Clan politics and track records are likely to influence voting in the Wajir governor race.
In the past five years, Wajir has suffered political instability following the impeachment of Governor Mohamed Abdi Mohamud by Members of the County Assembly (MCAs).
Thirty-seven MCAs voted in favour of the impeachment motion while 10 opposed his removal from office in April 2021.
Mr Ahmed Ali Muktar held the office for nine months before a High Court in Meru reinstated Mr Mohamud in February.
Eight candidates are seeking to succeed Mr Mohamud who is defending his seat as an independent candidate. He failed to clinch the Jubilee Party ticket at the nominations won by Dr Hassan Mohamed.
Others in the race are Mr Ahmed Abdullahi (ODM), Dr Abdullahi Ibrahim Ali (UDM), Mr Ahmed Ali Muktar (UDA), Prof Osman Warfa (Nark), Dr Siyat Abdullahi (Wiper), Mr Ugas Sheikh Mohamed (ANC) and Mr Mohamed Ibrahim Elmi (Independent) .
On August 9, some 164,200 voters will decide who among the nine candidates will be their governor.
The failed ‘negotiated democracy’ has led to a crowded race, with the Degodia clan, who are the majority, fielding six candidates.
The Ogaden have two aspirants while the Ajuran have one candidate.
“We lost confidence in negotiated democracy after we lost a good governor in the 2017 election under this plan... our eyes are now wide open,” said Mr Abdi Ibrahim, a resident.
This has seen the three main clans fail to agree on a particular candidate and form alliances as it was in the 2013 and 2017 elections.
Former Wajir governor Ahmed Abdullahi says he is up to the task and will fix the mess created by his successor.
“I left an impressive track record while serving as the first governor of Wajir from 2013 to 2017,” he said.
Projects left in disarray
He said his exit left many development projects in disarray including the Wajir Medical Warehouse, the Wajir Slaughterhouse, Wajir Water and Sewerage Services Company and Wajir Waste Management Plan.
The former county boss said he will prioritise small-scale farmers and facilitate their businesses with grants and loans, like he did during his first term.
He also promised there will be enough fodder to protect pastoralists from losing their animals during drought.
Mr Abdullahi has picked Mr Ahmed Muhumed, his 2017 rival, as his running mate.
In 2017, Mr Abdullahi, who was seeking re-election on ODM ticket, suffered a shock defeat from Mr Mohamed Abdi Mohamud who garnered 49,029 votes against his 35,527 votes while Mr Muhumed managed 31,525 votes.
Mr Abdullahi hails from the majority Degodia while his running mate Muhumed comes from the Ogaden clan.
The man to beat
The new alliance means Mr Abdullahi is the man to beat in the polls since the two enjoy significant support in the county.
Majority of the Degodia sub-clans including Fardhano, Idiris, Gelible, Dumaal, Galjacel, Masare, Mithimal, Raqay, Adanyar and Jibrail have endorsed him.
Mr Abdullahi has pledged to clear all pending bills starting with small businesses.
“This shall turn around our county’s economy by enabling the business community to inject funds in Wajir and create jobs,” he said.
Mr Abdullahi also promises to create a special kitty to support marriages.
The Ogaden have fielded Prof Osman Warfa and Deputy Governor Ahmed Ali Muktar.
Put Wajir on right track
After testing power for nine months, Mr Muktar joined the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and has been criss-crossing the county pledging to put Wajir on the right track if elected.
In 2017, Ogaden clan elders rejected Mr Muktar’s proposal to run for the gubernatorial seat and further denied him a chance for Wajir South parliamentary seat.
He dusted himself and joined Mr Mohamed Abdi Mohamud and together won the seat on a Jubilee Party ticket.
Prof Osman Warfa of Nark is also from the Ogaden clan but it remains unclear who among the two has the elders’ blessings.
Mr Elmi, a two-time MP for Tarbaj constituency and a former Cabinet Secretary, hopes to fund more than 1,000 students in universities and colleges to address the teacher shortage in the county.
Mr Elmi says he will also focus on uplifting the county’s education standards and give bursaries to needy students.
He also aims to address water and health challenges.
Mr Elmi is backed by majority of Eldas community.
Also in the race is an American healthcare entrepreneur, Dr Siyat Abdullahi, from the Degodia clan.
“I’m ready to give Wajir County a fresh start and this will be pegged on good policies for development and support programmes. All is not lost,” Dr Abdullahi said.
According to the doctor, the residents have for the past five years been treated to political gimmicks that have derailed development.
“Wajir has been disenfranchised for a long time but time has come for a solution to be found. We are clocking 10 years of devolution but with nothing to show because we have been fighting each other over nothing. Wajir has been failed by its own people,” he said.
The Wiper gubernatorial candidate seeks to economically and socially transform the county.
Having worked as a healthcare entrepreneur and public health expert for 20 years in the United States, he believes he is best suited to bring transformation to the most critical sectors, including health.
Public health sector
“I want to give an assurance that I will rebuild our ailing public health sector as well as ensure that there is safe drinking water in all corners of the county,” Dr Abdullahi said.
Mr Abdullahi Ibrahim Ali, the current senator who hails from the Ajuran community, is banking on his experience in the House to strengthen devolution.
Mr Ali of United Democratic Movement (UDM) has pledged to boost ward-based funds from the current Sh25 million to Sh100 million and another Sh300 million to every constituency for development.
“I am in the race to trickle down the devolution resources our county is getting from the national level. I will ensure devolution is felt and all corruption loopholes are closed,” he said.
Being the only candidate from the Ajuran clan, political pundits believe this gives him an upper hand but only if the Ajuran vote as a block.
“He is the only candidate from the Ajuran clan but the other candidates from other clans have interest in these votes. They have picked running mates from within or even senators and women representatives and this will split the Ajuran votes,” said Mr Salat Ali, a resident.