COUNTY POLITICS: Fierce rivalry in race for Kajiado East parliamentary seat


The main contestants are Peris Tobiko, who is the current Member of Parliament, and Mary Seneta, who is the Woman Representative.

The race for the Kajiado East parliamentary seat has attracted attention due to its bare-knuckled nature.

The main players in the contest are Ms Peris Tobiko, the incumbent and Ms Mary Seneta, the Kajiado Woman Representative.

So fierce is their rivalry that it recently played out, separately though, in front of President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto.

In the first instance, President Kenyatta had invited Jubilee political leaders and their supporters from the region to State House.

It is reported that Ms Tobiko’s supporters allegedly booed and heckled the Woman Representative when she was called to address the gathering.

Those familiar with proceedings at the State House meeting say that the heckling was a well-choreographed affair aimed at making Ms Seneta look unpopular.

Stung, Ms Seneta bid her time and an opportunity presented itself when DP, passed through Kitengela, during his Kajiado tour, last month.

Here, supporters believed to be those of Ms Seneta shouted down Ms Tobiko, when the DP called out her name.

The two shouting incidents are the latest in a series of events where the two women have sought to upstage each other.

Towards the end of last year, Ms Tobiko hosted a highly publicised meeting of sitting women legislators in Kitengela, where her arch-rival Ms Seneta was missing in action. It was a clear snub from the host.

Supporters in the two camps have also been engaged in acrimonious and bitter exchanges on social media platforms, virtually drowning out the voices of other aspirants.

The two have been throwing anything and everything at each other, hoping to win over Jubilee voters.

Well aware that there is no love lost between Jubilee supporters and Kajiado Governor David Nkedianye, the two are striving to paint one another as being close to the governor.

On one hand, Ms Seneta’s supporters claim that Ms Tobiko is close to Dr Nkedienye and that she supports his re-election.

Ms Tobiko’s supporters, on the other hand, allege that Ms Seneta is the governor’s cousin.

Ironically, the battle of the two leaders has completely overshadowed the efforts of male aspirants for the same seat.

They include Ms Tobiko’s main challenger for the seat, in the 2013 elections, Kakuta ole Mai Mai, of ODM and Julius Ntaiya of Jubilee.

Mr Ntaiya, a former Olkejuado County Council chairman, is watching from the sidelines, hoping to reap from the two women’s fallout and run away with the party’s nomination.

Mr Mai Mai, who lost narrowly to Tobiko in the 2013 elections, is also confident of clinching the ODM nominations, to face Jubilee’s eventual winner in August.

Mr Ntaiya is not the only one hoping to gain from the two women’s fight, having tasted defeat in the hands of Ms Tobiko. Supporters of Mr Mai Mai are openly backing Ms Seneta to emerge victorious at the nomination stage.

They reckon that Ms Seneta is the weaker opponent and thus can easily be trounced by Mr Mai Mai in August.

But Ms Tobiko’s credentials as a fearless brawler are not in doubt. She made history, in 2003, when he beat a large field of men to clinch the Kajiado East seat, thereby making history as the first elected Maa woman leader.

At some point her male opponents got Maasai elders to issue a traditional curse on Ms Tobiko for daring to challenge men’s “right” to leadership.

Another favourite line of attack arose from the fact that her husband hails from Narok, therefore, making her a “foreigner” in Kajiado.

To her credit, she exploited the foreigner tag, appealing to the huge reservoir of immigrant voters, in Kajiado East, who also felt sidelined by the foreigner taunts from the Maasai locals.

Ms Seneta, who had been regarded as a “softie” and pushover in the bruising world of politics – hence going for the “safe” Women rep seat – has of late demonstrated a defiant streak. Slowly, even some of her harshest detractors are grudgingly coming to the realisation that she is no push-over.

Still, the unanswered question remains why Ms Seneta opted to leave a safe seat, one she would have defended without breaking a sweat, to walk into the lioness’ (Ms Tobiko’s) den, as it were.

It is being said that she is abandoning the Woman Representative seat, as she considers it as not prestigious as that of an ordinary MP.

MPs control more funds and therefore, able to have more impact in a smaller geographical region.

This is a high stakes game which might end up being very costly to the one who loses.

If the anti-party-hopping law stands, whoever loses out at the nomination stage will have to wait out in the cold until 2022 – a scary prospect for any politician.

There had been rumours that either of them would defect to a third party so that each has a chance of being on the ballot come August 8.

As things stand, both have paid the Jubilee nomination fee, an indication that they will be locking horns at the nomination stage and it is game on until then.

Kajiado East and Kajiado West constituencies were hived off the larger Kajiado North Constituency, which used to be the stomping grounds of former VP, the late Prof George Saitoti.

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