It was a show of might between Amani National Congress (ANC) and United Democratic Alliance (UDA) parties on Monday as campaigns for the Matungu parliamentary by-election slated for March 4 officially kicked off after their candidates presented their nomination papers to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and were cleared to proceed with the race.
Party leaders Musalia Mudavadi (ANC) and Johnson Muthama (UDA) accompanied their candidates Peter Nabulindo and Alex Lanya respectively as they launched their campaigns.
The seat fell vacant following the death of MP Justus Murunga who succumbed to breathing complications on November 14, 2020.
Mr Lanya held a prayer rally at Bulimbo Catholic Church that was attended by his party leadership comprising Mr Muthama, Dr Boni Khalwale, Mr Omar Hassan, Mr Rashid Echesa and MPs Benjamin Washiali, Didmus Barasa and John Waluke.
The ANC brigade of Mr Mudavadi, Mr Ayub Savula, Mr Cleophas Malala, Mr John Bunyasi, Mr Tindi Mwale and Mr Alfred Agoi was joined by their Ford Kenya counterparts Mr Moses Wetang'ula, Mr Chris Wamalwa and Ms Catherine Wambilianga.
The Mudavadi team moved through parts of Mayoni Ward to Khalaba and Kholera popularising their candidate.
Mr Mudavadi appealed to Matungu voters to elect Mr Nabulindo, saying the Matungu by-election signals the beginning of Luhya unity.
"Ford Kenya and ANC have united in the two by-elections in Matungu and Kabuchai to prove to the world that the people of Mulembe Nation can unite. Ford Kenya is supporting ANC in Matungu by not fielding a candidate while ANC is not fielding a candidate in Kabuchai to support Ford Kenya," said Mr Mudavadi.
Not popularity contest
He dismissed claims that the Matungu race is meant to measure who is more popular between him, DP Ruto and ODM’s Raila Odinga ahead of the 2022 elections.
"This by-election is for the people of Matungu and nobody should be intimidated or be coerced on grounds of employment to vote for a particular candidate. Make your choices right so that you get a good person who will work for you," he said.
On the other hand, Mr Muthama asked voters to reject the candidate fronted by ANC, claiming that Mr Mudavadi is a weak link compared to Dr Ruto.
"He cannot convene a meeting in Western that can be attended by all leaders. But Ruto can move to any part of the country and call all people together," said Mr Muthama.
He said the DP will not set foot in Matungu to campaign for his candidate because he has capable foot soldiers to hand him victory on March 4.
By Monday, IEBC had cleared three candidates allied to ANC, UDA and UDP.
Returning Officer John Rono said independent candidates failed to fulfill some of the requirements and were asked to go back and correct the anomalies before being cleared later.
"Some of them have fallen short of compiling 1,000 signatures to support their candidature while another one belonged to a political party," said Matungu Sub-County Returning Officer John Kirui.
Two out of the 21 aspirants who had filed nomination papers with the IEBC for the Matungu Parliamentary by-election announced their withdrawal from the race as the launch of official campaigns kicked off on Monday.
This happened as the candidature of Ms Christabel Amunga, wife of the late MP Murunga, who was the first one to present her nomination checklist to IEBC at 8am, was rejected because her list of 1,000 people who nominated her as an independent candidate was in PDF format.
“I am sorry to reject your nomination because the list of people who nominated you is in PDF format and cannot be read on the computer. I still give you time to go and compile the list in Excel spreadsheet format,” said Mr Kirui.
Mr Paul Posho and Odanga Pessa, who had announced they would contest as independent candidates, announced their withdrawal from the race and promised to back the UDA candidate.
Mr Posho, who works in the office of the Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya as a political adviser, had first expressed his desire to run on an ODM ticket but failed to get the party’s nomination which went to former MP David Were.
Speaking before the commencement of the nomination of candidates by the IEBC on Monday morning, the two said they had made the decision to pull out of the by-election of their own volition, citing a crowded race.
Mr Kirui said a total of 16 aspirants had collected nomination forms to run as independent candidates.