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Barasa, Muhanda early campaigns threaten ODM gains in Kakamega

By  Fidel Mbaraka Kakamega 

Acts of commission and omission have again upset an inflamed eight-week old ceasefire brokered between Kakamega governor Fernandes Barasa and woman MP Elsie Muhanda and tipped the ODM party stability in the county to edge.

 The latest discord was expected of the two-month old peace accord, only that it came albeit too soon.  For political strategists in both camps kept in ceaseless covert machinations, focusing on the ultimate price to either put or keep their candidate as the custodian of county power and resources come 2027.

On Friday last week, Barasa recalled his minister for environment Peninah Mukabane who had landed at a function and recoiled his scheduled participation in the Kakamega Forest Heritage Foundation (KFHF) annual tree planting exercise in Kakamega east sub-county, with his red carpet and seats already at the site to avoid meeting Ms Muhanda who was already on site.

A week earlier, a cabal of politicians who included Senator Dr. Boni Khalwale, Ms. Muhanda and Ikolomani MP Bernard Shinali. Muhanda scoured Barasa accusing him of lone ranger, discriminate budgetary and tribalism in the public service.

 “I brought Barasa to you to vote him on the premise of inclusive leadership. But he does not believe in that, he does not engage us anymore. He engaged himself on the CIDP 2022-2027 and the 2025/24 budget., Muhanda charge

 Shinali questioned the allocation Sh.700 million in the current budget for a new road in the governor’s area while key projects in other areas had stalled. Shinali citing the stalled Shamahubu sub county hospital in Kakamega east as example said discriminate development was rife in the county.

  “The solution to this is seize power. That is in the seat of governor…not a minister or the deputy speaker. Key positions in a county government are governor, and speaker and these are held by one family,” he said.

 Senator Khalwale urged the governor to focus on service delivery. “The governor should stop panic…he has the resources to deliver and I would hold him to account. At the moment I cannot say whether or not I will vie for governor, only God knows,” said Khalwale.

Governor Fernandes Barasa (left), ODM Deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya (Centre) and Women Rep Elsie Muhanda at a past function

The leaders spoke at Solio Friends church in Shinyalu during a fundraiser. The latest political events laid to waste the ceasefire brokered by ex-governor Wycliffe Oparanya, which had effectively brought some semblance of peace between Elsie and Barasa.

 A fortnight ago, the two leaders shared a USAID sponsored “End the Triple Threat” platform graced by the county first lady Prof. Janet Kasili.
The event was a campaign to end gender-based violence, early pregnancy and new HIV infections. That Barasa,Muhanda camaraderie was expected as part of the political disguise strategy.

This was the second public meeting for the two top ODM leaders in the county after countless public exchanges that catalysed divisive campaign messages culminating in a county ODM elections that Barasa triumph as county chairman but was overturned by ODM elections board chairperson Catherine Muma.

That decision of the party offered a temporary relief to Ms Muhanda but could the faultline in the profound ceasefire brokered by former governor Wycliffe Oparanya last?  One question being asked is how long can the unity hold?

Put differently, Is it possible for Barasa to trust Ms.Muhanda again after she made known her intention to unseat him in the 2027 general election? Perhaps out of this lingering threat, the governor has shifted gears and is already reorganising his reelection machine, albeit at minimal costs.

He has increased his meet-the -people tours christened as public participation forums which are funded by taxpayers, where he intends to create his special niche amongst voters. 

Unlike in the 2022 elections, where as a technocrat but a political novice, Oparanya and Ms Elsie led the campaigns introducing him to the ODM networks, Barasa is leaving nothing to chance, tapping in to both Kenya Kwanza and Azimio support bases.

The Orange Party won the governor, Women Rep, nine MPs, and over 40 ward representatives but it has remained relatively inactive in the party-political affairs, depicting a party without a commander to charge the troops. 

The party MPs; Titus Khamala (Lurambi), Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo), Peter Nabulindo (Matungu), Johnston Naicah (Mumias West), Tindi Mwale (Butere), Christopher Aseka (Khwisero), Bernard Shinali (Ikolomani), Nabii Nabwera (Lugari) and Innocent Mugabe (Likuyani), Woman Rep Elsie Muhanda were no show during the anti-government protest organised by Azimio One Kenya.

The lull in party activities in the county and by extension the larger former Western province could be indicative of their loss of interest in the orange party which sponsored them in the last polls and perhaps window shopping for new political vehicles in what could vanquish the outfit ahead of the 2027 race.

Barasa and Muhanda have been tearing into each other in public as the second term woman MP lay ground for a stab at the gubernatorial seat come 2027.

Party delegates then elected Barasa as the Kakamega branch chairman replacing Mophat Mandela who resigned to be named sports and social services executive in his government in a move seen as an attempt to give direction to the party.

Pundits say the move could also be meant to ring-fence the party ticket from Muhanda who is crisscrossing the expansive county in readiness for her stab at the top county leadership in 2027.

This saw governor emeritus Wycliffe Oparanya who is the deputy ODM leader intervene to reconcile the two in an attempt to steady the party and assert itself in the region it once enjoyed to an almost finatical following.

Before Oparanya midwifed a ceasefire, the women rep alleged that her life was in danger and even recorded a statement with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) – Kakamega.

Muhanda then dismissed reports that she was readying to take on Barasa after his first five-year term.

“There are some people peddling falsehoods here that I want to be governor. Where did they hear that? The same people are calling the governor and spreading lies. These lies must end. I want to focus on serving the people,” Muhanda said.

“From today don’t call me with vitina, I will work with Barasa because I campaigned for him. How can I look for votes for him and tomorrow I say I want to be governor…? those people who have been trying to bring vitina between us washindwe,” she added.

It remains to be seen how Barasa will re-engineer the party to regain vibrancy in the county given that only two of the nine MPs elected on the party ticket appear to work with Barasa. 


They are Mugabe and Nabwera, the rest have been given all functions by Barasa and his deputy Ayub Savula a wide berth.

The stage has now been left to Barasa and Muhanda to fight for the soul of the party.

“The MPs are neither in Azimio la Umoja nor in Kenya Kwanza. They are in between and can easily jump-ship and send the party back to the drawing board,” said Hillary Barasa, a political analyst from Bungoma.

According to Barasa, the lawmakers could be warming up to President William Ruto secretly at the expense of the party that sponsored them to parliament.

On the governor and the women’s rep ceasefire, David Ahomo, a political pundit from Khwisero Sub County termed the holding of hands in public as pure political gimmick.

Ahomo said they are playing to the gallery to hoodwink voters that they are working as a team and delay Barasa from planning against MS Muhanda.

“In politics, don’t focus to what politicians are displaying in public, focus on what their actions and what their body language is saying,” said Ahomo

Malala factor

As Barasa and Muhanda flex their muscles, UDA Secretary General Cleophas Malala and Kakamega senator Dr Boni Khalwale are waiting in the wings with their eyes trained on prize.

The fact that Malala lost to Barasa by a mere 20, 000 vote margin, Barasa has every reason to be worried as their dogfights with Muhanda may serve to the young politicians advantage.

During the burial of slain Kisa East MCA Stephen Maloba, Malala dropped the clearest hint that he will run again for the gubernatorial seat in the next general elections.

 “I want to thank the people of Khwisero and Kakamega residents at large for overwhelmingly voting for me. The votes were not enough and that’s why Barasa defeated me. I accepted the election outcome and moved on,” said Malala.

The UDA secretary general said he is concentrating on national politics and that he had no intention to disrupt Barasa’s administration so that he has no excuse if he fails to deliver for the people of Kakamega.

“After five years, we shall be back to judge you whether you delivered on your mandate as the governor or not. If you didn’t work, you will hear that infamous song ‘Cleo Malala, Khwenyanga Malala,’. Just know am behind you and I might challenge you at the ballot,” he added.

Khalwale is still keen on the county leadership position as well, having ceded ground for Malala in a negotiated democracy by the Kenya Kwanza in the last polls. 

The bullfighter as he is popularly known made his first stab at the governorship in 2017 and lost to then governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

According to Ellah Katiba, a political scientist from the University of Nairobi,  Barasa should up his game and initiate his own flagship projects besides completing those started by his predecessor to give him an impetus against his potential competitors in the next polls.

Ms Katiba warns that Barasa should not go into comfort zone after the perceived ceasefire with Muhanda.

“We have four years to the next polls. Let the governor work hard during his first term, failure to which, Ms Muhanda and the likes of Malala will use it as fodder to bury him during campaigns,” campaigns said Katiba

“He needs to foster a good working relationship with all elected leaders if he still wants a second term. Of the ODM elected leaders, only Lugari and Likuyani MP who are working with him, let him look for the rest. They are the ones who will get votes for him in 2027,” she added.

Ends

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