Kisii Senate aspirants gear up for tough campaigns

Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka.

Photo credit: File

The Kisii senatorial race promises to be a tough one as three key contenders launch aggressive campaigns to popularise their bids three months before the August 9 General Election.

They are Mr Richard Onyonka, the outgoing Kitutu Chache South MP, Mr Omingo Magara, the former South Mugirango MP, and Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi.

Mr Omingo and Mr Maangi had initially announced their bids for the governorship but decided to seek the Senate seat after they failed to secure tickets from their parties.

Mr Onyonka will fly the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) flag, Mr Omingo under the Jubilee Party and Mr Maangi under the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), to which he returned after initially shifting to ODM.

Other contenders in the race are Mr Richard Atemba (DP) and Mr Ken Omanga (Kanu).

Businessman Okeng’o Nyambane was in the race and had come out as a strong aspirant, especially among young people, but dropped his bid earlier this month to support Mr Maangi.

This is after negotiations with UDA party leader and Deputy President William Ruto.

The position of senator is powerful and has become one of the most coveted seats in the history of Kisii politics.

A senator is empowered to represent the interests of his or her county and its government.

A senator also participates in lawmaking by considering, debating and approving bills concerning counties and determines allocations of national revenue among counties.

Aligned with governor aspirants

Interestingly, Mr Maangi, Mr Omingo and Mr Onyonka have each aligned themselves with the governorship aspirants in their party as they scheme to form a formidable lineup.

This raises questions on how the senator aspirants will provide oversight for the same governors in their lineups if they win the elections.

The beauty of being in a lineup is that the winning senator is entitled to employment opportunities in the county and other benefits that come with the principle of shared political democracy.

This form of power sharing has informally been adopted in Kisii to manage tricky political dynamics presented by the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, which created devolved government.

Given the sensitivity of clan politics and balancing representation in the Kisii region, the sharing of positions before the elections has been the most harmonious way of avoiding conflict.

The equal sharing of political positions ensures that no one clan dominates the leadership and unites the Abagusii to speak in one voice.

Mr Onyonka is the outgoing MP for Kitutu Chache South and has served three terms.

In his brand of politics, he has come out as a big critic of the current Kisii County government leadership, saying it has done nothing to improve the lives of residents.

The MP comes from the Bogetutu clan, to which incumbent Kisii Governor James Ongwae belongs, as well as a host of other aspirants for deputy governor, among them William Mbaka for Jubilee’s governorship aspirant Chris Obure and Ogamba Migosi for UDA’s Ezekiel Machogu.

“I promise that I will ensure prudent use of public resources in the county if I win the August election. It is sad that what has been witnessed in the county since the onset of devolution is massive looting of public resources with little development. I am convinced that we will win with my governorship aspirant Simba Arati. Mr Arati has promised accountability in the use of the devolved funds and I will ensure this happens,” said Mr Onyonka.

He said having served three terms as Kitutu Chache MP, he saw it prudent to allow fresh blood to take over from him so that he could seek the Senate seat that calls for more responsibilities.

Mr Maangi is the outgoing Kisii deputy governor and has served two terms under his boss, Mr Ongwae.

“Sincerely, as a deputy governor, naturally, I would have wanted to become the governor. From the beginning, I was prepared to run for either [senator] or governor, but on the seat of governor, the kind of politics that have been introduced here are not my kind of politics,” said Mr Maangi, who comes from the Bomachoge clan.

He, however, said he was confident of winning the Senate seat and would execute his mandate as expected.

“I am also convinced that my governorship aspirant, Mr Machogu, will win the August polls and we will work to deliver our promises to residents. We will continue with Governor Ongwae’s good work,” said Mr Maangi.

Magara

Mr Magara is a former South Mugirango MP and believes he has enough political experience to be Kisii senator.

He comes from the Bogirango clan and claims to have a solid voting block of over 100,000 people who have supported him in his previous attempts.

Mr Omanga hails from the Nyaribari clan and hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps as a politician.

The politician, who has no preferred lineup, said it is not wise for Senate aspirants to vie alongside governorship ones because if they win, it will be difficult to offer oversight.

“I am not sure how the senatorial aspirants who are currently vigorously campaigning for the governorship aspirants in their lineups will execute their mandate if they win the August polls. Oversight will not be possible,” he said.

Mr Atemba unsuccessfully vied in the last General Election. He ditched UDA after realising that he would not secure a ticket.

"I will use the Democratic Party to pursue my senatorial bid. I am convinced that I have what it takes to represent Kisii residents in the Senate," said Mr Atemba.

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