There is a way in which Garissa stands out differently from the other two counties – Wajir and Mandera – that form the swathe of land formerly known North-Eastern Province.
Whereas the issue of clannism, as usual, will be high up in determining the outcome of the August 8 elections, Garissa, has something in addition; that is Mr Aden Duale, the National Assembly’s Leader of Majority.
Mr Duale’s position elevates him to third in command in the Jubilee Party hierarchy, after President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto, making him the de facto Prime Minister.
By virtue of this position, the least Jubilee Party expects from him is nothing short of delivering all the votes, not just in Garissa, but also in the entire north-eastern region.
But the stakes are high. Candidates are busy seeking endorsement from the elders, a revered and venerated institution within the Somali community, whose blessings are important in tilting the outcome of the elections in the region.
READ: Elders differ over Garissa governor’s choice
Most inhabitants in the county are ethnic Somali, even though there is a significant presence of upcountry communities like the Kikuyu, Kamba, Luhya, and Luo that could tilt the results in favour of a candidate.
Garissa Township is particularly important because the Kamba community has the numbers that could determine the winner.
This, it is believed, is one of the major reasons why former National Assembly Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim defected to Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper party from ODM, in order to maximise on the community’s vote.
The Ogaden, the major clan in the county, is divided into three distinct sub-clans: Samawathal, Aulihan and Abduwak.
The Samawathal (also known as Abdalla) mainly inhabit Ijara constituency, whose MP is Mr Abbas Mohamed and Senator Yusuf Haji.
The Abduwak are found in Garissa Township represented in parliament by Mr Duale, Balambala, whose MP is Abdikadir Aden, as well as Fafi (Barre Shill) while the Aulihan are in Dadaab, which is represented by Mr Mohammed Duale and Lagdera whose MP is Mohammed Shidiye.
The Aulihan clan has an extra advantage as it also occupies the office of the Governor, through Mr Nadhif Jama, but this has been a source of tension between the Aulihan and Abduwak clans.
The Samawathal and Abduwak have formed an alliance known locally as Tolomoge, which essentially locks out the Aulihan.
The two clans have developed some power-sharing arrangements for the county seats to ensure they go into the election as a united front in a negotiated democracy aimed at locking out there rivals.
COUNTY POLITICS: Negotiated democracy to influence contest
Under the pact, Mr Ali Bunow Korane and Anab Subow (Abduwak clan) will contest for gubernatorial and women rep positions respectively, while Mr Haji will defend his Senate seat.
On the other hand, Mr Abdi Dagane from Samawathal will be Mr Korane’s running mate.
Through the intervention of the elders, the battle in all these constituencies in the county, save for Garissa Township and the Governor’s seat, has been settled.
Therefore, the August polls will most likely be a procession for those candidates who have the blessings and have been endorsed by the clan elders.
However, it is the battle in Garissa Township and the gubernatorial seat, both of which are being contested by two opposing antagonistic clans; the Abduwak and Aulihan, that provide mouth-watering prospects and have much to them than meets the eye.
Mr Duale, from the Abduwak clan, is up against Mr Farah Maalim, an Aulyaan, who has shifted his political base from Lagdera in the hope that he could end the Abduwak’s everlasting run in the constituency.
In other words, the duel is not only about two people; but it symbolises the protracted, but silent conflict between the two clans who are ideologically opposed regarding county politics.
As Leader of Majority, Mr Duale has done a great job in organising the Jubilee troops in and out of the House.
His opponent, Mr Maalim, is no passing cloud. He is a vastly experienced politician.
He is not only a veteran of the second liberation but has been a firm defender of the rights of the Somali people.
He has twice served as Lagdera MP and was Deputy Speaker in the 10th parliament.
Mr Duale is banking on the Jubilee Party development projects implemented in the constituency in the last four and half years as the vanguard of his re-election.
The projects include the extension of the national electricity grid to Garissa town, the tarmacking of roads within the town and commissioning of Nunow-Modogashe road, amongst other projects.
“I have confidence in being re-elected with a big margin because of what I have done for the constituency for the last four years.
“There is no secondary school in Garissa Township that is not connected to the national electricity grid. I have also sorted out the perennial power outages,” the majority leader said.
Mr Maalim, on the other hand, refuses to be dragged into clan politics.
He argues that he commands respect across the political divide because of his long record in politics.
“I don’t normally subscribe to clan realignment that much because I cut across clans. I am acceptable to all.
“I have educated and given scholarships to a lot of youth in the county without knowing their political or clan background,” Mr Maalim, who contested the Garissa Senate seat in 2013 and lost to Mr Haji, told the Daily Nation in a recent interview.
Governor Jama and Mr Ali Korane duel, on the other hand, is not dissimilar to that in Garissa Township.
Like Mr Duale, Mr Korane is the Jubilee man in the gubernatorial race and also an ethnic Abduwak, like Duale.
Ten years ago, Mr Duale defeated Mr Korane in the contest for Dujis parliamentary seat, when they contested on different party tickets, ODM and PNU.
Yet, they don’t just share the clan relations and political experience.
They have both married into a powerful family that has constructed a dynasty in the county that will be hard to break.
Similarly, Mr Jama and Mr Korane are no strangers to this contest, either.
Five years ago, Mr Korane lost to Mr Jama by a narrow margin and Mr Korane will be trying to make amends this time round.
One of the reasons that Mr Korane lost was because the Abduwak fielded three candidates, a decision that split the vote in favour of Mr Jama.
The Abduwak/Reeryahya dynasty is a creation of former President Moi and is controlled by the family of General (rtd) Mahamoud Mohamed and his younger brother, Maalim Hussein, who is the chairman of Uaso Ng’iro Development Authority.
General Mohamed is famously remembered as the army officer who thwarted the 1982 attempted coup by Kenya Air force rebel officers against Mr Daniel arap Moi’s government.
Then a commander of the Kenya Army, the act easily won traction and Mr Moi’s favour that would mark the beginning of the golden age of the Reeryahya clan that has grown into a full blown dynasty that recreates itself in many ways.
As a result, Mr Maalim Hussein, who had been nominated to Parliament in 1979, was elevated to the Cabinet in 1983 and served as a cabinet minister until 2002 when Kanu lost in the General Election through the Narc revolution.
General Mohamed is Mr Duale’s father-in-law while Mr Hussein is Mr Korane’s father-in-law and therefore the victory of one of them, or both, in August is seen as a continuation of the domination of the family dynasty in Garissa town.
Yet, Mr Korane is confident of winning based on what he says is bad development record of the incumbent.
“There is no single projects implemented by the county government despite Garissa County receiving over Sh30 billion since 2013,” he says, claiming that he funds meant for development have been pilfered.
He says he will decentralize funds to the sub-counties, saying failure by Mr Nadhif from doing it has affected service delivery.
Governor Jama is banking on the success of devolution for the last four years insisting the county government has done a lot in the face of serious challenges.
“The county government has done a lot since its inception.
“Even though devolution itself is new, we have built ECDE classes and also recruited staff, the county has also invested heavily in the provision of water,” the governor said while launching his re-election bid in Garissa last week.