Two-horse race as Lenku, Katoo sharpen swords

POLITICAL FORMATIONS: Alliances have emerged allied to the Azimio and UDA national coalitions

The ability to craft a broad-based support base that brings together influential political leaders from the length and breadth of the county will be a critical factor for whoever will win the gubernatorial contest

Despite attracting myriad contestants, the race for the Kajiado gubernatorial seat is now shaping into a contest between two protagonists representing the rival national coalitions of Azimio la Umoja and the United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

Incumbent Governor Joseph ole Lenku appears to have a head start in his battle to earn the gubernatorial ticket for the Azimio formation, which brings together aspirants allied to the governing Jubilee and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) parties. He will be battling for this ticket against former governor Dr David Nkedianye. While Lenku is in Jubilee, Dr Nkedianye belongs to ODM, but the two parties will be expected to back one candidate under Azimio.

The UDA formation, on its part, has three gubernatorial aspirants, the most prominent of whom is Kajiado South MP Katoo ole Metito. The others are Kajiado East MP Peris Tobiko and the immediate former director general of the National Transportand  Safety Authority (NTSA), Francis Meja.

The contest at the county level is turning out to be as acrimonious and intense as at the national level, where veteran politician Raila Odinga will be seeking the presidency for the fourth time on an Azimio ticket, while Deputy President William Ruto will be running on a UDA ticket. President Uhuru Kenyatta has backed Raila’s candidature against that of his own deputy.

Ruto’s UDA recently got into a coalition with Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress (ANC) to form the Kenya Kwanza coalition; unlike in the Azimio coalition where both ODM and Jubilee have a strong following, however, UDA by far dwarfs the ANC in terms of supportive parliamentarians and national appeal.

Non-Maasai voting bloc

The ability to craft a broad support base that brings together influential political leaders from the length and breadth of the county will be a critical factor for whoever will win the gubernatorial contest. This will be in addition to how clan politics play out in the distribution of top seats between the Orok-kiteng (“Black Cow”) and Odomong’i (“Red Cow”) clans.

Moreover, Kajiado County hosts a large population of people from non-Maasai communities who have settled from other parts of the country, especially in Kajiado North, and whoever woos this significant voting bloc will have a head start in the race.

In his attempts to win over the non-Maasai bloc, Dr Nkedianye has chosen Kajiado North MP Joseph Manje as his running mate. This move has however lost him significant support from his fellow Maasai, who contend that the seat could go to a non-Maasai to preside over a predominantly Maasai county should anything happen to the governor. Manje is a Kikuyu, with the community forming the largest minority group in the county, especially in Kajiado North.

Lenku has so far not given any indications that he will be changing his running mate from the last elections, Deputy Governor Martin Moshisho. This gives him an edge in gaining the support of the main Maasai ethnic group in the county.

Line-ups among MPs

Moreover, Lenku enjoys the benefits of incumbency and the enormous resources at his disposal. He will however have to contend with a strong UDA current in the county. Strong contestants for parliamentary seats allied to the deputy president’s party include nominated MCA Onesmus Ngogoyo, who will be seeking the Kajiado North parliamentary seat. Others are George Sunkuiya (Kajiado West), Anthony Kiroken (Kajiado Central) and Mary Seneta (Kajiado East).

Kajiado South has three MP hopefuls gunning for the UDA ticket. They are Elijah Keen Naini, popularly known as Bazu, Benjamin Kool, and Mwalimu Samuel Kutata. The three are in support of Katoo.

Bishop John Parit, who is also running for the Kajiado South Parliamentary seat, supports Dr Nkedianye. In his Kajiado East backyard, the former governor has three MPs aspirants supporting him – Douglas Keton, Marina Kelly and Wilson Kisemei – but known in both the Women Representative or Senate race.

Neither Ms Tobiko nor Meja has gained the confidence and support of the perceptibly strong UDA-allied candidates aspiring for other positions, leaving them without county-wide grassroots support. Katoo has however galvanized the support of aspirants for various other positions, granting him significant leverage in his quest to defeat Lenku at the polls.

The strong line-up by UDA is in fact in sharp contrast to Lenku’s, whose main supporters include contestant Samuel Parashina and Daniel Nina (Livondo) for the Kajiado South seat,  Joseph Simel (ODM) and Moses Konana (Jubilee) for the for the Kajiado West seat. The latter seat has also attracted Timothy Kaleyia of ODM, an erstwhile ally of Governor Lenku, but who had recently shifted his loyalty to Dr NKedianye.

In Kajiado Central, MP Memusi Kanchori of ODM, a fierce critic of Lenku, supports Dr Nkedianye. His other competitor, Moses Birisha of Jubilee, supports Lenku.

Notable Senate contestants include incumbent Philip Mpaayei, Daniel Tinaai and Samuel Seki, all of whom are after the UDA ticket and support Katoo’s candidature. On the Azimio front, the contestants are County Assembly Speaker Johnson Osoi (Jubilee), Kajiado West ex-MP Moses Sakuda (Jubilee), Judith Pareno (ODM) and Brian Sekento.

Among contestants for the Women’s Representative position, Katoo has the support of Leah Sankaire, a former Chief of Protocol in Lenku’s administration. The incumbent, Janet Teiyaa, has run her own lone-ranger campaign, perhaps confident of her own grassroots support. Lenku’s candidature is supported by Jennifer Moinket, Gladys Sisina and Eve Merin.

Ms Tobiko has the support of nominated MCA Yvonne Tonkei and Juliana Katimua, both of whom are seeking the Woman’s Representative position. Katimua has a significant support base across the county owing to her efforts in advocating for women’s rights and other community empowerment programmes through her non-governmental organization,  Nasaru Women, where she is the director.

Dr Nkedianye only has the support of ODM’s Simayiai Rakita, who also hopes to be elected Women’s Representative.

Development record

Lenku’s candidature is also likely to suffer from a perception that he has done little by way of development projects, unlike his predecessor, Dr Nkedianye. He also lost some of his support when he arrived at a rapprochement with former foes soon after his election, appointing them to key positions to the chagrin of his own supporters who were overlooked. It is telling that the governor does not enjoy the support of any sitting MP.

On his part, Katoo is a long-serving politician who has won four consecutive elections as MP. He has also served as Assistant Minister for Youth Affairs and as Internal Security Minister during the Kibaki era. Despite these accolades, he comes up as someone who is challenged in speech, particularly in English and Kiswahili.

While Dr Nkedianye lost a significant chunk of his Maasai supporters when settled on a non-Maasai as his runing mate, Ms Tobiko has suffered setbacks on the home front that have cost her politically among the patriarchal Maasai community. The unfolding events have left Lenku and Katoo as the formidable de facto leaders of the two main coalitions, ensuring that Kajiado will be a key theatre in the competition between the two political formations as they wrestle each other across the country.

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