2nd January 2007
THE ELECTION BATTLE FOR MBITA SEAT IS EXPECTED TO BE A TWO HORSE RACE
By Leo Odera Omolo
The battle for political supremacy in Mbita Constituency in Suba District is
likely going to be a two horse race between the incumbent Hon. Gerald Otieno
Kajwang and the youthful/challenger, a top civil servant Sammy Wakiaga.
Kajwang has represented the area ever since 1997 when he won the seat during the first multiparty elections on an NDP ticket. The outspoken legislator
secured an easy victory on a NARC party ticket in the year 2002. Mbita is an
ODM-K stronghold and an area where Raila Odinga support is almost a man-to-man.
Mbita Constituency is more or less a semi-arid land with scarce rainfall
forcing the population to depend entirely on fishing and fish trade as the main
stay of their economic activities. But the fish population in Lake Victoria is
rapidly declining at an alarming proportion and the residents will have to look
into other alternative means for the outlet of cash and food for survival.
Mbita parliamentary electoral area was created in 1965. It was hived out of
the old larger Lambwe Valley Constituency following the dissolution of the
Majimbo constitution and the scrapping of the Senate (Upper House) by the post independence KANU regime
Mzee Selemiah Mbeo Onyango from Mfangano Island who had earlier in 1963 won the Senate seat for South Nyanza District was absorbed in the National Assembly (Lower House) as were all other 41 Senators from the similar number of districts countrywide.
Mbeo Onyango became the first MP for the area, while the other part was
renamed Ndhiwa Constituency and was then represented by Dr. Joseph Gordon Odero-Jowi. Odero-Jowi was the first elected the MP for Lambwe Valley Constituency at the 1963 independence general elections.
The former Senator was later dethroned by a young firebrand Mr. George Osingo Migure (A Georgy Wuo-Otana) in the 1969 general elections. Migure hails from Kamasengre sub-clan in Rusinga Island. His home is located just a kilometer from the home and burial place of the late Mr. Thomas Joseph Mboya the slain former KANU's Secretary General and a long serving cabinet member in the post-independent KANU government headed by the late President Jomo Kenyatta. Mboya died in Nairobi in a hails of bullets at the hands of a Kikuyu assassin on July 5, 1969.
Migure did not last for long. He was in turn defeated by Mboya's younger
brother, the late Alfonce L. Okuku in 1974. But Okuku too lost the seat after
representing the area for two consecutive terms. The former General Manager of the Barclays Bank of Kenya Mr. Peter Clever Otieno Nyakiamo in the 1983 general elections consigned him to political limbo following his defeat.
Nyakiamo was the first person from the mainland to win the seat. He served in the cabinet as the Minister of State in the Office of the President and later in
the Ministry of Health before being swept away in 1992 under the euphoria of
Ford-Kenya following the advent of multiparty system.
This time around, the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural
Resources Dr. Valentine Omolo Opere from Kamwenda sub-clan in Gwassi won the popular votes on a Ford-Kenya ticket giving Nyakiamo a thorough beating at the polls. Nyakiamo had defended his seat on a KANU ticket. But the political trend in the region had changed tremendously sweeping all KANU Luo MPs out of the August House.
Soon after the 1992 general election, Mbita constituency was split into two.
A new constituency called Gwassi was created and Dr. Opere who had switched to Gwassi was trounced by a Nairobi based lawyer Mr. Felix Nyauchi who hails from his Kamwenda sub-clan in the 1997 general election. Dr. Opere died a few years ago a broken man.
Otieno Kajwang', a son of a prominent school teacher Mzee Ajwang' Nyakwemba won the seat on an LDP ticket in 1997 and successfully defended his seat in the year 2002 on a NARC coalition party ticket. This was an amalgamation of DP, NAK and the LDP.
Kajwang' has since established himself as a formidable debater in the House
and fierce critics of the NARC government. He has always come out fire spitting on political matters affecting the Luo community and defending the ODM-K de facto leader Raila Amolo Odinga to the hilt when the latter came under attack by his detractors.
The legislator, however, is being blamed by his constituents back home for
lukewarm and lackluster performance at the constituency level, though he is
hailed as a hero in certain quarters particularly for his hard-hitting comments
on national issues.
Political pundits in Mbita say the legislator hardly goes home. He is known
to not have organized any consultative meetings with his constituents to discuss
certain pressing issues such as insecurity and persistent attacks on fishermen
by armed foreign pirates from neighbouring countries.
Kajwang's three other colleagues whose constituencies have recently came under similar invasion and attacks by foreign pirates using sophisticated motorized speed boats have all come out in full force blasting the government for having neglected its citizens living along the shoreline of Lake Victoria.
Other constituencies, which are prone to similar incursion, include Nyatike,
Gwassi and Bondo.
Bondo MP Dr. Oburu Odinga and his Gwassi counterpart have come out with scathing criticism of the NARC government for not providing its citizens;
especially fishermen and those involved in fish trade in the region with
adequate security protection. The same complaint were also heard from the bulky Nyatike MP Ocholla Ogur, while Otieno Kajwang' has maintained complete silence.
Kajwang's tribulations first came to the surface during last May's LDP party
grass root elections. The supporters of his archrival Sammy Wakiaga swept local party officials allied to him out of office.
He cried foul but in some places, the elections were repeated and the results
remained the same. In some areas, mostly where the inhabitants are people of
Suba origins the electorate appeared to have lost faith in their MP.
At one time Kajwang' was forced to invite Raila Odinga and a number of Luo MPs for a series of public rallies in both Mbita Town and on Mfangano Island in what observers of the region's politics were quick in dismissing as mainly meant for public relations exercise.
For the first time in Luo Nyanza, Raila Odinga came face to face with hecklers by rowdy youths who protested against Kajwang', saying the legislator had abandoned them for the good comfort of Nairobi City.
Raila deployed all the tricks in the books to persuade the hostile crowds both
at Mbita point and in Mfangano, telling them that he needed good team players in the next parliament and that, he needed the experienced players like Kajwang' and others. At one time the Migori MP Charles Owino (Jalikowa) who kicked off the public debate on the issue was forced out of the podium as he took a lot of unprintable insults from the youths.
The situation was even worse in Mfangano when the elders in the audience told Raila Odinga in his face that their loyalty to him was direct and not through
proxies. They pleaded with him to create a democratic space in Luoland so that they could elect someone of their own choice to join him in the fight for the
Some members of the audience were heard saying in broken Dho-Luo vernacular, with heavy Suba dialect, "Wuod Jaduong' yie imiwa thuolo mondo wan ema wamiyi wuowi mawayiero mondo uti godo," (loose meaning; Don't impose a leader on us. Allow us the space to pick someone of our own choice, so that he can join you in the struggle).
Sammy Wakiaga, a soft spoken senior civil servant has yet to declare his
interest in the seat, but he is being credited for having contributed immensely
towards numerous economic projects. He has made hefty donations to the
development of schools in both the Islands and on the mainland using his
economic muscle. Both Kajwang' and Wakiaga are the products of Nairobi University. Kajwang' studied law but he has since lost his practicing certificate and struck out of the rolls of practicing lawyers. This followed numerous complaints against him lodged with Lawyers Complaint Commission and the Law Society of Kenya. Wakiaga studied Commerce and majored in Accountancy. He is currently working as an accountant with the National Security Intelligence Service. He has established a chain of business enterprises both in Nairobi and at his home turf in Mbita.
Both men are said to have a good rapport with Raila Odinga, therefore the
electorate are expecting the Luo political kingpin to steer clear of the local
campaign. For Raila to be sure of harvesting their votes, , he will need to be
neutral and impartial and allow the electorate a free hand to vote for the best
man as their next MP.
As the situation stands on the ground in respect of popularity between
Kajwang' and Wakiaga, the latter is very much ahead of the former. Kajwang',
however, has sparsely scattered support in East Lambwe Valley Location whose inhabitants are mainly pure Luos.
He is also enjoying support in two sub-location whose inhabitants are members of Kamireri and Waondo, his own home turf. But his popularity has waned out in some adjacent areas like Malela, Mirunda, Njaga and Ngondhe whose residents are members of the Suba groups from Wasaki, Jo'Ngodhe. Even in the East Lambwe Location, there are a mixture of immigrants from Luo locations such as Karachuonyo, Uyoma and Kagwa who are living side by side with their Suba neighbours.
On Rusinga Island, which is Sammy Wakiaga's home turf, Kajwang' can expect no miracle to happen. The same situation is expected in Mfangano and Ndodhe Islands whose inhabitants are Subas. The two might share the votes in Kasigunga and in the sprawling Mbita Town where there is a sizeable population of Luo businessmen, traders and immigrants from other Luo locations.
In terms of development and contributions to the welfare of the locals, Wakiaga is leading with a clean track record of mass funding of projects, which
are scattered all over the constituency. Here is where Kajwang's weakness is
visible. Kajwang' has however come on board since, albeit late, after his opponent had gone all over donating building materials and thousands of shillings for projects and even initiating an annual cultural event, which brings people together from the two main islands in sports and cultural activities during Christmas festivities.
A general feeling persist among the Suba, particularly the islanders, that the
mainlanders have had enough of the Mbita seat and that this time around, it
should be handed back to the islanders. Complaints about poor disbursement of CDF, School Bursary Funds and HIV/Aids Control Funds have also been aired from many quarters and the blame is placed squarely on the doorstep of the MP.
Mbita people have suffered the brand of external attack by foreign pirates who have been raiding fish landing beaches, trading centres, robbing fishermen of money, fishing gears, shop goods and even killing them with sophisticated
weapons. Such attacks have occurred in Takawiri, Mfangano, Rusinga, Remba and Ngodhe Islands.
Out of the 29,000 plus registered voters in Mbita, the majority are the people
of Suba origins. Although the Suba people are known to be living happily with
their Luo neighbours, this particular community has no love lost for the incumbent legislator. They accuse him of having concentrated his energy and
resources in the improvement of only one secondary school. This is Waondo
Secondary School, which is a stone throw from his country home.
Other allegations are that the outspoken legislator has of late developed the
habit of "love for the bottle." Whenever he visits his constituency, he is
always seen seeping a glass of beer at the nearby ICIPE guesthouse during
weekends in the company of some funny looking women.
Despite his flying colours in national politics, the Mbita MP is said to
have maintained poor rapport with his constituents. His inaccessibility to the electorate would work to the advantage of his archrival Samy Wakiaga who despite of his enormous wealth, the man from Kaswanga in Rusinga is always within the reach of ordinary people.
If Sammy Wakiaga, who hails from Kaswanga and a son of the highly respected former Chief Semekiah Wakiaga chose to stand, then Kajwang' will be given a good a run for his money.
The writer is LUOCOME REPORTER based in Kisumu. We urge all LUOCOME members with pressing issues pertaining to media and press releases to kindly contact him from any where in world. He will assist you to get true picture of your Village Developement.
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