Embakasi Constituency: City Hall factor in Mwenje's survival contest

The incumbent, Mr David Mwenje, seems to be seeing enemies all over Nairobi in an election fever that is boiling down to be a fight for supremacy in the city’s politics.

City Hall issues, the believed dominance of Nairobi politics by Murang’a people and the controversy surrounding the creation of more constituencies have not made matters any better for the MP.

Mr Mwenje claims that Culture and Sports minister Maina Kamanda of neighbouring Starehe constituency is interfering in his home turf.

Mr Kamanda is the only Cabinet minister from Nairobi and his constituency borders Embakasi at Kariobangi where two other constituencies — Makadara and Kasarani — also meet.

The two politicians are from Murang’a, which has produced the most influential city politicians since independence. This explains the fight for supremacy.

Wrangles between Mr Mwenje and deputy mayor Ferdinand Waititu have already set the election tempo in the populous constituency. It points to a fight for the control of City Hall, besides Mr Waititu’s intention to oppose the MP.

Mr Mwenje sees Mr Kamanda as a threat if he were to have the control of councillors and therefore become a kingmaker in the city.

But Mr Mwenje must therefore be keeping his fingers crossed that Parliament amends the Constitution to allow the Electoral Commission to have more constituencies. For should this happen, Embakasi is most likely to be split.

But Mr Waititu has kept the MP guessing, saying that he will decide his constituency only after Embakasi is divided. It will be interesting if he chooses to contest in one area with Mr Mwenje.

The MP is facing opposition from many other possible candidates who include former city mayor John Ndirangu and Mr Irshad Sumra who lost in the last election. The two will be competing with Mr Waititu for the Narc Kenya nomination, and this shows that the race could be tough even at this early stage.

Others include Mr Roy Kivusyu who is known to be close to ODM Kenya presidential hopeful Kalonzo Musyoka, development consultant Lameck Siage and musician Kennedy Wambua alias Ken Wamaria. They are all chasing the ODM-K ticket. Possible women candidates include Ms Angela Kamene Kimwele of DP, Ms Anastasia Mathenge of the NGOs world, Mrs Janet Kate Muttisya and university student Biphrosa Matengo of NPK.

Mr Waititu has on several occasions run for dear life as youths bayed for his blood in local public rallies attended by Mr Mwenje.

The assistant minister for Cooperative Development claims that Mr Waititu is ungrateful, arguing that he helped him to win the Njiru civic seat in the last elections and to become the deputy mayor.

But Mr Waititu vehemently denies this, saying, he won both positions on his own.

The use of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) money will be a big issue during the campaigns following claims that it has not been used well.

The matter is currently in court after some constituents challenged the kitty committee’s composition comprising people said to be Mr Mwenje’s cronies.

Embakasi is an interesting constituency, and it has recently boasted of the highest number of registered voters — more than 200,000. Double registration has been discovered.

Fingers are being pointed at Mr Mwenje and Mr Waititu for the double registration as they fight to get as many people for themselves as they can ahead of the election.

The constituency has 24 slums of extremely poor residents who lack the basic facilities. A wall collapsed recently in one of them — Mukuru kwa Reuben — killing 13 people. There are not enough secondary schools, and there have been murmurs that the bursary and Aids funds have not been properly used.

The crime rate is high and mainly concentrated at Dandora, Kayole, Njiru and Ruai where the dreaded Mungiki sect has operation cells.

It is against this background that every prospective candidate is campaigning on the platform of poverty reduction and the improvement of the security situation.

The Kamba vote in the constituency will be the most coveted as it usually provides the swing vote. It will be a gem this time round, especially as other possible candidates see Mr Mwenje and Mr Waititu sharing the Central province vote.

ODM- K and Narc Kenya appear to be the main parties, although others such as Kanu and National Party of Kenya (NPK) are expected to also field candidates.

The success of an ODM-K candidate will depend on whether or not the party resolves the issue of the presidential torchbearer without precipitating a fallout.

Mr Waititu is expected to pose the biggest challenge to Mr Mwenje, the man to beat. The deputy mayor seems to be confident of upsetting the MP as he boasts of an impressive development record at the Njiru ward which, he says, he wants to carry on with in the entire constituency.

Mr Waititu has helped to light up Njiru and Ruai using the Local Authorities Transfer Fund and others, and he says this has reduced crime considerably.

The electrification is being extended to the Kamulu area on the outskirts of the constituency.

He denies that he has ever been friends with Mr Mwenje, arguing that the assistant minister actually fought him when he was fighting to get the deputy mayor’s job.

Mrs Muttisya says she is sickened by the local poverty levels where the people cannot afford three meals a day.

She has already started addressing the situation by working with women and youth groups where she guarantees them to secure credit to start small businesses.

By engaging in small businesses, the youth can support themselves and avoid being exploited by politicians who hire them to engage in violence.

Ms Kimwele says she wants to offer what she describes as transformative leadership.

She is also keen on ensuring equitable distribution of public funds as well as improving the infrastructure as well as health and sanitation, alleviating poverty and dealing with insecurity.

Mr Ndirangu also denies any association with Mr Mwenje, saying that he is ahead of the pack by virtue of having been a councillor in the area and ultimately a mayor of between 1999 and 2001.

He thinks it was during his tenure as mayor that the constituency benefited from public funds through the rehabilitation of roads and the sewer system.

He knows all the corners of the area and the people and understands their problems.

Ms Mathenge who lives in the area says her entry is a calling from God. To her, moving the Dandora dumpsite, which she says is a health hazard, will be her priority should she be elected.

She blames the city council for frustrating efforts to have the dumpsite somewhere else.

The culture of handouts that she says has taken root, is something she wants to deal with by helping the women and the youth to engage in income-generating activities.

Mr Kivusyu says the middle class in the constituency with its unique problems has been ignored.

The mushrooming of quarries in the area is another problem, she says, and accuses the Government and the local leaders of ignoring the social and environmental threat. Mr Sumra says he has continued to serve the people despite losing in the last elections by helping to get jobs in private companies and participating in other development projects.

He thinks that, given his background as an Asian, he is the best suited to wipe out tribalism which, according to him, is rife in the constituency.

Mr Siage says he wants to provide the leadership that will tackle problems facing the people by tapping on their talents. And he blames the current leadership for what he terms mismanagement of public funds.

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