With a couple of weeks to the August 8 General Election, the Homa Bay senatorial race is getting dirtier as the two main candidates go hammer and tongs at each other.
Senator Moses Kajwang’ of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and his arch-rival Fred Rabong’o, who is seeking the seat as an independent candidate, have been trading accusations touching on integrity and leadership capability as they rally voters to back their bids.
Mr Rabong’o has constantly faulted Senator Kajwang’, accusing him of having been “silenced” by county government through tenders, a situation that has made it difficult for the senator to play his oversight role well.
The businessman accused Mr Kajwang’ of being behind the Sh110 million tender for construction of the Homa Bay County Teaching and Referral Hospital, a project that stalled sometime back over a legal tussle.
“The senator should choose if he wants to be a contractor or representative of Homa Bay residents in the Senate,” the candidate said.
Mr Rabong’o, who unsuccessfully vied against Senator Kajwang’ in a 2015 senatorial by-election triggered by the death of the late Otieno Kajwang’, the current senator’s senior brother, has also accused Mr Kajwang’ of boycotting his legislative roles.
“Why should Senator Kajwang’ boycott his oversight and legislative roles when it is clear that the county needs change?” Mr Rabong’o asked.
However, the sharp-shooting senator whose flamboyance has grown as a result of his eloquence in debates has not taken Mr Rabong’o’s accusations lying down.
He has challenged the businessman to table evidence of his involvement in tendering deals at the county government.
“I want to tell my brother Rabong’o that mudslinging and propaganda cannot help him in this contest.
“He should provide evidence of his allegations before speaking,” Mr Kajwang’ said.
He added that his conscience would not allow him to be manipulated so as to abdicate his oversight role, which he emphasised, is important for the county’s growth.
“The welfare of Homa Bay County is dear to me. Bringing unsubstantiated claims that I am being compromised to abandon my oversight role is manifest nonsense,” he said.
Mr Kajwang’ too takes the war to his rival, asking him to explain to residents of Homa Bay whether or not he had a hand in the loss of Sh1 billion at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) during his tenure as a director.
“Mr Rabong’o should explain to residents of Homa Bay County if he played any role in the loss of money at the NSSF during his tenure as a director,” Senator Kajwang’ said.
Waving a past copy of the Auditor General’s report, the Senator said the businessman’s was “not fit to lead”.
Mr Rabong’o has denied these claims, saying he was never involved in any shady deals while at NSSF.
War between the two who, ironically, hail from the same village of Waondo in Suba North, is not only confined to integrity questions but also to loyalty to National Super Alliance coalition presidential candidate Raila Odinga.
The two have accused one another of not displaying loyalty to Mr Odinga, who is also the region’s political kingpin.
Senator Kajwang’ has challenged Mr Rabong’o to explain why he has abandoned ODM twice after losing in party primaries.
But Mr Rabong’o faulted the senator for fraudulently obtaining the ODM certificate in the April nomination contest whose results were contested in courts.
“If Senator Kajwang’ is an honest leader. How could he accept victory he knew was not his during the ODM party nomination,” Mr Rabong’o asked.
As the rivalry escalates, political observers have weighed in with calls that they focus more on how they intend to serve locals if elected senator.
Mr George Okiki, a political observer in Homa Bay County, argues that a senator’s role has been confusing even to candidates seeking the post.
“You will get some senatorial candidates promising residents roads, bursary fund and building of schools during their campaigns.
“This is a clear illustration that roles of a senator are still not understood properly,” he explained.