Battle lines drawn in scramble to succeed Cabinet pick Alice Wahome 

Kandara MP Alice Wahome.

Kandara MP Alice Wahome speaks at a Kenya Kwanza Alliance campaign rally in Elburgon Town, Nakuru County, on April 2, 2022. Ms Wahome was on Wednesday named Water and Sanitation Cabinet Secretary.

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

Kandara constituency is already in campaign mode after MP Alice Wahome was nominated for Water and Sanitation Cabinet Secretary by President William Ruto.

Celebrations erupted, especially in Muruka, where she hails from, immediately after she was named, with politicians sponsoring youths to pour into the streets to thank Dr Ruto for rewarding Ms Wahome, a critical pillar in winning over Mt Kenya to the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) side.

“I thank the people of Kandara who had elected me for the third successive term. I thank them for standing with our UDA party and voting for Dr Ruto,” she said. 

“We have been rewarded with this Cabinet position and it is a big honour. We will remain steadfast in UDA and the people will decide on who succeeds me.”

Ms Waithera Muithirania, who unsuccessfully vied for the woman rep position in 2017 and this year, said she will contest the Kandara seat.

In 2017, Ms Muithirania lost in the Jubilee nominations to Sabina Chege. She stayed in the race as an independent candidate but lost.

In last month’s elections, she ran again under the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party but lost to Ms Betty Maina of UDA.

Ms Muithirania, who runs Kihoto FM that broadcasts in the Gikuyu language, had revealed that retired President Uhuru Kenyatta had helped her get her broadcasting licence and she could not abandon Azimio. 

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President William Ruto hugs Kandara MP Alice Wahome in a past event.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

She previously worked at the State broadcaster’s Coro FM and Royal Media Services’ Inooro FM before she founded her own station. 

But she now wants to decamp to UDA, sharing a video of her admiring a toy wheelbarrow and placing it prominently in her living room.

“I will vie for the Kandara seat. I am sure the people of Kandara will accept me as one of their own,” she said.

In the last polls, Ms Wahome received a direct ticket from UDA and faced 14 other contestants, whom she trounced with 54 percent of the votes. She was the only female aspirant.

She garnered 39,009 votes, followed by Chege Njuguna (Chama Cha Kazi, 19,260), about 27 percent. Former Murang’a deputy governor Maina Kamau had 3,188 votes, followed by Peter Kinyanjui (Jubilee) with 2,052. 

Mr Julius Kaberere, who had sought the governor’s seat in 2013 and lost to Mwangi wa Iria, trailed Ms Wahome with 1,313 votes.

Phillip Mwangi (now late), a fiery land rights crusader who had engendered the fantasy among Kandara people that land occupied by US pineapple processor Del Monte would revert to them, did not contest.

Ruto-allied MPs

Kandara MP Alice Wahome and a section of Members of Parliament allied to President William Ruto addressing the media at Parliament Buildings in a past event.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

Ms Wahome had lamented that most of her competitors had been planted by the ‘deep state’ to scatter her supporters and defeat her.

She was said to be grooming Lucy Ngugi, the former Murang’a deputy Speaker and the county’s Maendeleo ya Wanawake chair, to succeed her. Ms Ngugi lost to Ms Maina in the UDA primaries for woman rep, a seat Ms Maina ended up bagging.

Time will tell whether voters, who had started expressing fatigue about electing Ms Wahome in three elections, will listen to her on who should succeed her.

“But what is not in doubt is that we will not accept direct nomination and all those interested in the seat must pass through voters in competitive primaries,” said Karanja Mwika, a voter in Muruka ward.

“The party of choice is UDA and that will make it a gruelling battle for the prize.” 

Murang’a has a reputation for embracing gender parity in elective posts.

Alice Wahome

Kandara MP Alice Wahome during a past event.

Photo credit: File

In 2017, it elected three women (Ms Wahome, Waithera Wa Maua for Maragua and Wangari Mwaniki in Kigumo) among its seven parliamentary seats. Last month, Ms Mwaniki lost to Joseph Munyoro, and women could lose another seat if Kandara goes to a male aspirant.

Kandara residents “deserve the best possible leadership picked in a democratic process without invoking gender emotions,” said Susan Mwangi, area representative for the Federation for African Women Educationalists (Fawe). 

Kandara has 105,148 registered voters in six wards – Ng’araria (13,776), Muruka (16, 240), Kagundu-ini (19,129), Gaichanjiru (16,280), Ithiru (18,335) and Ruchu (21,388).

The constituency had 175, 098 people, according to the 2019 national census, 86,698 of them males and 88,393 females, with a household size average of 3.40. Some 309 were recorded to have various forms of disability.

Among the leading challenges in the constituency are insecurity expressed in wanton murders, extortion in the public transport sector, defilements, thefts, lack of adequate safe drinking water, land injustices, alcoholism, bhang use, police corruption and school dropouts. 

On the positive side, Kandara is a leading avocado producer and has the Siranga dam, a tourist attraction.

It is also home to the proposed National Treasury CS Prof Njuguna Ndung’u, who hails from Gacharage village, meaning one sub-county could produce two Cabinet ministers.