Tough race in Starehe as three young ‘celebrities’ battle for seat
The battle for Starehe Constituency will be a heated one, between three “young turks”; a businessman, a popular musician with ties to State House and a photojournalist turned activist.
Recently concluded nominations saw old guard Maina Kamanda shown the door in favour of musician Charles Njagua Kanyi, whose stage name is “Jaguar”.
Jaguar’s win did not come easy as the incumbent, Mr Kamanda was at first declared the winner before the matter was taken before the Jubilee Party Appeals Tribunal that determined there was compelling evidence that the Returning Officer altered the final results.
But it was the drama prior to the tribunal’s decision that captured the imagination of Kenyans who were shocked to see Mr Njagua and his supporters shed tears after Mr Kamanda was declared the winner.
Standing outside the glass tower that is Jubilee headquarters, Mr Njagua could not believe that the nomination certificate had slipped through his fingers.
Flanked by his supporters who chanted “Jagua usiitikie!” (Jaguar do not accept), he was overcome with emotion but quickly pulled himself together and fought for the nomination certificate.
The former Nacada director faced the cameras and was very categorical that he would not agree to a sit-down with anyone and declared that, “Democracy is not about negotiation,”.
The ODM nominations were peaceful, devoid of drama and the side shows of the Jubilee party nominations. A young but controversial businessman, Mr Steve Mbogo, who showed up to vote accompanied by his stunning wife was declared the winner with 5,687 votes against his rival Winston Churchill, who managed 847 votes.
Boniface Mwangi, an equally young activist firebrand who carved a name from heckling former President Kibaki and organising the Occupy Parliament protest where he paraded red-painted pigs, is running as an independent candidate under the outfit“Ukweli Party” (Truth Party), with an interesting symbol of a sugarcane.
During the launch of his Ukweli Party, Mr Mwangi made a predictive statement that aptly described the current political scene.
“Kenya’s political scene is oozing of recycled, redundant, and unprogressive leadership yet somehow we hope that the same people who created this redundancy will fix it. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying I want better, I deserve better and I’m willing to participate in creating better.”
As expected, all the three young men with young families have promised for a better Starehe. It will be upto the Starehe voters to determine if they want to reclaim Starehe with Mr Mbogo, or if they want “Starehe Mpya” (a new Starehe) with Boniface Mwangi or perhaps a mwamko mpya (new beginning) with Mr Njagua.
The three youngsters have used every possible campaign trick to win the voters. From Jaguar’s teasing the electorate with choruses from his hit songs like “Kigeugeu” that reminds us that everyone will eventually betray us, to Mr Mwangi’s boda boda rides and interactions with hawkers to remind the electorate that he too, was once a hawker, to Mr Mbogo’s pictures with mama mbogas and handing out bails of unga, indeed, there is not a corner of Starehe that will be left unturned by these vibrant young men.
They have also taken to social media to market their political brands. Granted, they were mini-celebrities in their own rights prior to entering politics.
Mr Mwangi, an energetic rights activists who has received international nods from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, has taken to electronic campaigns, emailing his potential voters his manifestos.
He is also using WhatsApp to send videos about his plan for the constituency and commanding Twitter trends (#StareheNiBoni) to send out his message of a new Starehe.
Jaguar, with a massive Instagram following, is ever keeping his legion of followers updated on his campaigns.
He is sharing videos of him addressing ecstatic crowds, pushing wheelchairs of disabled children, interacting with beggars and occasionally a picture of him next to one of his many luxurious cars.
MAN OF THE PEOPLE
Mr Mbogo is framing himself on social media as a young and successful businessman who rose from a difficult background but has not forgotten where he has come from. He is carrying out a spirited online campaign, branding himself as a man of the people, unafraid of the ghettos but who also always finds time for his wife and two children.
None of these young men is without controversy. Mr Mbogo’s claims of massive wealth have been questioned. Jaguar was recently in trouble when a car belonging to him was involved in an accident that killed two people. Some have questioned the source of Mr Mwangi’s activism resources.
So who will be the next Starehe MP? Will it be the popular musician with a direct line to State House? Or a flashy businessman who until two years ago nobody had heard of but is immensely popular?
Or will it be the independent candidate, a fierce critic of the government who once claimed that the Deputy President is out to kill him?