The race to replace outgoing for Taita Taveta Woman Representative Joyce Lay has turned out to be a heated contest as next month’s General Election beckons.
The four women seeking to be Taita Taveta’s new county MP are all strong candidates and the win could go to either.
Ms Lay opted to run for the Senate seat and is Jubilee Party’s candidate having defected from ODM on whose ticket she contested in 2013.
The four woman rep candidates for the August 8 race are from Jubilee Party (JP), Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Wiper Democratic Party.
They are former Voi Mayor Priscilla Mwangeka of Wiper, businesswoman Lydia Haika Mizhigi running on Jubilee, Hope Anisa Mwakio of ODM and Rosina Kisochi of SDP.
Apart from Ms Mwangeka, who lost the contest for the seat to Ms Lay in 2013, the rest are new entrants.
The incumbent’s decision not to defend her seat has thrown the race wide open for the four contenders.
Even though a bruising battle is expected between Jubilee and National Super Alliance (Nasa), the real contest narrows down to individual scrambling for votes, just two weeks to the polls.
Besides individual efforts to reach out to voters, party popularity in the region will be a key factor in determining who wins the seat.
Ms Anisa is banking on ODM’s popularity to carry the day, while Ms Haika is counting on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee which has made inroads in the county, as well as votes from her Taveta backyard, to win the seat.
But failure Nasa to present one candidate could compromise its win.
“The rivalry in Nasa might cripple its efforts to win the seat because it is not a secret that Jubilee has made inroads in the region,” observes Danson Mwakulomba, a resident.
He argues that the Nasa top brass should have negotiated with the two candidates to have one shelve her ambition to support the other.
Analysts in the area say President Kenyatta’s and his deputy William Ruto’s frequent visit to the region has turned the tide and JP has a possibility of getting a bigchunk of votes in the county.
The region has been perceived to be an ODM stronghold but pundits have argued that rivalry between Nasa-affiliate parties (ODM and Wiper), which have field candidates, might hand Jubilee victory.
Ms Kisochi says she has elaborate plans to economically empower women, youth, the disabled and other marginalised groups in the county.
“My leadership will focus on economic balance where youth, women, disabled and the marginalised that have been ignored are economically empowered,” she says.
She pledges to unite the county leadership and ensure that all elected leaders work together for the good of the county.
“I will implement these ideas once I assume office, economic empowerment for the county residents is top on my agenda,” she says.
Ms Kisochi vows to make good use of the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF), which she says will play crucial role in poverty reduction.
“I am also going to lead the people into turning to God and pray for peace and for the troubled families,” she says.
She acknowledges that the incumbent, Ms Lay, had tried her best but “I believe she could have done better if at all the NGAAF would have come in time, but even so she has tried her best though at the last minute,”
In her campaigns, Ms Haika promises to champion for increased allocation of the NGAAF so that it can adequately cater for the many woman and youth groups in the county.
“I will push to ensure that the funds are released on time to enable timely implementation of projects in the county,” she says
She has also pledged to work closely with elected leadership to improve education, health, solve perennial water shortage in the county and empower women through the NGAAF.
Ms Anisa says top on her agenda would be to utilise the NGAAF to empower women and youth groups.
“With a collaborative effort with the government in place, we shall ensure that all sectors that drive the county’s economy are improved to turn around lives of the residents,” she says.
She says her leadership will also support education for girls through introduction of various projects aimed at assisting them remain in school.
The ODM candidate says she would closely work with the county government to improve healthcare and reduce the mortality rate.
“I will fight for the rights of women in Parliament and initiate income generating projects for women so that they can be independent,” she says
Ms Mwangeka, on the other hand, says she is the best candidate for the seat owing to her impressive development records while she worked as mayor for Voi town.
“I have been tested and found fit to lead, I have ostentatious plans to transform the county if given chance,” she says.
She says she would be happy to see services brought closer to the residents such that the vulnerable, women and youth can reap the fruits of devolution.
The aspirants have also pledged to work closely with both levels of the governments to address pressing issues of human-wildlife conflicts, squatter problem, water shortages, health, education and unemployment.
With just about a two weeks to the election, the aspirants have intensified campaigns across the county, traversing the 20 wards reaching out to voters to support their bids.
They are also using the social media such as Facebook and WhatsApp platforms to woo voters.
As opposed to the past elections where residents voted for based on party affiliation, Taita Taveta residents are now looking for a visionary leader on their development record or agenda for the county.
“We have borne the brunt of blindly voting for leaders based on their political parties, but this time round we are more enlightened,” Jardine Mwanyika, a resident, says.
The race has attracted new entrants and veterans such as Ms Anisa and Ms Mwangeka who have served in various political capacities.
Ms Mwangeka served for eight years as deputy and mayor of Voi between 2003-2012.
She has been the chairperson of gender in the Association of Local Government Authorities of Kenya and also a member of East Africa Local Governments Association.
Before she was nominated to represent the interests of people with disabilities in the local County assembly, Ms Kisochi worked with the disabled in Taveta.