Voters reject former civil servants in party primaries

Charles Keter.

Former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

A majority of officials who left their plum public service jobs to try their hand in politics have to go back to the drawing board after voters rejected them at party primaries.

As February 9 deadline for resignation from public service for those intending to contest in the August 9 elections approached, many of the officials were promising their opponents who had been campaigning a bruising battle.

For a number of them, voters had other plans. The civil servants who were used to the ‘soft side’ of life swinging in air-conditioned offices found the going tough and added to the casualties who fell by the wayside.

“In my view, public servants of rank who lost during party primaries erroneously assumed that they can use power and pecuniary resources to influence outcomes but realised that voters punish public servants of rank who take them for granted,” says political commentator Dismas Mokua.

Topping the list is former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter who was seeking the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket to run for the Kericho governor’s seat.

“There are so many things we will do including cultural and sporting activities. The mainstay of Kericho is agriculture and we need to grow that sector. Kericho is a beautiful town but we need to improve the state that it is in now. We need to bring back the glory of Kericho,” he told Sunday Nation days after he resigned.

Humiliating defeat

However, he would suffer a humiliating defeat at the hands of university lecturer Dr Eric Mutai, who bagged the UDA ticket. Mr Keter has since conceded.

At the same time, former Kenyan diplomat Kiema Kilonzo has sued the Wiper party after he was snubbed and his opponent Julius Malombe was handed the party ticket to challenge Governor Charity Ngilu for the Kitui seat. Mr Kilonzo had resigned as Kenya’s High Commissioner to Uganda to come back and run for the seat.

Mr Kilonzo, perhaps just feeling confident or seeking to appeal to the powers that be in the party, had picked Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s son, Kevin Muasya, to be his running mate in the event he bagged the ticket. Mr Muasya had also resigned from the boards of a tourism agency and Tseikuru Technical Training Institute to comply with the legal requirement for public servants intending to join elective politics. Instead of conducting the nominations, Wiper settled on Mr Malombe, the first governor of Kitui and in the process irking Mr Kilonzo.

According to Mr Mokua, some of the former public officials may have mistaken the power and authority they exercised in their former offices for influence.


“These public servants of rank who enjoyed the trappings and privileges of office confused power with authority. Most public servants get exposed and realise late in the day that nobody pays attention to them without the trappings and privilege of office.

Courtesy of the direct tickets, many other former public officials suffered the same fate as Mr Kilonzo and Mr Muasya. Former chief administrative secretary in the Ministry of East African Community Ken Obura, who was eyeing the ODM ticket for the Kisumu governor’s seat did not even get to the nominations. The party decided to hand the incumbent Prof Anyang’ Nyongo a direct ticket leaving Mr Obura with no other way other than to run as an independent.

So far, he has not indicated that he would go that route though his ally, former Governor Jack Ranguma has joined the Movement for Democratic Change (MDG) on whose ticket he wants to reclaim the seat he lost in 2017. For former National Police Service spokesman Charles Owino, he bolted out of ODM ahead of the nominations after it became apparent that the party had settled on Siaya Senator James Orengo as its candidate for governor. Mr Owino is now the running mate of Nicholas Gumbo who is challenging Mr Orengo on the UDM ticket.

Direct certificates

In Homa Bay County, former county secretary Isaiah Ogwe and former chairman of the Lake Basin Development Authority Odoyo Owidi got tough lessons in politics when they were overlooked as ODM dished out direct certificates to their opponents. For governor, ODM handed Woman rep Gladys Wanga the ticket while Ong’ondo Were got the nod to fly the party flag in Kasipul. At the same time, former county Energy executive, Beatrice Ogola, lost to Joyce Osogo ‘Bensouda’.

At the same time, former Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno who had resigned as a member of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to focus on his bid to become governor of Migori opted to join Jubilee Party instead of battling for the ODM ticket, which was eventually handed to Senator Ochillo Ayacko.

But it was not all gloom for former public officials. Those who sailed through are former Water PS Joseph Irung’u, former Petroleum CS John Munyes, former chief administrative secretaries Chris Obure, Gideon Mung’aro, Patrick ole Ntutu, Wavinya Ndeti and Hassan Noor Hassan. Others are former CEO of Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Limited (KETRACO) Fernandes Barasa and former Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya.

At the same time, some of the big names that lost in the nominations, such as Mr Keter will likely be incorporated into the presidential campaigns at the national level.


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