A Nairobi-based professor of law has shocked friend and foe by entering the Mwatate parliamentary race, leaving the comfort of his well-paying job in the capital city.
The 39-year-old Prof Morris Kiwinda Mbondenyi, until recently the Kenya School of Law deputy director, is among the handful of law dons not only in Taita-Taveta County but Coast.
He did not only go against the grain by entering the race in a bid to unseat first termer Andrew Mwadime; he surprised many by vying on the ticket of ruling Jubilee Party, widely perceived as weak in the ODM stronghold.
The scholar garnered 4,681 votes to beat Capt (Rtd) Alfred Maghanga (1,106) and Mr Tole Mwakidedi (440) in the April nomination.
ODM’s Mwadime chalked up 6,674 votes to beat a strong opponent, Mr Christopher Mwambingu (5,248).
The other candidates are former County Executive for Agriculture Ben Mghana, Mr Gibson Kirubai, Mr Pascal Dau and Mr Dickson Wambari.
In a phone interview at the weekend, the don said: “I have a strong desire to give service to my people, which has been lacking all through.
“Past and present candidates lack the seriousness to give high-standard service to change the lives of the people.”
His youth and vibrancy, professional accolades, experience in public service and a desire to serve, Prof Mbondenyi said, give him the upper hand.
He played down the party popularity aspect, saying voters are bound to elect someone with the right vision and mission and the capacity to bring change.
“The people of Mwatate, and Coast, have realised that a political party cannot put food on the table,” the professor said.
“Watch this space: voters will elect people with integrity, vision and the ideology and agenda for development.
“They are fed up with party-worship politics that does not add value to their lives and want candidates who can bring tangible change.”
Prof Mbondenyi argued that the Coast has largely shifted from being an opposition bloc to “a realistic zone where the people see clearly between blue, black, red, green and all the different colours and can no longer be deceived by a mere political party”.
He is banking on his being a distinguished lawyer able and capable of articulating legal matters, both local and international, in and out of the National Assembly.
“My public service, experience and profession puts me at an advantageous level to articulate local and global issues at home and in the House.
“These will be of great value and help to my community and the country as a whole.”
He added that, in his childhood, he committed himself to positive and fundamental values such as hard work, integrity, personal sacrifice and service to humanity, “which have been the pillars of strength in my professional, spiritual and secular life”.
Born in Mombasa on April 18, 1978, the second-lastborn son of Mr Lewis Righa Mbondenyi and Mrs Lenah Nakijwa Mbondenyi is married to Judith Mbala Maghanga.
The devout Christian values education as “the means of getting ahead in life”.
After attending Meadows Nursery School in Mombasa in 1984, where he was popularly known as a “timid little boy”, he joined Ganjoni Primary School (1985-1992) and Moi High School-Kabarak (1992-1996).
After graduating from Moi University with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree in 2003, in 2006-2008 he joined the University of South Africa (Unisa) for both his Master of Laws (LLM) and Doctor of Laws (LLD) degrees.
He has a postgraduate diploma in law from Kenya School of Law.
The advocate of the High Court of Kenya is a non-violent advocate of human rights and fundamental freedoms and associate professor of law and founding Dean of the Africa Nazarene University (ANU) Law School with years of experience in legal research, lecturing, advising and consulting.
Besides more than 30 academic publications and refereed journal articles, he has presented papers at local and international conferences and seminars.
The don also acted as a peer-reviewer for many law journals and a founding editor-in-chief of the ANU Law Journal (ANULJ) and the Council of Legal Education (Kenya) Peer Reviewer.
He is a member of several professional organisations — including Kenya Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), University of the Witwatersrand Law School (Johannesburg, South Africa) and the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR, Arusha, Tanzania).
Others are the Johannesburg United Institute of Education (JUIE), Foundation for Human Rights and South African Human Rights Commission.
In 2011, he was recognised by the Business Daily, a Nation Media Group publication, as one of the ‘Top 40 Under 40 Men’.
In 2012, his biography was listed in Marquis Who’s Who while the following year he received the Distinguished Research and Innovation Award of the ANU.