seen to have spiced up politics in Kwale and many believe he has what it takes to give Mvurya a run for his money given the opposition euphoria in the area.

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On the other hand, Mvurya is using his performance to shore up support particularly reported success of the county government bursary fund, laying of water pipes and the maternity wings in rural dispensaries.

Mvurya and Mwakwere are banking of an ethnic balance in their teams to win the election considering that Kwale comprises the Duruma and Digo as the top tribes with Kamba as a crucial minority that decides the way the victory goes.

Governor Mvurya, a Duruma, has stuck with his deputy Ms Fatuma Achani who comes from the Digo community. He is likely to have Kwale County Woman Representative Zainab Kalekye Chidzuga in his line up. Mrs Chidzuga is a Kamba married to a Digo and has defected from ODM to Jubilee.

Although the ODM team has been thrown into confusion following Boy’s death, Mwakwere has already picked Mkalla, a Duruma and former Kinango MP,  as his running mate.

However, it is not clear yet how the Opposition will balance the Senate and County Woman Representative seat and secure the crucial Duruma-Digo-Kamba political formula that has dogged Kwale politics since the time of the Kwale County Council. The Durumas dominate Kinango constituency and are minorities in Matuga, Msambweni and Lunga Lunga constituencies which are Digo ancestral homes.

The Kamba are found in all the four constituencies and have increasingly gained a major say although they are yet to get an elected Member of Parliament save for Mrs Chidzuga who enjoys the support of both the Kamba and Digo.
Digo dominate Matuga and Msambweni constituency and also live in Lunga Lunga.

Opposition officials are currently burning the midnight oil to tackle a winning formula in coming elections as Mvurya continues with the onslaught to retain his position.

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