COUNTY POLITICS: Aspirants fear unfair primaries for Nyali race


Mr Mcharo says he has captured the Mijikenda vote. [email protected]

If there is a constituency in Kenya that has a high disparity between the rich and the poor, it is Nyali.

Here, you will, for instance, find shanties separated by walls from maisonettes in some high-end residential estates.

The problem of squatters and insecurity also present challenges to residents.

Residents have also suffered in the hands of business tycoons and politically connected individuals who grab pricey pieces of land and obtain title deeds irregularly.

These are some of the challenges that the next MP will be required to address once he assumes office after the August 8 polls.

Nyali constituency has an estimated 79,000 voters in five wards – Kongowea, Ziwa La Ng’ombe, Kaza Ndani, Mkomani and Frere Town.

The voters are almost evenly distributed in these wards, with Kaza Ndani having the least – 14,327 voters – while Kongowea has the highest with 17,610 voters, according to the latest Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission register.

Other than fishing, other economic activities include trading at the Kongowea market, one of the largest open-air markets in East Africa, and harvesting of palm wine.

While the Mijikenda community forms the main voting bloc in Nyali, traders at Kongowea, who are mainly drawn from upcountry communities, also constitute a huge number of voters.

And with the current MP Hezron Awiti’s eyes trained on the governor’s post in the election, the seat is up for grabs.

Those eying the post are Mr Said Abdalla (ODM), who is Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho’s cousin, Mr Edward Markores, former county assembly speaker Thadeus Rajwayi and journalist Mohamed Ali, all of who will have to battle it out in the nominations for the coveted ODM ticket.

Also in the crowded list of contestants are former deputy mayor John Mcharo who defected to Wiper from ODM, Yasir Noor (Jubilee Party) and Chrispas Waithaka (Maendeleo Chap Chap). Mr Waithaka decamped to Maendeleo Chap Chap from Jubilee.

As the nominations draws nearer, battle lines have been drawn. It will be particularly interesting to watch how Mr Joho, also the ODM deputy party leader, strikes a balance considering that his cousin is in the race.

Already, there has been discontentment in ODM and Jubilee, with some aspirants crying foul before defecting, claiming that the nominations will not be free and fair.

“Going for nominations in such a scenario, ni kama kujipeleka kwa kichinjio (is like taking oneself to a slaughter house),” said Mr Mcharo.

While on the ODM side, Mr Mcharo claimed that Mr Abdalla was hand-picked by the governor and Mr Waithaka cited a “close relationship” between Jubilee’s gubernatorial aspirant Suleiman Shahbal and Mr Noor, saying this might jeopardise the primaries.

But Mr Abdalla denied the allegations, saying the governor did not have favourites.

“I have been working with the people of Nyali and have done a lot in terms of development for a number of years. I have sunk boreholes in areas with water problems and given bursaries to needy children,” he said.

Mr Joho’s close ally, ODM Mombasa chairman Mohamed Hatimy, also distanced the governor from the claim.

Kongowea MCA Jabes Oduor, a fierce critic of Mr Joho, sees a situation where ODM might lose big in the constituency if nominations are not done fairly.

“There is no way you can put a newcomer in the race and expect to win,” he said.

In the 2013 General Election, Mr Awiti was dropped in the nominations for the ODM ticket in favour of Mr Mcharo and defected to Wiper. The MP captured the seat.

This time round, besides Mr Mcharo’s defection from the same ODM party that favoured him in 2013, realignments have started playing out.

Mr Waithaka cited favouritism of Mr Noor” for ditching Jubilee.

“When I declared interest in the seat a year ago, I thought of vying for the seat under the Jubilee Party ticket but things have changed. I felt that Maendeleo Chap Chap ticket would be neutral for me,” he said in an interview.

However, Mr Noor denied the claim, adding that Mr Waithaka sensed defeat.

“Whenever you go to this constituency, the name Yasir is on the lips of constituents. Waithaka knows this very well and he seems to have chickened out,” the youthful aspirant told Nation. “Shahbal is everybody’s friend.”

Political pundits warn that both Jubilee and ODM might lose big due to perceived favouritism of some aspirants by party big wigs.

“Wananchi are tired of leaders being handpicked and they will say No. What we are witnessing, however, is a development that will see Parliament playing its role because there is no single party that will boast of a huge majority to bulldoze policies that are unpopular with the people,” said University of Nairobi political science lecturer Geoffreyson Khamala.

“The fringe parties must also come up with transformative agenda,” he added.

Mr Mcharo says he has captured the Mijikenda vote. He has been campaigning for proper policies to exploit palm wine and says if elected he will ensure mnazi traders are not harassed by the police as is the case currently.

But Mr Waithaka claims he has more than 20,000 voters on his side from upcountry voters.

He promises to set up a chicken slaughter house in the constituency and rally jobless youths to form groups to do poultry farming.

Mr Noor, however, discounts Mr Waithaka’s assertion that voters from upcountry might play a crucial role in deciding the winner, saying the constituency is cosmopolitan. The aspirant has promised to boost fishing.

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