How Azimio brought multipartism to Homa Bay

Raila Odinga

ODM chairman John Mbadi, who is also the Minority Leader in the National Assembly, with party leader Raila Odinga, at Chungwa House, Nairobi, on October 7, 2020.


Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Contesting a political seat in Homa Bay County on a party other than ODM was a tall order in the past three general elections.

ODM dominates politics in the county and getting the party’s ticket means an aspirant is more likely to win a political seat.

All the current eight MPs, the governor, woman rep, senator and 38 of 40 MCAs were elected on ODM tickets in the 2017 General Election. It was the same case in the 2013 elections.

But the situation is changing. Aspirants seeking seats under other parties in the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition are preparing to face their counterparts in ODM. The ground is also more receptive to non-ODM candidates than in the past.

Most ODM candidates for ward and county seats who are pushing for a six-piece voting pattern have at least one opponent from Azimio or an independent candidate competing with them in the August 9 polls.

The confidence of other Azimio candidates, which is giving their ODM competitors sleepless nights, was recently boosted after ODM leader and Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga withdrew his stance on six-piece voting, somewhat levelling the playing field.

In the Rangwe parliamentary contest, two aspirants are challenging Dr Lillian Gogo, who is defending her seat on an ODM ticket and is banking on some of the projects she has implemented in the constituency to win votes, including building classrooms.

The other aspirants are agriculture expert Achuodho Kachuodho, who is vying on a Democratic Action Party of Kenya (DAP-K) ticket, and former MP George Oner, an independent candidate.

Clan is at the centre of the campaigns there.

Rangwe has three clans – Kochia, Kagan and Gem, which have also been demarcated as wards.

Gem has two wards: East Gem and West Gem.

Dr Gogo hails from East Gem, while Mr Kachuodho comes from Kochia. Mr Oner is from Kagan

According to the 2017 IEBC register, Rangwe constituency had 52,516 registered voters.

Kochia ward had 15,908 voters, Kagan 14,273, East Gem 11,592 and West Gem 10,743.

Mr Kachuodho and Mr Oner have intensified their campaigns to dislodge Dr Gogo from her seat, saying she has not improved the lives of residents.

Mr Oner quit ODM after the party handed a direct ticket to Dr Gogo.

Mr Kachuodho asked residents to support his candidacy, saying he has ideas on how he will improve the lives of residents.

“It is time for the people of Rangwe to vote for the right person who will provide servant leadership," he said.

The agriculture expert told voters to consider personal qualities and not the political party of a candidate.

"We are all under the Azimio-One Kenya Coalition Party, whose presidential candidate is Raila Odinga. Let nobody hoodwink voters with a six-piece voting pattern in Rangwe," he said.

Among the things Mr Kachuodho said he would do if elected is to empower local farmers, especially those under the Kimira Oluch Smallholder Farmer Improvement Project (Kosfip), by registering them to saccos and cooperatives.

Kaluma versus Ogindo

A similar situation prevails in Homa Bay Town, where Peter Kaluma will face off with former Rangwe MP Martin Ogindo of the Green Congress of Kenya (GCK) and George Miyare, an independent candidate.

Mr Ogindo served one term as MP between 2007 and 2013 before Rangwe was split into Rangwe and Homa Bay Town constituencies.

He tried his luck in Homa Bay Town in 2013 but was defeated by Mr Kaluma after disputed party primaries and subsequently in the General Election.

Mr Ogindo later decided to form his own party.

He ran under GCK in 2017 but lost to Mr Kaluma for a second time.

The former legislator will have another shot in August and says in his campaign messages that school infrastructure is one of his top priorities.

Both hail from the same area in Homa Bay Town East ward, which they are battling to control.

The rest of the constituency is cosmopolitan.

In Ndhiwa, former MP Agostinho Neto will for the first time use his United Green Movement (UGM) party to compete against Martin Owino, an ODM candidate.

Mr Neto was first elected to Parliament in a by-election in September 2012 after the death of MP Joshua Orwa Ojode.

He was re-elected in 2013 but lost to Mr Owino in 2017.

He first lost the ODM party ticket before losing the General Election as an independent candidate.

Last week, Mr Neto launched his campaign as he tries to take back the seat with a message that he will make schools better.

Ndhiwa politics are also determined by clanism.

Mr Neto is from Kabuoch, while Mr Owino is from Kologi.

The other clans that the two will fight to control include Kosewe, Kwabwai, Kanyidoto and Kanyikela.

Politics in Ndhiwa are dominated by issues including poor access roads, the plight of sugarcane farmers and dilapidated classrooms, which all aspirants said they will address.

Besides the constituency politics, leaders competing for county seats also have opponents within Azimio.

In the woman rep contest, Mary Ojode, wife of former internal security assistant minister Orwa Ojode, is competing against Joyce Osogo of ODM and independent candidates Mauliene Ngala, Tabitha Nyandiek and Easter Ogweno.

Ms Ojode, who hails from Ndhiwa, settled on DAP-K, saying the choice of political parties should not block leaders from achieving their goals.

She joined active politics in 2012, three months after the death of her husband. She wanted the seat formerly held by Ojode but lost to Mr Neto.

A few months later, she vied for the Ndhiwa parliamentary seat but lost for a second time to Mr Neto.

"I contested for the seat on an Amani National Congress (ANC) ticket but lost for a second time," Ms Ojode said.

She ran again in 2017 but lost for a third time.

“Elections should be about personalities and not the party ticket. Let us look at policies that aspirants have, not their political parties,” Ms Ojode said.

She said that among the reasons she wants to join Parliament is to complete projects started by her late husband.

“Some of the projects are directly in line with the duties of a woman representative. I have a belief that I will fulfill some of the campaign pledges of my husband and seal all gaps that he left,” she said.

In the Homa Bay senator’s seat, Kanu has a candidate.

He is the party’s first vice-chairman, Tom Ojanga.

He will compete with ODM's Moses Kajwang, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) chief adviser Kenneth Kembona and human rights activist Michael Kojo, who is an independent candidate.

Mr Ojanga, who hails from Homa Bay town, said there is an oversight vacuum in the county and he needs to step in and save it from corruption and other problems.

He said Kanu is not new in the county and should be given a chance to lead.

"The party groomed many politicians in this county, hence my belief that I am vying for this seat on the ticket of a friendly political party in this county,” he said.

Mr Kajwang, who hails from Suba North, was first elected in a by-election in 2015 after the death of his brother Gerald Kajwang.

He was re-elected in 2017 and is seeking a third term.