Negotiated democracy faces acid test in Isiolo

Borana Council of Elders chair Abdullahi Gonjobe (second left) with former Isiolo Governor Godana Doyo (left) Nuh Mohammed Ibrahim, former Isiolo Speaker Mohammed Tupi and Woman Rep Rehema Jaldesa on January 4, 2022.

Photo credit: Waweru Wairimu | Nation Media Group

Negotiated democracy, widely practised in Northern Kenya, is facing a real test in Isiolo County ahead of the August polls amid growing resistance from residents and aspirants for various elective seats.

While the model, common in pastoralist communities, has been mooted as the ideal way to prevent election-related violence through fair sharing of positions, it has in recent times been blamed for alienating and marginalising some communities and groups such as women and the disabled.

It allows clan elders to negotiate for elective posts, pick candidates to vie for various positions and then rally the community to support them.

But some larger communities field candidates for all elective positions and leave none to the others, including minorities. This has gradually caused dissatisfaction among residents of the county that is home to over 40 tribes.

The idea of inclusivity seems to have dawned on residents, with marginalised communities crying foul over what they describe as a threat to diversity.

On January 4, Borana elders endorsed the community’s line-up for all positions in the forthcoming elections, eliciting mixed reactions and prompting other communities to call the decision selfish.

The Borana Council of Elders picked ex-governor Godana Doyo, Nuh Mohammed Ibrahim and former Isiolo County Assembly Speaker Mohammed Tupi to vie for governor, senator and Isiolo South MP, respectively.

They also gave Isiolo North MP Hassan Odha and Woman Rep Rehema Jaldesa the green light to seek re-election.

Isiolo Interfaith Network secretary Stephen Kalunyu was the first to condemn the endorsements, saying they were unfair and discriminatory.

“The decision by the Borana Council of Elders to allocate all the elective positions to Boranas is unfair, unjustified, biased and discriminatory,” he said.

The National Independent Church of Africa cleric said to grow the county fairly for peace and progress, all interested parties from different communities should be invited to share the elective slots.

“I am appealing to the (elders) to reconsider the decision,” Mr Kalunyu said.

That development seems to have prompted the ongoing talks to unite other communities, whose total cumulative votes surpass those of the Borana, the largest community, which has about 30,000.

Isiolo Speaker Hussein Roba is interested in the Senate seat and ex-EACC boss Halakhe Dida Waqo, who wants the governor’s seat and has been endorsed by some of the Karayu clan, are among the politicians who have disregarded the elders’ verdict and maintained that they will pursue their ambitions.

Mr Waqo says the final decision lies with voters and insists that a few elders could not speak on behalf of thousands of people.

“I will be on the ballot with or without the elders’ endorsement,” Mr Waqo told Nation.Africa recently.

Governor Mohamed Kuti has already been endorsed by his Sakuye clan to seek re-election, with Mr Doyo his main challenger in the race.

Disputed exercise

Former Isiolo South MP Abdullahi Banticha has also vowed to go to the ballot after losing the endorsement to ex-Speaker Tupi and both will face off with incumbent MP Abdi Koropu in the battle for about 20,000 votes.

Burat MCA hopeful Anab Kasim, who lost in the recent elders' vetting to Mohammed Barre Ahmed, said it was unfortunate that women were not being given space in the political arena.

“It is so sad that elders still see women from their dressing and not the knowledge and experience they have in the 21st century,” she said during the disputed exercise by Isiolo’s Somali Council of Elders.

Education CAS Mumina Bonaya, nominated MCAs Sumeya Bishar and Mumina Konso, businesswoman Nasibo Sora, Winfred Kagwiria and Valentine Nyaguthii are all seeking to oust Woman Rep Jaldesa.

The Isiolo North MP seat has attracted eight aspirants: Ms Lucy Mworia, former MP Joseph Samal, Abdilatif Abdi Boru, businessmen Osman Shariff Abukar and Mwenda Thuranira, Abdi Godana, Ali Dida and nominated Senator Abshiro Halakhe.

Mr Roba and Mr Ibrahim will be seeking to unseat Senator Fatuma Dullo.

Borana Council of Elders chair Abdullahi Gonjobe recently warned that the council will rally the community to reject any candidate who goes it alone without their blessings.

The coalitions that aspirants join, the political parties they choose to vie on, their manifesto and their development track are among the key determinants of the coming elections, besides politicians’ influence.

ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja, which the majority of the leaders in the county seem to subscribe to, the Upya Party allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, ODM and Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) are among the parties to watch.

A majority of the aspirants will by March have selected their parties.

Isiolo County, which covers an estimated 25,336 square kilometres, has about 77,000 registered voters and a population of 268,000.

Of greater concern to the majority of Isiolo residents is who becomes governor.

Governor Kuti hopes to consolidate votes from the Ameru, Turkana, Samburu, Somali and other minority communities in his re-election bid.

Mr Doyo, on the other hand, is banking on his vote-rich Borana community to clinch the position and promises to ensure fair and equitable distribution of resources and improved services.

Dr Kuti says a second chance will enable him to complete ongoing mega projects such as a modern market, a state-of-the-art stadium and the county headquarters, and initiate others to spur economic growth.

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