Lang’ata Constituency: Landslide seems on the cards for Raila in Lang’ata

The towering image of Orange Democratic Movement Kenya (ODM-K) presidential hopeful Mr Raila Odinga on the Kenyan political scene seems to have scared off parliamentary aspirants in his Lang’ata constituency.

Mr Odinga has only a handful of opponents. Indeed, so far, only former Mungiki leader Pastor Ndura Waruinge and businessman Mr Antony Kirori have shown interest in the seat.

Mr Kirori has been active in the constituency, helping disadvantaged people to start up small businesses.

Nominated MP Ms Njoki Ndung’u is believed to be waiting for a split of the constituency, if Parliament passes the Bill approved by the Cabinet on Friday to raise the number of constituencies, to contest in the off-shoot.

If Lang’ata is split, Ms Ndung’u will depend on support from the upper areas comprising Karen and Lang’ata locations, where she was born and brought up.

Mr Odinga will vie on the lower part comprising Sera Ng’ombe, Kibera, Mugumoini, Nairobi West and Laini Saba, where he enjoys a lot of support.

Will not oppose

Ms Ndung’u says she will not oppose Mr Odinga if the constituency is not split.

“We have a long standing relationship with Mr Odinga’s family and I respect him so much. I have voted for him in the past three elections and I do not see why I will not this time again,” she said.

Mr Odinga’s wife Ida, who is Ms Ndung’u’s mentor, was her teacher at Kenya High School.

She thinks it would be futile to run against a politician of Mr Odinga’s stature who also happens to be gunning for the presidency.

Pastor Hezekiah Ndura Waruinge has chosen to contest on a Narc ticket and has promised to support President Kibaki and the party he will choose to seek re-election.

He says he will vie in Lang’ata because he has lived there most of his life.

When he moved to Nairobi, he says he settled at Laini Saba, where he engaged in business.

He promises to uplift the living standards of the Lang’ata residents if elected to Parliament.

Waruinge, 33, attributes the high poverty levels in the constituency, which has one of the biggest informal settlements in Africa, to poor leadership.

The International Deliverance Church pastor adds that he decided to go to Lang’ata because most of his supporters, the youth, live in the Kibera slums.

“I have been trying to empower the youth through various projects such as businesses and securing jobs for them,” he says.

The irony

But the irony is that the church in which he is pastor is situated in the posh parts of Westlands constituency.

But Mr Waruinge faces a tough battle for the Lang’ata votes.

Early this year, he was freed on bond after spending six months in prison for allegedly inciting citizens in the Kibera slums to violence.

He had gone to the area to campaign and a fight ensued, leading to the death of three people.

The judge who freed him warned him to keep off Kibera until the case pending in court is heard and determined.

Critics consider his entry into Lang’ata as a way of checking Mr Odinga’s influence in the city and many will be waiting to see how he will fair in the elections.

Sometimes last year, at a political rally Mr Waruinge addressed alongside Kamukunji legislator Norman Nyagah, it emerged that his task was to check Mr Odinga.

Mr Nyagah, who is the Government Chief Whip, said: “Raila has for a long time convinced himself that he is the only man in Lang’ata. This time round, he will come face to face with a match of his breed – Ndura Waruinge.”

Defence minister Mr Njenga Karume is on record seeking Mr Waruinge’s support in mobilising the youth to vote in favour of the proposed new constitution during the 2005 referendum.

Mr Odinga does not seem shaken by Pastor Waruinge’s entry.

To most of his supporters, he is a nationalist and has been able to rise above partisan politics.

Lang’ata is home to various communities, majority of whom have been voting for him.

Although he is from the Luo community, Mr Odinga often describes himself as a descendant of Luhya legendary leader Nabongo Mumia.

Opposition doyen

Mr Odinga, the son of opposition doyen the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, was born in Maseno, Kisumu District on January 7, 1945.

In 1965, he got a scholarship that sent him to the Technical University (Otto Von Guericke), Magdeburg in what was then known as East Germany.

In 1970, he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Upon his return to Kenya, he worked as a lecturer at the University of Nairobi.

In 1975, he was appointed Deputy Director of the Kenya Bureau of Standards, a post he held until his detention in 1982.

Mr Odinga was arrested after being suspected of collaborating with the plotters of a failed coup who sought to oust President Moi in 1982.

He was charged with treason and was later detained.

Mr Odinga is a popular politician and a crowd puller.

A shrewd political fighter and organiser, Mr Odinga first entered Parliament in 1992 when he won the Lang’ata seat on a Ford Kenya ticket.

He however abandoned the party in 1994 after his father’s death to head the National Development Party.

He retained the Lang’ata seat in the subsequent by-election.

He took a first stab at the presidency in the 1997 General Election and emerged third behind Mr Mwai Kibaki and President Moi.

The National Development Party was to join Kanu in a widely publicised merger but later walked out on the President when he later anointed Mr Uhuru Kenyatta as the party’s presidential candidate.

Mr Odinga campaigned for President Kibaki in 2002.

Besides the Kibera slums whose population stands at about 750,000 people, Lang’ata also has some leafy estates, including Karen.

The residents cite insecurity, poverty, poor infrastructure, unemployment, poor housing as some of the issues they want tackled.

Poor roads, congestion, lack of water and sanitation facilities are the other problems.

The 600-acre Kibera slums dates back to 1920 when the British colonial government let a group of Nubian soldiers arriving from World War 1 to settle on the wooded hillside of Nairobi. But they never got title deeds.

Scores of people from different communities settled in the area over the years, seeking new life and shelter, but ending up in shacks.

Successive governments have done little to improve life in the informal settlement. The Government has now given its commitment to providing better housing for the Kibera residents.

The slum has since become a tourist attraction. Prominent personalities who have visited the slum include UN secretary general Ban-Ki Moon and the British prime minister Mr Gordon Brown.

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