Wednesday, July 16, 2014

THE SCRAMBLE FOR VOTES IS ON IN KENYA BETWEEN JUBILEE AND CORD

One does not need to be a political analyst to conclude that this week's visit to the Coast by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto has everything to do with politics and very little to do with development.

If presidential visits to the Coast were equated with development then the region would be the most developed in the country, for each of the three previous Presidents spent record time visiting it. Uhuru is not any different.

The general elections are three years away and the scramble of votes has begun in earnest. The main target? - the Coast, Western and North-Eastern regions of the country.

Both the Jubilee Coalition of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, and the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) of Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula, are in a race to woo the areas, and for two main reasons: one, because they lack strong political leadership, and two, because they are viewed as swing vote regions especially in relation to the 2017 elections.

Since the death of Karisa Maitha, the flamboyant Mijikenda kingpin, the Coast has remained rudderless and directionless. It has been difficult to find a worthy heir to the coveted position once held by firebrand Gideon Ronald Ngala. Moreover, the people there have failed to agree on a single political party that could propel the region to the front row of national leadership. The result? Petty fragmentation based on race, religion, party affiliation and ethnicity.

The Western region has not done any better. The demise of Masinde Muliro in 1992 and Kijana Wamalwa in 2003 unearthed rudimentary schisms that have been difficult to heal. If there is one region with the highest number of presidential wannabes it is the country of Mulembe: Musalia Mudavadi, Cyrus Jirongo, Moses Wetangula, Eugene Wamalwa, and others of a lesser breed. Despite its huge voter register, the Western region continues to lag behind in almost everything political and economical.

Another region with a leadership vacuum and attracting the attention of national political bigwigs is the North-Eastern region. One man who could have made a difference, Godana Bonaya, was killed in a 2006 plane crash as he travelled to Marsabit on the Ethiopian border to reconcile warring clan factions. With an infestation of militia and terrorist groups from across the Somali and Ethiopian borders and with prevailing political inadequacies, this region is destined to remain behind in development for a long period to come.

It is these regions that both Jubilee and CORD are interested in for vote harvesting. Recently, both Uhuru and Raila were in Western. Now, Uhuru plans to spend several days at the Coast, following immediately after Raila's high-profile visit there a few days ago. Two weeks ago, Ruto spent several days in the region in what many consider a successful wooing mission in what was previously a CORD stronghold. From the Coast, Uhuru will head to Garisa, in North-Eastern.

Therefore, while Kenyans are told the President's visit is to inspect infrastructure development and commission projects, the actual reason lies in the potentiality of those regions as vote baskets for 2017.

So, the race is on.

And that is my say.