Despite its small number of registered voters, North Eastern Province is turning out to be a major political battleground for the two frontrunners in the forthcoming elections — the Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD) and Jubilee.
The enthusiasm with which the leaders of the two coalitions have taken to courting candidates from the region indicates the importance they attach to the marginal votes that could sway the balance in the March 4 poll.
Beyond that, the quest for senatorial, gubernatorial and MP seats to secure majorities in the bi-cameral assemblies has added an extra dimension to the high value of the lowly populated, vast but precious region and its leaders in Kenya’s traditional politics.
With an estimated 350,000 registered voters, NEP residents have largely decided which path to take by aligning themselves to particular political parties they think can serve their interests best.
In the past few days, the region has witnessed a defection exodus of high profile politicians into different political parties as they position themselves for the grueling elections. So far, CORD appears to have the upper hand, scoring political gains with big names joining the ranks in Wajir and Garissa counties and remains the alliance to beat in the region.
Assistant minister Aden Sugow, the Fafi MP and Wajir West MP Adan Keynan are the latest among a host of the local political elite including former MPs who have made an early decision. Their defection has changed and energised the political direction of the locals, throwing a spanner into the political works of the Jubilee coalition because they were initially learning towards The National Alliance.
However, Mandera is turning out to be an exception. Clan factors play a distinct role in the region’s politics, but unlike Garissa and Wajir, the inter-clan conflicts have been more difficult to resolve in Mandera.
This has been more so following the last elections in 2007, where the dominant Garre community went into loggerheads with the minority Degodia clan, escalating the tension to the neighbouring Wajir County.
The powerful 21-member Mandera Council of Elders chaired by Maalim Ali Noor, which heavily influences the political direction of the county’s residents, has opted to go against the grain of their Wajir and Garissa counterparts, by adopting William Ruto’s United Republican Party.
And the man who has been entrusted by the elders with the responsibility of carrying the mantle on behalf of the people of Mandera in the high-stakes political game is the articulate aviation industry expert, Ali Ibrahim Roba, who is gunning to become the country’s first governor.
In an interview with The Standard On Sunday, the council of elders’ chairman, accompanied by aspirants for the available elective seats, said Roba had all the qualities of steering Mandera to prosperity in the developed system of governance.
Equal to task
Roba himself says he is equal to the task and explains his community members’ decision to link up with Ruto’s URP. “We looked at what all the political parties had to offer before we resolved to align ourselves with URP, because the party has the interests of the Kenyan pastoralist communities to which we belong.”
The influential elders and local leaders, while wishing the other parties, including Jubilee partner TNA well in the elections, said it is their democratic right to vie for the seats, but said the would be vigorously campaigning for its URP candidates.
Reports from the ground indicate there have been differences between candidates affiliated with TNA and those in URP, but the elders’ decision appears to have sealed their fate.
The elders said that as they uphold democracy, their decisions are based on the great need to deal with the growing discord in their society, especially in resolving clan-related disputes or conflicts.
The impact of the elders’ in-house rules (read the populous Garre community), are strongly felt, but they insist it is for the good of the local people, and that they do not supersede the Constitution.
Roba, a pilot and a former director of flight operations for DAC Aviation East Africa, which specialises in humanitarian relief operations in Africa and Asia, is so far unchallenged for the position of governor.
The elders also had identified nominees to four of the six parliamentary seats (Banisa, Mandera West, Mandera South, and Mandera North) and the senator’s post widely touted to go to former Mandera Central MP Billow Aden Kerrow.
Former MP Aden Mohamed Noor has secured the elders’ blessings for the Mandera North seat.
Ali Nur, the elders’ chairman, says their decisions have been reached after more than two years of consultations, but the dominant Garre clan seem destined to securing most of the political seats.
In return, the Garre clan elders are considering forfeiting the women’s representative and deputy governor positions to the Murulle and Degodia clans, who also have a stake.
Source: Standard Digital