Gloves off as Kibwana faces Kalonzo allies in Senate race
Two months to the August 9 General Election, an epic battle is shaping up in Makueni County where Governor Kivutha Kibwana is facing Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo, one of his fiercest critics, in the Senator seat bid.
Maanzo is a strong ally of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and has been consistently at loggerheads with Kibwana. But two weeks ago, they teamed up in support of Azimio-One Kenya Alliance presidential candidate Raila Odinga.
Kalonzo, with his eyes, fixed on the 2027 presidential bid, an ambition Kibwana says is misplaced, is not taking any chances.
He has moved to consolidate the region which is seen as his political bedrock, by lining up his loyalists for the various seat.
Side by side
In Makueni, he counts on Maanzo and Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior, who is eyeing Kibwana’s current seat of governor. The two have been campaigning side by side.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has already cleared them. Others cleared by IEBC include businessman Patrick Mbau (Narc Kenya), former Makueni County Water and Environment executive Robert Kisyula (United Democratic Alliance), and governance expert Victoria Nzisa (Orange Democratic Movement).
The contest is shaping up as a three-horse race pitting the Governor against Maanzo and Mbau. Kisyula and Victoria are yet to wage visible campaigns in the county.
This week, Kibwana, Maanzo and Mbau hit the road running. They have also been meeting organised groups of teachers, traders and farmers. Kilonzo Junior and Maanzo have pledged to enhance service delivery by hiring competent civil servants and weeding out corruption.
On the campaign trail, Maanzo says he is better placed to oversight governor aspirant Kilonzo Junior if they are elected.
“Kibwana is out to frustrate the chances of Kalonzo becoming president,” he says, while urging the region to reject the last-term governor. He also accuses Kibwana of working with Mbau to ensure that he does not win the August 9 General Election.
“That notwithstanding, I’ll beat Kibwana and his project with more than 200,000 votes,” he said recently.
Kibwana banks on his legacy in the past 10 years he has been at the helm of the county. Among his notable achievements is revamping the county healthcare system and setting up a robust public participation framework, which brings together loyalists at the grassroots. He vows to protect and advance the gains of devolution.
“The Senate is a very important office. As indicated in the Constitution, a senator and a governor are twins. The senator works closely with the governor in overseeing use of public funds meant for a county. Electing the governors who are seeking Senate positions will be a plus to devolution. They will be firm because they experienced difficulties in managing counties,” he said recently while decrying propaganda that he was seeking a lesser office.
Kibwana’s senatorial bid received a boost last weekend after a section of Ukambani elders endorsed him. The Kamba Clans Governing Council, a lobby which brings together the leadership of all 22 Kamba clans, on Saturday crowned Kibwana as an elder and patron of the organisation.
They cited his leadership acumen and legacy as a county boss. According to the organisation’s chairman, Boniface Kilonzo, Kibwana is the third person to receive this highly esteemed crown after Kenya’s first president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, and his son, President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Maanzo banks on his 10-year experience as a law maker and his close proximity to Musyoka. He also has the support of a section of the local Wiper family.
With his eyes set on the 2027 presidency, Kalonzo is banking on Maanzo and other Wiper candidates in the region to entrench himself as a powerful political kingpin.
On several occasions, he has urged the region to vote only for Wiper candidates.
The entry of Mbau has complicated the contest, with Maanzo labelling him a Kibwana project. The 34-year-old Mbau has, however, been flashing the youth card and sees the nomination of Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua as Raila’s running mate as a plus to his senatorial bid.
But he has to confront a growing list of critics.
Supremacy battles between Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka have dominated the region for the past 10 years. They are understood to have played a big role in Musyoka’s initial discomfort with Azimio, a move that saw Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga appoint Kibwana to head his campaigns in Ukambani.
A day after re-joining Odinga’s campaigns last week, Musyoka and his allies launched a spirited campaign against Kibwana and his Kitui counterpart, Charity Ngilu, apparently to show that Ukambani is a Wiper zone.
and that therefore Odinga should rethink the move to pick Kibwana to head his campaign in the region.
The entry of Mbau has complicated the contest, with Maanzo labelling him a Kibwana project. The 34-year-old Mbau has, however, been flashing the youth card on the campaign trail. A businessman, he sees the nomination of Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua as Raila’s running ate as a plus to his senatorial bid.
“It is time for veteran politicians to step aside and give way for the youth to assume leadership positions,” he said.
By Chris Mambo