Kibwezi Constituency: Ndetei wants seat back in Ukambani's unsteady area

The incumbent, Mr Kalembe Ndile, faces an uphill task of breaking the jinx of never voting back a pro-establishment MP and in which there are more male voters than female.

Perhaps it is one of the very few constituencies in the country in which men registered voters outnumber the women — 36,354 against 31,485.

Kibwezi has three divisions — Kibwezi with 23,647 registered voters, Mtito Andei 28,871 and Makindu 21,322.

The area is dry and has for some time been experienced unreliable rain, leading to high levels of poverty and constant reliance on relief food. It is somewhat cosmopolitan, having attracted migrants, among them Muslims who live predominantly in Kibwezi township and Makindu.

The area has 156 polling stations, 13 civic electoral areas or wards and 67,840 registered voters as of last January.

Kibwezi has gained the dubious reputation of having scant respect for ruling party’s candidates, earning it the tag of the bad boy of the Ukambani politics.

It is among the first constituencies in Ukambani to embrace opposition politics upon the reintroduction of political pluralism in 1992.

At a time when Kanu reigned in Ukambani, the Kibwezi residents voted in Mrs Agnes Ndetei on the DP ticket in 1992, brought in Mr Onesmus Mboko of SDP in 1997 and then Narc’s Mr Richard Kalembe Ndile in 2002.

Kibwezi is predominantly an anti-establishment area with a fanatical following of ODM Kenya presidential hopeful Kalonzo Musyoka.

Even Tourism assistant minister Ndile’s closest allies admit that he will be a hard sell this time round, and the fact must be giving him sleepless nights.

But the amiable politician has a strange way of wriggling out of difficult situations even when his critics write him off.

Mr Ndile from humble academic and social backgrounds, but he has turned out to be arguably one of Kenya’s most popular politicians.

He has unique oratory skills which he uses to disarm friends and foes alike. It is for this reason that the MP may weather the gathering storm.

This and the fact that the residents could go for him as a person, irrespective of the party sponsoring him.

He has been using well the Constituency Development Fund money as well as that of bursary fund and the fuel levy. Roads have been repaired using a grader bought with the funds, not to mention new classrooms and health facilities.

But the MP faces a serious challenge that will test his political skills and determine whether he is a mere paper tiger or a serious fighter.

At least 15 contenders have emerged, among them five women. They include former MPs Mboko, Ndetei and Grace Mwewa.

Others are Prof Phillip Kyalo Kaloki, Mr Peter Kyondu Munyae, Mr Robert Kisyula, Mr Kimei Ndulu, Mr Lombo Simba Lombo and Mr John Kiema.

Yet others said to be in the race although they have not come out openly are Dr John Mbalu, a Nairobi University lecturer, Mr Isaac Matemu, formerly Moi University, businesswoman Alice Soo, Ms Seth Mweu, Mr Dominic Mutole and Mr Mwenga Mutuse.

Among the candidates, five are from Mtito-Andei division, another five from Kibwezi and eight from Makindu.

Mr Mboko who has contested the seat since 1988 and is a former bank executive, will be running for the fifth time for the seat he lost to Mr Ndile in 2002.

Mr Munyae who has been contesting since 1992, has been a salesman with a number of publishing firms.

He is currently a member of the Ford Kenya National Executive Council and the party’s point man in Makueni district.

The campaigns began as early as 2004 when the residents knew exactly who was eyeing the seat.

It has since boiled down to a competition among politicians who go around the constituency dishing out goodies.

Prof Kaloki and Mr Ndile have been involved in a show of might as they try to outsmart each other in matters of development.

The former has kept the latter on his toes by marching his development record. Through his influence, Prof Kaloki brought in the Turner Foundation of Canada, which has transformed most parts of Kibwezi by building schools, roads and health centres.

The most outstanding development project is the multi-million-shilling rural electrification programme which is soon to benefit about 100,000 residents.

The 25km road from Mtito Andei to Machinery market is another of his growing list of community-based projects, and he says that all the people have had their lives changed for the better.

He has been doing this for the past three years to try show that development can come only from a focused leader.

Besides, Prof Kaloki who has spent most of his time in the US, is a close friend of Mr Musyoka’s.

He is a key figure in the Mwingi North MP’s campaigns for the ODM-K presidential nomination as he is currently the chairman of the Kalonzo Foundation secretariat.

He says he is doing it as an appreciation for the Kibwezi people who, he says, enabled him to obtain good education.

He has taken advantage of his stay in the US to airtlift local students for further education.

Mrs Mwewa is leading the women onslaught in the largely men-dominated battle. She too has tried to march the men by having to her credit projects that have endeared her to the residents.

She has helped the local girls to get good education.

A school that she helped to found about four years ago — Moi girls Kibwezi — is a showpiece today, and she has ensured that children from poor families go on learning.

Kibwezi bestrides on the Nairobi-Mombasa highway, and Mrs Mwewa sees this as a big advantage as it lies on a strategic communication corridor.

She claims that Mr Ndile and Prof Kaloki are running expensive campaigns, but says she hopes voters will “see through them with a microscope”.

But what was Mrs Mwewa’s influence as a possible woman candidate has been reduced Mrs Ndetei’s joining the race.

Mrs Ndetei tested the waters recently when she led a campaign for her sister during the Kola-Muumandu civic by-election in Machakos, but her candidate who vied through Mr Kamlesh Pattni’s Kenda party fared dismally.

After the 2002 elections which pitted her against her estranged husband, and in which she fared dismally, Mrs Ndetei disappeared from the scene and went to the US.

She will be starting afresh, having lost the allure that propelled her to stardom when she was in DP in 1992.

Mr Kisyula, the World Vision deputy director, has a wide knowledge of the constituency, having worked as an Action Aid field officer.

Mr Ndulu is from Makindu division which is yet to produce an MP, and he is linked to a number of development projects.

Mr Lombo is a media personality and is associated with Baraka FM radio. He contested the seat in 2002 but lost.

Mr Kiema has had close ties with the Odinga family and has been trying to capture the seat since 1992.

He is from Kibwezi and is seen as the division’s favourite candidate. But his success will depend on how Mtito Andei and Makindu divisions react to his candidacy.

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One Response to Kibwezi Constituency: Ndetei wants seat back in Ukambani's unsteady area

Cluter, Les said...

Am interested in post-election update and am hoping to be in Kibwezi three weeks in July, 2008