Political fireworks that were expected in the much-awaited Msambweni mini-poll have been doused by a government order to suspend rallies.
This comes at a time ODM candidate Omar Boga has revealed that he is in a two-week isolation after testing positive for Covid-19, further slowing down his campaigns. The by-elections are slated for December 15.
President Kenyatta directed last week that all political gatherings be suspended for 60 days as part of containment measures against the spread of coronavirus.
The directive is bound to tone down the political showdown that was expected between ODM leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto.
Mr Odinga’s party will be represented in the by-election by Mr Boga, while the Ruto camp supports Independent candidate Feisal Bader. Both leaders’ lieutenants have staged rigorous campaigns for their candidates.
DP Ruto allies, led by former senators Johnson Muthama (Machakos), Hassan Omar (Mombasa) and Boni Khalwale (Kakamega) are leading Mr Bader’s rallies. The brigade campaigned in parts of the constituency a week after ODM, led by its Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna, visited some of the grassroots areas to drum up support for their candidate.
With President Kenyatta directing that political rallies be allowed only in town halls, the campaigns are set to take a new twist. Already, both parties have pledged to adhere to the President’s order, with the DP promising to scale down his public engagements “until further notice”.
“I have decided to significantly scale down my public engagements until further notice. The empowerment meetings for this weekend in Machakos, Kitui and Makueni are postponed,” the DP said a day before President Kenyatta’s address to the nation.
ODM has announced that their campaigns will also adhere to the Head of State’s directive.
“Today we raised funds to help in our campaigns in Msambweni and Wundanyi/Mbale, Kisumu North and Dabaso wards for the December 15 by-elections,” Mr Sifuna said.
“The party’s campaigns shall be in strict adherence to the new protocols announced by the President,” the party posted on its official Twitter handle.
Msambweni has 68,500 voters — Bongwe/Gombato ward 17,538, Ramisi 18,569, Ukunda 21, 500 and Kinondo 11,014.
The by-election is shaping into a two-horse race between Mr Boga and Mr Bader. Others are independent candidates Sharlet Mariam Akinyi, Mansury Kumaka, Charles Bilali, Wiper’s Shee Abdulrahman, Ali Hassan Mwakulonda (Party of Economic Democracy), Marere Wamwachai (National Vision Party) and Khamis Mwakaonje (United Green Movement).