Magarini Constituency: Magarini tussle goes for second round in a year

New political realignments are shaping up in Magarini constituency after MP Harrison Garama Kombe survived an attempt to wrest the seat from him in a by-election two months ago.

Mr Kombe is preparing for an encounter with Mr Julius Daraka Mbuzi, who petitioned against his election in 2002 and won.

Mr Mbuzi, a retired area chief who is now the personnel manager of Krystaline Salt Company, announced he is in the race after staying out in the May 14 by-election.

He came into the limelight during a four-year court battle which was concluded early this year, sending off Mr Kombe only for him to bounce back in the by-election.

Although he opted to stay out in the by-election, he told the media then: “I am there in a big way during the December General Election.”

Mr Kombe is unlikely to get the Government backing he enjoyed in the by-election.

Government ministers using State resources, some contenders claim, assisted Mr Kombe win the seat. Narc Kenya even withdrew its candidate in favour of Mr Kombe.

Given the current political mood prevailing in Coast Province where some voices in Shirikisho Party are distancing themselves from Narc-K, it would appear that each candidate would have to fight his/her own battle.

Besides Mr Mbuzi, the MP will be facing a swelling crowd of newcomers and old guard. The number has risen to 20, up from 10 during the May 14 by-election.

Real battle

The old guard include three former MPs – Mr David Noti Kombe, who is a born-again Christian, Mr Katana Nzai and Mr Joseph Kasena Yeri.

Another aspirant is Mr Amason Jefwa Kingi of ODM Kenya, who was second in the by-election.

Others are Mr Peter Ziro, Mr Jeremiah Kazungu, Pastor James Ngala, Mr Willy Mure, Mr Ali Ahmed Maamun Akaku, Mr Stephen Taura, Mr Peter Kafwihi and Ms Lucy Muthoni Ng’ang’a.

But the real battle is expected to pit Mr Kombe, Mr Kingi, a Kenyan of Italian origin Mr Franco Esposito alias Kasoso wa Baya, who came third in the by-election, a university student, Mr Samuel Nzai, and former MP Noti Kombe.

Abandoned midway

Mr Kombe (MP) has to fight hard to retain the seat that he almost lost when Mr Mbuzi successfully petitioned his 2002 election.

Critics say the MP’s performance record has not been outstanding. They claim the CDF kitty has been used to start many projects which have been abandoned midway.

However, it should be remembered that Mr Kombe comes from two large clans – Mwakombe and Mwangari – which have dominated Magarini politics since independence.

Voting in Magarini has in the past been based on clan alliances. But the danger ahead is that five candidates – Mr Yeri, the two Nzais and the Kombes – all come from the two big clans. This could split the votes and deny them victory.

The split could help the candidates from smaller clans – Mr Kingi, Mr Ziro, Mr Kazungu and Pastor Ngala – to take the seat.

Changed his mind

Mr Esposito, who after losing in the by-election declared he would not contest again, has changed his mind.

The businessman promises to tackle the perpetual problems of water and poverty if elected.

Mr Kingi says his priority will be to bring “broader effective leadership” that he believes has lacked in the area for more than 43 years.

He regrets that since independence, the residents have been, and are still, struggling to get basic necessities such as clean piped water, food and infrastructure.

Shirikisho Party of Kenya has spread its wings in the entire Coast Province and could play a role in Magarini politics.

But ODM-K, which is still basking in the 2005 national referendum victory, has grown stronger and appears to be ahead of Narc-K.

Issues that will feature in the campaigns include poverty which, according to last year’s Kenya Demographic Index, stands at over 80 per cent.

The area lacks clean water despite Baricho pumping system that serves Mombasa North having been channelled through the area.

Residents of Bungale, Dagamra, Kamale and areas north of Marafa have never seen tap water, 44 years after independence. Infrastructure is poor, with most feeder roads becoming impassable in rainy seasons.

Most parts of the constituency have no electricity although there is a power line on the Malindi-Lamu highway that cuts through the constituency, connecting electricity to the neighbouring Garsen constituency in Tana River District.

Though Magarini hosts all the nine salt manufacturing industries in the country, this has not made any impact on the area’s development.

Land issue remains explosive. Lands minister Kivutha Kibwana visited the area recently and announced the revocation of title deeds in the settlement areas.

Mr Kombe is known for giving a free hand to his CDF team and the constituency has received more than Sh100 million since it was established in 2003.

Part of it has been used to set up dispensaries and health centres in Marafa and Gongoni locations as well as constructions of classrooms in schools.

Mr Esposito is a space engineer of Italian origin who came to the country in the 1960s to manage the San Marco satellite launching centre at Ngomeni.

He has been the kingmaker in the past, providing resources to potential candidates who have become area MPs.

His ambition, he says, is to bring change and a different kind of leadership altogether while giving priority to water supply, education, infrastructure, health and economic empowerment.

Mr Kingi is a Mombasa-based lawyer, who lost in the last by-election. He is seen as one of the strongest challengers and is likely to contest on the ODM-K ticket.

Surprise winner

Mr Noti Kombe, who was MP between 1997 and 2002, has been a staunch Kanu member for a long time although he stood on Mr Cyrus Jirongo’s Kaddu party in the by-election. He could easily defect again and try to contest on the Kanu ticket.

Mr Yeri, a founder member of Shirikisho, is considered a politician of the past, although he commands some clout in the constituency.

However, politics being what it is, a surprise winner could emerge in this year’s election.

Magarini 2007 by-election results

Harrison Kombe (Shirikisho) 5,138
Amason Jefwa Kingi (ODM-K) 2,418
Franco Esposito (Kenda) 2,286
Samuel Nzai (Narc) 1,914
David Noti Kombe (Kaddu) 1,035
Jillo Onotto (Safina) 325
Peter Ziro (RDK) 220
Jeremiah Kazungu (RAP) 124
Pastor Shida Ngala ( ) 75
Lucy Muthoni Ng’ang’a (YDP) 35

Registered voters 42,478

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