- Cord is the party of choice for many aspirants as well as the electorate, but the Wiper Democratic Movement finds itself in a Catch-22 as some of its best hopes have found themselves facing off in this week’s nominations
Efforts by Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka to prevent a clash between two of his strongest supporters over the senate seat are the talk of town in Makueni ahead of the elections.
Mr Mutula Kilonzo, the Wiper secretary-general and Education minister and assistant minister Gedion Ndambuki are both interested in the seat.
There are fears in the region that a nomination fallout will benefit a third party to the detriment of Wiper.
As a result, Mr Musyoka has been pushing for a solution in which Mr Kilonzo drops out and instead contests the Nairobi senate seat, a decision the Mbooni MP is unhappy with.
During a meeting of various stakeholders supporting Cord at the Machakos Golf Club a fortnight ago, the Vice President asked Mr Kilonzo to his face to transfer his political interests to Nairobi and leave Makueni for Mr Ndambuki.
It was an advice that annoyed Mr Kilonzo.
“Makueni needs me more than Nairobi,” the Education minister told his supporters later.
It is said that ODM and Wiper have reached an agreement that the former goes for the governor’s seat in Nairobi with the VP side taking the senate.
Although this may be an incentive for Mutula, if he moves, he will face off with another Kamba politician Gedion Mbuvi who is the likely candidate for the rival Jubilee alliance.
Just as in the neighbouring Machakos and Kitui counties, many women have shied away from seeking parliamentary seats in Makueni.
Only two are vying, Mrs Carolyne Mwelu (Kibwezi West) and Mrs Jessica Mbalu (Kibwezi East). Both are first timers.
Mwelu is a hotelier while Mbalu who is pursuing her PhD at the University of Nairobi is a university lecturer and a consultant in the water sector, hospitality and banking industry.
Mwelu was previously in Mrs Ngilu’s Narc but ditched the party to settle for the Party of Independent Candidates of Kenya (Pick) after Mrs Ngilu joined the Jubilee coalition.
The Coalition for Reform and Democracy (Cord) is arguably the party of choice for many aspirants as well as the electorate. Cord whose flag is being carried by the Wiper Democratic Movement party is however finding itself in a Catch-22 situation as some of its best hopes have found themselves facing it off in the January 17 nominations.
The main political parties in the region allied to Cord — The Independent Party (Tip) of Kalembe Ndile, Muungano party of Prof Kivutha Kibwana andChama Cha Uzalendo (CCU) — are fielding candidates for various seats.
Cases of aspirants having double allegiances have emerged.
While some have declared that they will go for the Wiper nominations, many have already obtained direct nominations from rival parties with Kalembe’s Tip being the major beneficiary.
“They came to me and bought the nominations ticket on a first come basis”, says Mr Ndile without elaborating further.
The senate seat has attracted three contestants all heavyweights in their own rights; John Harun Mwau who is currently the Kilome MP and the boss of the Party of Independent Candidates of Kenya; Mr Kilonzo and Mr Ndambuki.
The Kilonzo-Ndambuki rivalry has ignited fears among party insiders that a fall-out among their supporters in the nominations is likely to benefit Mr Mwau.
Mr Mwau is no pushover either, as he has what it takes to clinch the seat and the Cord alliance is very much aware of the fact. However, Mr Mwau who in the run up to the 2007 heavily boosted Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s campaign has maintained a deafening silence in the wake of recent coalition formations which gave birth to the Jubilee, Cord and Amani groupings.
Many had expected Mr Mwau to join his old friend Odinga in Cord. Instead the Kilome MP has chosen to do his things his own way and has not associated himself with any of the outfits.
Another area of interests is the gubernatorial race where two professors who are both in the Cord Coalition. Prof Philip Kaloki, an expert in business matters and economic development and Prof Kivutha Kibwana a specialist in law are in a duel dubbed by pundits “the battle of the professors’”.
Prof Kaloki is in Wiper Party while Prof Kibwana is in the Muungano Party which is is also in the Cord alliance.
Prof Kibwana, a veteran of the second liberation struggle, was first elected to Parliament in 2002 and lost to Mr Peter Kiilu in the 2007 polls.
Prof Kaloki too is a first time MP. He was elected in the last polls after defeating Mr Kalembe Ndile.
The seat has also attracted a former MP for Makueni constituency and one time assistant minister Mr Peter Maundu; retired armed forces Lt. Gen Jones Mutwii, medical surgeon Dr John Kilonzo and Mr Tom Luusa.
Makueni is one of the poorest counties in lower eastern, but behind this cloud lies a region with many untapped resources that can positively change the fortunes of the populace. Experts says the county whose main features include hilly terraced terrains has no excuse crying over poverty.
Education is a major investment that parents accord their children. However poverty has forced many children out of primary and secondary school.
Despite performing well in KCPE examinations, few pupils join Form One. Only 2,000 pupils join national and provisional schools annually as compared to more than 10,000 who sits KCPE every year.
Majority are thrown into the scarce job market and since the county is basically a rural one many find themselves being occupied with charcoal burning, brick making and sand harvesting which cause serious environmental degradation.
Shortage of water has persistently been blamed as a contributory factor to the sorry state of affairs, yet the county has some of the finest natural water bodies that have remained untapped for years.
With seven constituencies (two created last year) — Makueni, Kilome, Kaiti, Kibwezi East, Kibwezi West and Mbooni — Makueni residents today bank their hopes fror growth in the new administrative structures created by the Constitution.
The county has two main tarmac roads that cut across the region — the Machakos-Wote road which joins the Mombasa highway at Makindu and the Nairobi-Mombasa road that starts at Konza area and ends at the county’s boundary with Taita-Taveta at Mtito Andei.
Main economic activity is small scale farming — growing cow peas, beans, pigeon peas and lentils, bee keeping, dairy farming, fruits especially mangoes, oranges, pawpaw and water melons.
But it is the revival of the cotton industry which many hope will help to improve the livelihood of the population in the coming years.
Last year the government gave a boost to cotton farmers by providing free, some 150,000 kilogrammes of cotton seeds, which was distributed to farmers in Eastern, Coast, Western, Nyanza, the Rift Valley and Central provinces.
The Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) Makueni branch manager Mr Isack Kimundu says AFC is giving out “friendly loans” to cotton ginneries.
Aspirants for governor
Development takes centre stage
Lt. Gen Jones Mutwii, PICK
Lt. Gen Mutwii retired from the army in 2010 where he was the Commandant of the National Defence College.
This will be his first time in seeking an elective position and he says his mission will be to provide the appropriate governance required for development in Makueni County.
He says he will address problems of water, education, economic empowerment and poverty.
He will also tackle youth unemployment, environmental degradation, health care and infrastructure, land problems, and security.
“These issues and others should lead to a county second to none”, he says.
Prof Philip Kaloki, WIPER
He holds a PhD in Business Administration and was first elected to Parliament in 2007.
He is a member of the Speaker’s Panel which coordinates Parliament’s diary and also the vice-chairman of the powerful Finance committee.
He is among founder members of the East Africa Association Chamber of Commerce which he founded in Texas US and whose mission is to promote a business environment that is attractive to companies located in Eastern Africa by representing their interests at an international level, in the media and by providing a forum through which ideas and information can be shared.
Tom Luusa Munyasya, CCU
Mr Luusa, 43, has held senior positions with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) where he was a projects manager, the World Bank and World Vision.
He says his vision is to make Makueni a model county in Kenya.