Issues and personalities to watch: Nairobi

For the first time in the history of the city, the evangelical churches will be a factor in general elections with Nairobi being the primary target of the churches' incursion into politics.

Apart from the public declarations of Bishop Margaret Wanjiru (who has since joined ODM-K) that she will be going for the Starehe parliamentary seat now held by Maina Kamanda, the Minister for gender and Sports, and the registration of Agano party, recent actions by the churches that have a huge following in the city show that they are sharpening their weapons in readiness for the elections.

In most of the churches in the city, sermons have taken political dimensions with bishops, pastors and evangelists asking their followers to vote in godly people when the elections are called. Among the churches that will shape the political direction in the city is the Nairobi Pentecostal church (NPC). It is at the NPC that the direction of opposition for the draft constitution in the referendum was mooted before spreading to the rest of the churches in the country.

Bishop Arthur Kitonga of the giant Redeemed Gospel Churches, will certainly be a star of sorts in the city. Apart from the fact that he is a spiritual father of the influential pastors in the city, he is the chair of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa, a convergence of the evangelical churches that shapes the thinking or the philosophy of the churches.

Although he does not possess the academic credentials of NPC's clergy who are considered as elitist as their members, Kitonga connects with the masses, especially in the slum areas. His churches are spread in most of the slums where they attract a huge following. It is this support that the churches mobilized to defeat the government in the referendum.

And aware of the influence of the churches in the city, political heavyweights including Kibaki, Raila and Kalonzo Musyoka have been wooing the churches' leaders to their side.

Parliamentary aspirants including the incumbents have also been warming up to the churches in a bid to win their support. David Mwenje and Maina Kamanda are among the incumbents getting cosy with the evangelicals.

The devolved funds will be a very key determinant of the election outcomes in the city. In Kamukunji, Westlands, and Makadara, the incumbent MPs will be cursing Engineer Muriuki Karue for the genius that created CDF. The three constituencies have been boiling with rage about how the MPs have managed the CDF and only a miracle to save them from the voters' wrath.

The generational conflict between the old guard and the youth is also emerging as campaign platform in the city. There has been a disenchantment among the young that pervades the city slums with a general feeling that they should take over from the old guard.

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