Mudavadi, Natembeya, Wetang'ula
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Revealed: How 50 attempts to register Tawe as a party flopped

From left: Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, Trans Nzoia Governor George Natembeya and National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula.

Photo credit: Nation Media Group

Allies and proxies of some politicians have made more than 50 attempts to register Tawe movement (‘No’ or ‘Enough is enough’) as a political party amid the raging battle for supremacy between National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula and Trans Nzoia Governor George Natembeya, Nation can reveal.

Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu revealed that her office had rejected attempts to reserve the name - whose wave appears to be spreading rapidly in the Western Region - on the grounds that it was 'offensive and would cause confusion'.

Governor Natembeya, a no-nonsense former public administrator, is the founder of Tawe movement, which has upset Mr Wetang’ula-led Ford Kenya party that has had a firm grip on Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties politics for decades. The slogan was also previously associated with Budalang’i MP Raphael Wanjala.

Ms Nderitu said the applications were made by ordinary Kenyans, making it difficult to unravel whether or not there were senior political leaders behind them.

“My office has received more than 50 applications from people seeking to reserve the name ‘Tawe’. All these have been rejected because the name does not meet the requirements of Section 8 of (the) Political Parties Act of 2011,” said Ms Nderitu.

The applicants, she added, were mostly from the Western region, giving a hint that they could be proxies of the leaders at the centre of the region’s supremacy battle.

Proxies vs Opportunists

Senior politicians have in the past used little-known individuals to reserve names before formally registering them as political parties. Others have also reserved such popular names with the intention of blocking their founders from registering them.

Opportunists have also in the past seized such moments to register with the intention of making a killing by selling the names.

On Saturday, Mr Natembeya, an immediate former Rift Valley Regional Commissioner, told the Nation that he was aware of such attempts to register ‘Tawe’ slogan, but denied any association with the applicants.

According to Section 8 of (the) Political Parties Act, 2011, “The Registrar may refuse an application for the registration of a political party if the name of the political party, the abbreviation of the name or symbol that it wishes to use, for purposes of this Act — is obscene or offensive.”

The Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP) may reject the application as stated, “is the name, or is an abbreviation of another political party that is registered under this Act; or so nearly resembles the name or symbol, or an abbreviation of the name of another political party registered or any other legal entity registered under any other written law.”

Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu

Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

In the run-up to the 2022 General Elections, ORPP rejected the enlistment of more than 30 new political parties on a similar basis.

Some of the names sought to ride on political wave created by President William Ruto’s ‘hustler’ campaign slogan.

Other opportunists also sought to ride on opposition leader Raila Odinga’s handshake with former President Uhuru Kenyatta.

During that period, more than 1,000 applications for registration of new parties were made, out of which 176 were rejected.

Some of the names that were rejected included Hustler National Empowerment Party, Hustlers and Achievers Party of Kenya, Hustlers and Ground Masses Party of Kenya, Building Bridges Party of Kenya, Building Bridges Initiative Party of Kenya, The Bridges Party, The National Handshake Party, Okoa Kenya Party, Chama Cha Madaraja and Okoa Kenya Republic Party.

There was also an attempt to register Tanga Tanga Party, a slogan that was associated with Dr Ruto and his allies, just as there were similar attempts to enlist Jubilee Asili at the height of the falling out between President Ruto and Mr Kenyatta.

President William Ruto takes breakfast at a kibanda in Mandera Town.

President William Ruto takes breakfast at a kibanda in Mandera Town during a 2022 campaign trip. Some of the names sought to ride on the political wave created by President Ruto’s ‘hustler’ campaign slogan.

Photo credit: Pool

In 2016, ORPP rejected the registration of Harambee Democratic Party by Nairobi Woman Rep Esther Passaris because it bore the word ‘Harambee,’ which is prohibited and does not comply with Article 91 of the Constitution.

Well-trodden path

The numerous attempts to register Tawe Movement echo similar attempts that characterised the registration of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) that was birthed by the 2005 referendum win by the “No” camp led by opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Lawyer Mugambi Imanyara seized the opportunity to register ODM before then little-known Daniel Maanzo – now Makueni Senator registered ODM-K.

The movement had placed more than 10 applications that were rejected, according to Mr Maanzo.

The split between Mr Odinga and Mr Kalonzo Musyoka in the run-up to the 2007 polls would see Mr Odinga take over ODM registered by Mr Mugambi.

Speaker Wetang’ula and Governor Natembeya have in the recent past engaged in heated political confrontation as they battle for the soul of the more than two million voters in the restive Western region.

The two leaders – perceived to be representing the old and new generation in Western Kenya – have been flexing their political muscle in a region sorely lacking a unifying figure.

Mr Odinga's decision to run for the chairmanship of the African Union Commission, which will require him to take a hands-off approach to Kenyan politics, and the more relaxed approach to politics taken by Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, have in no small part fuelled the scramble for the mantle of regional political kingpin.

After assuming his current position, which places him as the third highest-ranking state officer, Speaker Wetang’ula has been positioning himself as the de facto political leader of Western.

His political manoeuvres have met fierce resistance spearheaded by Mr Natembeya. Notably, many leaders have in the past attempted to bring the region’s politicians together but flopped. The elusive Luhya unity has seen the leaders trying to rally support but end up supporting different/rival camps.

As a member of DAP-Kenya, an Azimio Coalition affiliate party, led by former Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, Mr Natembeya has been throwing political punches in the region.

Buoyed by his governorship wave that saw Mr Odinga out-vote Dr Ruto in the cosmopolitan Tran Nzoia County with 132,404 votes against 116,372 in the August 2022 elections, Mr Natembeya has not been afraid of taking on the veteran Wetang’ula.

Discord and turmoil

Ford Kenya enjoyed a stranglehold over the Trans Nzoia governorship with Patrick Khaemba holding the fort for 10 years before Mr Natembeya’s wave swept aside Ford Kenya in 2022.

The supremacy battle between the two leaders recently exploded during a funeral in Trans Nzoia where the supporters of the political nemeses clashed.

“Regardless of their status, no leader should be permitted to exploit impunity and violence to sow discord and turmoil merely to gain political advantage,” said Mr Wetang’ula in response to the fracas.

But Mr Natembeya said the quest to “liberate” the Luhya Nation from poverty was on course and no amount of use of violence would derail his bid to unite the region.

“They think through violence they will stop the bid to liberate the Luhya community. It has just started. We will soldier on until this community is liberated from poverty.  This plane is still on the runway,” he said as the two traded political barbs.

“Our people have suffered because of the mistakes by some leaders who purport to be kingpins and engage in the politics of [hero] worship,” said the first-term governor. “These leaders have done nothing for the community over the years they have served in the government and elective position.”

He would then declare himself a self-made leader, dismissing the politics of hero worship, a pointed attack at Mr Wetang’ula who goes by the moniker, Papa wa Roma.

“I am a self-made leader. I have worked hard to get where I am today, and I will not worship or clap for leaders who call themselves kingpins but have done nothing for our community,” Mr Natembeya said.