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City leaders split on seats ahead of polls

By JUSTUS WANGA February 28th, 2014 3 min read

ODM leader Raila Odinga this week held a key to election success as infighting continued among party bigwigs in Nairobi.

His intervention was believed to be decisive as his local team split over key positions ahead of today’s meeting to pick new officials.

Personal ambition, envy, and ethnic considerations have sharply divided the party’s local leadership, compromising its chances of clinching top seats during today’s elections.

None of the five city politicians vying for positions in the National Executive Council (NEC) is willing to back out in favour of another to boost the county’s chances of winning any top post.

Candidates include Nominated Senator Elizabeth Ongoro, Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati, his Embakasi South counterpart Irshad Sumra, former mayor George Aladwa and former Makadara MP Reuben Ndolo.

Senate colleague

Ms Ongoro, who is vying for the Secretary General’s seat at the National Delegates’ Conference, maintained she was firmly in the race, contradicting a claim by Mr Arati that she had stepped down in favour of her senate colleague Agnes Zani.

The confusion demonstrates the extent of mistrust among Nairobi leaders.

“I have received key endorsements from delegates across the country and I am sure of a win. Those peddling rumours that I have opted out of the race are scared of me, it is total falsehood that my supporters should ignore,” said the senator, who is facing Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba and Ms Zani.

Mr Arati who is challenging Raila Odinga for the party leader’s post had told NairobiNews that Ms Ongoro had personally confided in him that she had pulled out of the race in favour of her Senate colleague Agnes Zani.

The Dagoretti North MP expressed fears that divisions within the local leadership risked compromising the county’s chances of clinching any influential position. “Nairobi deserves a key slot in ODM although from the look of things this may not be the case. And if Raila were honest about revamping the party, he would have supported me in my quest,” he stated.

The former mayor Mr Aladwa, who is the county chairman, maintained that Nairobi delegates had resolved to back his candidature for the Organising Secretary’s position. He added that the delegates had also resolved to support Mr Odinga over Mr Arati.

“Nairobi delegates met yesterday and resolved to support my candidature. The delegates have said they are not with Arati. They are firmly behind our party leader,” he said.

Mr Aladwa’s opponents for the seat, Mr Sumra and Mr Ndolo, are both from Nairobi, demonstrating the extent of the divisions in the county’s leadership.

Exuding confidence that he will trounce both Mr Aladwa and Mr Sumra to clinch the Organising Secretary’s post, Mr Ndolo maintained that Nairobi must be represented in the party’s NEC. “Nairobi is the centre of everything and it will be too bad for the party if we are segregated in the running of the party affairs. This seat, Organising Secretary must remain here,” he stated.

Recruiting goons

Mr Arati alleged that some candidates in the city were recruiting goons to heckle those they perceived to have an upper hand in the contest.

“Mr Odinga must come out and condemn this because much as he may not be aware, some candidates are busy recruiting goons, purposely to disrupt the polls in the event they lose,” he said.

Ms Ongoro has been exuding confidence during her campaigns, telling North Rift delegates that Mr Namwamba and Ms Zani were ‘no match for her’.

“I am asking Ababu Namwamba to go back to Orange House and change his candidature. This is a women’s war. Women must be well represented at this party election. As for my fellow woman Agnes Zani, this is no seat for a political baby.

The Secretary General seat is a political hotbed which needs a politically experienced hand like mine,” she said.

Security will be beefed up in the county to ensure the polls are conducted peacefully, said Nairobi County Commandant, Benson Kibui.

Mr Kibui said extra police would be deployed at Kasarani, where the polls will be held, and on Thika Road as well as the city centre to ensure that there will be no violence.