Last-minute defections rock William Ruto, Raila Odinga camps

Mr Emilio Kathuri, who joined the Kenya Kwanza Alliance on Thursday evening, was received by Deputy President William Ruto in Nairobi.

Photo credit: William Samoei Ruto | Facebook

Dozens of candidates have stepped down in the last 48 hours as both Azimio One Kenya and Kenya Kwanza coalitions enter into last-ditch deals to gain more seats ahead of the general election scheduled for next Tuesday.

Yesterday, Azimio la Umoja One Kenya was dealt a big blow after Embu Jubilee gubernatorial candidate Emilio Kathuri stepped down in favour of his United Democratic Alliance (UDA) rival Cecily Mbarire.

Mr Kathuri joined the Kenya Kwanza Alliance on Thursday evening and was received by Deputy President William Ruto in Nairobi. He said he was happy to be accepted in the ‘Hustler’ family.

Following the defection, Kathuri came under scathing attack by Embu Jubilee leaders, led by local chairman Muriithi Kiura, who dismissed him as a liability to the party.  The leaders said Mr Kathuri’s move will not in any way affect Odinga’s votes in the region.

“He was always complaining that he was not being supported by Jubilee instead of campaigning for himself and our Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition presidential candidate Raila Odinga," said Mr Kiura.

Embu Jubilee senatorial candidate Lilian Mbogo said: “Kathuri was not even popular in the region and it is good that he has left so that we can back the Devolution Empowerment Party (DEP) gubernatorial candidate Lenny Kivuti whose political outfit is affiliated to Azimio."

Mr Kathuri's running mate, Emily Njuki, admitted that she had also been approached by UDA to ditch Jubilee but declined.

Tharaka Nithi and Wajir

Yesterday, Tharaka Nithi Wiper party gubernatorial candidate and current deputy governor Nyamu Kagwima's running mate, Jonnes Munene, also made a U-turn and endorsed their rival, Prof Erastus Njoka, of Jubilee, saying theirs was a weak ticket.

Narc Kenya's Mzalendo Kibunjia also lost his running mate, Micheni Ruriani, to Jubilee's Prof Erastus Njoka.

Addressing the media in Chogoria town in Maara on Wednesday, Mr Ruriani said he had noticed that they would not win and decided to endorse Prof Njoka who has the possibility of beating the incumbent, Mr Muthomi Njuki, who is seeking re-election on the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket.

“We have no possibility of winning the governorship because we have not done enough campaigns. I have decided to support Prof Njoka because he is the only person who can take home Mr Njuki,” said Mr Ruriani.

 In Wajir, Governor Mohamed Abdi has backed Ugas Sheikh Mohamed of the Amani National Congress (ANC).

Sources privy to his withdrawal said Mr Abdi arrived at the decision several weeks ago, after realising he stood a slim chance of retaining the seat.

His last political rally was on July 20 in Habaswein and Wajir towns, where he was accompanied by his running mate, Abdifatah Diriye. His exit, however, honours the pledge he made in 2016 to Mr Ugas Sheikh.

Mr Ugas Sheikh Mohamed stepped down in 2016 to support Mr Abdi's bid and he had to return the hand.

Both are from the Degodia clan that has two other candidates in the race.

In Isiolo, PNU's Kenneth Turibu abandoned the race to support Jubilee's Abdi Guyo in a deal brokered by Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga and announced by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya. PNU is expected to bag two county executive and three chief officer positions.

The arrangement is aimed at redeeming Azimio hopes of clinching the seat after former Governor Godana Doyo got the backing of UDA's Hussein Tene.

The deal will see Mr Turibu get a Chief Administrative Secretary post in Mr Odinga’s government.

“We have done research and established that if we (Azimio) do not organise ourselves, we could lose to the former governor who has joined Deputy President William Ruto’s camp,” Mr Munya said.

Nyamira and Kisii

In Nyamira, former North Mugirango Member of Parliament and Nyamira ANC gubernatorial candidate Joseph Kiangoi has dropped his bid in favour of Wiper's Ben Momanyi.

Mr Kiangoi made the announcement yesterday at Kebirigo Primary School alongside Mr Momanyi and their supporters. He said he had made the decision after wide consultation, having realised that they shared the same vision with Mr Momanyi.

"In line with the present trend of people coming together to serve the same purpose if you have the same intentions, we have decided to work with Mr Momanyi," said Mr Kiangoi.

His move now leaves the incumbent, Governor Amos Nyaribo (UPA), as the only gubernatorial candidate from North Mugirango.

In Laikipia, two candidates from the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya coalition stepped down in favour of their competitors in what is seen as efforts to stem sibling rivalry.

Narc Kenya’s gubernatorial candidate Gitonga Kabugi and senatorial candidate John Mwaniki bolted out after a consensus was reached with Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua, who is the Azimio deputy presidential candidate, and Mr Odinga.

Mr Kabugi announced that he was pulling out of the race on July 19 after consultation with Ms Karua, thereby leaving the incumbent, Governor Ndiritu Muriithi, as the sole Azimio la Umoja flag-bearer.

In Kisii, Senator Sam Ongeri suffered a major setback in his gubernatorial quest after his running mate, Engineer Josiah Onkundi Maaga, abandoned him at the eleventh hour.

Engineer Maaga, who has since thrown his support behind UDA candidate Ezekiel Machogu, announced his move as the senator was attending an Abagusii leaders function graced by President Uhuru Kenyatta at Kisii State Lodge on Wednesday.

Prof Ongeri is seeking to succeed Governor James Ongwae on the Democratic Action Party of Kenya (Dap-K) ticket. He ditched ODM, on whose ticket he was elected to the Senate after it became apparent that he would not use it in trying his luck to become the second Kisii governor.

The defection becomes the second to hit a governor candidate in Kisii after Kenya National Congress Party leader Manson Oyongo Nyamweya suffered a similar fate at the beginning of July.

Okoth Oduyah, Wycliffe Nyaberi, Ruth Mbula, David Muchui, Manase Otsialo, George Munene Waweru Waitimu, Mwangi Ndirangu and Alex Njeru