2007 Political Hotspots: Lang’ata Constituency

If the recent flare-ups that were witnessed in the dying days of last year in Kibera are anything to go by, Langa'ata will be very explosive politically this year as Raila Odinga attempts the twin feat of maintaining the parliamentary seat and gunning for the presidency. At stake in the constituency will be his second and most decisive stub at the presidency.

Since 1992 when he grabbed the seat from Philip Leakey, Raila has had an easy ride to parliament on the back of the highly populated Kibera slum. As an indication of the confidence in his support in the area, he resigned as the MP on Ford Kenya for Lang'ata in 1996 and recaptured the seat on his newly found NDP ticket.

However, this year he will be sweating very uneasily. While it is expected that the usual weak candidates including Kimani Rugendo and Perez Olindo will run for the seat, the biggest threat to Raila for the seat will will be former Mungiki leader Ndura Waruinge.

Unlike Rugendo or Olindo, Waruinge has a long history of grassroot mobilization, since his days as the coordinator of the proscribed sect. In declaring his interest in the seat, Waruinge sought to project himself as a candidate for the poor youths in the slums. In essence, he might have been signaling to Mungiki adherents to vote for him in Lang'ata.

That the entrance of Waruinge changed the equation in the constituency and is something that Raila is well aware. In fact he has sought to portray Waruinge as a government project in Lang'ata. In the wake of the violence that greeted Waruinge's abortive rally in the sprawling Kibera slums, Raila read the government's hand in the candidature of Waruinge.

Although Waruinge is not explicitly linked to Narc Kenya, the party might be comfortable with him doing the dirty job of engaging Raila at the constituency to distract him from his presidential campaign.

It will be interesting to watch how Raila handles the ethnic tensions, part of which can be blamed on his populist streak. While he can still count on the support of the Luo voters, he will have an uphill task to win other communities into his fold.

The most important communities in the constituency are the Nubians and Kikuyus who form the bulk of landlord and business owners. The Nubians have a long standing feud with the tenants, mostly of the Luo community in Kibera.

The feud was ignited in 2001 when Raila, with former president Moi, said that the tenants of Kibera should be charged a rent they can afford. The tenants refused to pay and infuriated the Nubian landlords sparking a wave of violence that cost several lives.

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