Turkana North Constituency: New voter region and clan politics likely to tip the scales for Munyes

2002 results:
John Munyes (Narc) - 7,163
Christopher Nakuleu (Kanu) - 4,619
Moses Ikwel (Ford-P) - 489
Oliver Lowoton (SDP) - 235
Registered voters - 32,729

The man with the distinction of having become the first Cabinet minister from Turkana region since independence is under pressure.

Prominent personalities from Turkana North want to oust Mr John Munyes Kiyonga.

They include Mr Chris Erukudi, the World Vision manager in North Rift, Mr Peter Lotesiro of Arid Lands Resource Management in the Office of the President, Mr Daniel Nanok, the Butere-Mumias district education officer, Mr Jacob Nakuwa, a retired chief and Mr Joseph Ekalale of the World Food Programme in Sudan.

Businessman George Nakoi Ekalale and Mr Faustino Skeeper are also in the race.

Turkana constituency is nearly the size of Central Province and sparsely populated. The infrastructure is poor with the exception of the 210-kilometre tarmac road linking Lodwar to Lokichoggio.

Lokichoggio airport is used by international organisations for operations in Southern Sudan.

Its economic mainstay is livestock and fishing on Lake Turkana. It also hosts Kakuma refugee camp with more than 90,000 people.

Residents of the three constituencies the region applauded when President Kibaki appointed Mr Munyes to the Cabinet. His Turkana Central counterpart Ekwee Ethuro is also the assistant minister for Labour.

Lack of water

Mr Munyes’ appointment raised hopes among his people who now accuse him of having done little to uplift their livelihoods.

They face insecurity, lack of water points, drought, illiteracy, inadequate medical facilities and poor infrastructure. These are among issues the minister’s opponents will be raising during campaigns.

Mr Munyes, the Special Programmes minister, is determined to retain the seat. He is widely expected to vie on a Ford Kenya ticket since he is the secretary general. But if the party forges alliances with Narc Kenya, then he may move to the coalition.

His rivals are yet to declare their parties.

Word has been going round in the constituency that the minister is reaching out to his opponents for a compromise.

He is said to be trying to persuade them to stick to their jobs and let him sail through unopposed to serve a third term. Mr Munyes who joined politics in 1997, has remained an influential leader in Turkana, leading a crop of youthful politicians who have emerged in the remote region.

He will be banking on Ngisiger clan where he commands a big following. Other areas where he draws support include Lowarengak, Nachukui and Kataboi.

Mr Munyes has been campaigning in the constituency urging his people to support him so that the “flag remains in Turkana” should President Kibaki be re-elected.

Mr Munyes reckons that his development record will earn him another term. But he has been accused of concentrating CDF projects around Lake Turkana where he enjoys backing from Ngisiger, the biggest clan.

Some voters feel that the CDF has only benefited projects in Lowarengak, Nachukui, Kataboi, Lokitaung and Kaeris.

The MP has built schools, dispensaries and initiated water projects in those areas with little to show in Kibish and Lapur, Kaleeng, according to his rivals.

Residents of Kakuma, Oropoi and Lokichoggio also accuse the minister of abandoning them.

They are members of the Lokumong and Kwatela clans who voted for him in 1997 and 2002.

Mr Munyes had won support from the area after deposing former MP and veteran Turkana politician, the late Japheth Ekidor.

Mr Ekidor was killed by bandits five years ago on Lodwar-Kainuk road.

Mr Christopher Nakuleu, a cousin of Mr Ekidor and the man he beat in 2002, is now an MP in the East African Assembly and was expected to give the minister stiff challenge.

If the constituency is split, it would be a relief to Mr Munyes and some of his opponents. It is among the two constituencies which the Electoral Commission has recommended for a split on the basis of its size. Another one is North Horr in the upper Eastern Province, which is almost the size of Western Province.

Different route

If it is divided, Mr Munyes would remain in the proposed Turkana East while Mr Nakuwa, Mr Lotesiro, and Mr Nanok would go to the West.

Mr Nakuwa, has a strong backing in Kwatela clan especially in Kibish area where he worked as well as in Lokamarinyang, Koyasa and Napak.

He is determined to launch a stiff campaign in these areas to beat Mr Munyes.

He has pledged to improve education and fight insecurity on the Kenya-Ethiopia border.

Mr Nakuwa says he would seek the Narc-K ticket although his supporters have advised him to pursue the ODM route.

Mr Lotesiro, who is yet to decide on which party to run, is well known in the lake region, especially around Kakuma and Lokitaung.

He has initiated many fishing projects and could pose a threat to the minister.

He said if elected, he would fight poverty and improve education standards.

Another man to watch is Mr Erukudi who comes from the Lukumong clan thatneighbours Uganda.

He claims to have been told to vie for the seat by members of his clan.

He is expected to seek support from Kakuma, Lokichoggio, Oropoi and Naporoto if a new West constituency is created.

He has worked with the community for a long time and has pledged to promote education, improve water supply security.

Mr Ekalale, Mr Nakoi Kakuma and Mr Skeeper come from Kakuma and could split their votes during nominations.

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