Raila seeks Mwakwere support in vote hunt

Cord leader Raila Odinga has held a meeting with Kenya’s ambassador to Tanzania Chirau Ali Mwakwere, his former critic, in a bid to cement his hold on votes in the Coast region.

The meeting between the two, at a Nairobi hotel, was also attended by former Kinango MP Simeon Mkalla.

Mr Mwakwere and Mr Mkalla are said to be interested in running for the Kwale governor seat, currently occupied by Mr Salim Mvurya, who defected to Jubilee Party.

Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho brokered the meeting of the three leaders in what was said to be a move to galvanise support for the opposition party in the region, which is under an onslaught by their rivals in government, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.

Mr Odinga’s spokesman Dennis Onyango confirmed the meeting involving the leaders but downplayed its significance, saying: “It was just a tea session for old friends. They met here in Nairobi and Governor Joho was with them.”

Mr Mwakwere has set his eyes on the Kwale governor position, with Mr Mkalla, a former assistant minister, billed to be his running mate.

The former Kinango MP was excited about the meeting saying it meant they had secured the ODM party ticket for the Kwale governorship.

“If you have seen that photo, know that maneno gatsira (things are over) and that is the way it is,” he added in a telephone conversation with the Nation.

Mr Mkalla said the battle lines had now been drawn for the governorship race in the county and they were ready to fight it out with Mr Mvurya.

He expressed confidence they would win the party’s ticket to run for the seat.

However, Mr Mwakwere’s entry into ODM will complicate matters for other politicians from the county who have announced their interest in the seat.

They are county assembly Speaker Sammy Ruwa; Mr Nicholas Zani, the branch vice-chairman; Dr Issa Chipera; Mr Gereza Dena; and former PS Mohammed Mwarapayo, who were paraded by Mr Odinga at a rally in Kwale in September.

Mr Odinga endorsed their candidature on ODM tickets and urged them to unite and battle it out peacefully during the party’s primaries before facing off with Mr Mvurya, who will vie on a Jubilee Party ticket.

He said there would be no direct nomination.

The aspirants then agreed to engage in a peaceful campaign and whoever wins during the nominations would be supported by others.

Some of the ODM officials and aspirants have been uncomfortable with a possible Mwakwere candidacy on their party ticket, accusing the former minister of having ridiculed Mr Odinga when they both served in the Kibaki administration.

They were specifically making reference to the famous “nusu mkeka” remark, with Mr Mwakwere, then Transport minister, ridiculing Mr Odinga, then Prime Minister, that he wanted a carpet laid out for him “even in the toilet”.

This was at a time when the coalition government started developing cracks.

Mr Odinga had complained against the local provincial administration for not according him due recognition and singled out a “substandard’’ carpet laid out for him.

Mr Mkalla said what he had done was declare his intention and would wait like anybody else for the right time before moving out to seek votes.

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