What Msambweni Result Means for Uhuru, Raila, Ruto - Analysts

  • President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre) with Deputy President William Ruto (left) and Opposition leader Raila Odinga during the launch of the BBI report at the Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi on November 27.
    President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre) with Deputy President William Ruto (left) and Opposition leader Raila Odinga at the Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi
  • On Friday, December 11, ODM leader, Raila Odinga warned his followers in Msambweni, Kwale County that the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) would face a huge hurdle in case the ODM candidate lost in the by-election.

    Five days later, ODM's Omar Boga lost the seat to an independent candidate, Feisal Badder, who had the support of Deputy President William Ruto. Badder garnered 15251 votes beating Boga who got 10,444 votes. 

    "Baba (Odinga) was prophetic. Msambweni was a test run for the BBI vote! Kenya is saying 'No' to a forced Referendum. Baba, the people are marching themselves to Canaan! They are tired of empty promises," Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana trolled Odinga on Wednesday morning, December 16.

    Political Analysts Javas Bigambo and Kipchumba Korir weighed in with different perspectives for the three luminaries - Odinga, Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta - and their foot soldiers, Governors Hassan Joho (Mombasa) and Salim Mvurya (Kwale). 

    ODM leader Raila Odinga (in cowboy hat) campaigns for his Msambweni by-election candidate Omar Boga in Kwale on Friday, December 11, 2020

    Building Bridges Initiative (BBI)

    Bigambo said that the election has tested the BBI spirit and the prospects of referendum sailing through. He argued that BBI proposed unity and cohesion, yet leaders at the Coast were embroiled in violence and bribery allegations

    "This goes against the BBI agenda. However, it also calls for Kenyatta and Odinga to keenly listen to what the people want. In the end, whether we have BBI or not, it cannot cure strange manners and bad behaviour like violence," he stated. 

    Lawyer Korir added that the by-election portrayed a divided nation and that proponents of the bill were at the forefront in advocating for divisive politics. 

    "What is the key reason for championing for BBI if politicians cannot agree on political ideas and are fighting at a by-election?" Korir wondered, questioning the intention of the document. 

    2022 General Elections

    The two analysts concurred that the Msambweni and Kibra 2019 elections where ODM's candidate Imran Okoth trounced Ruto's ally MacDonald Mariga, gave an insight into how the 2022 elections would be conducted. 

    Korir said that Kenyans are, however, showing signs of political maturity and are letting politicians fight between themselves, unlike the past where citizens were being used to propagate violence. 

    "Kenyans are moving from politics for the sake of it to key issues. Voters in Msambweni have been used as an arena. Police have been accused of taking a certain role even the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission.

    "As we talk about 2022, Msambweni and Kibra were an insight into what 2022 will be like. There will be questions of divisions, external influences and voter maturity," Korir said.

    An illustration of the Msambweni by-election results that happened on Tuesday, December 15, 2020

    2022 Election Candidates and Political Supremacy

    Lawyer Korir argued that Ruto winning the Msambweni seat through a proxy meant that he can expand his influence at the Coast, a predominantly ODM stronghold. Ruto has been making in-roads through allies such as MPs Mohamed Ali (Nyali), Aisha Jumwa (Malindi) and Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya. 

    He added that the Msambweni loss should compel the former Prime Minister to re-strategise. 

    Bigambo wondered whether the Coast region could be a toss-up in 2022 and whether Odinga should relook at his perceived strongholds and strategies on how he can reclaim areas Ruto is making inroads. 

    "Msambweni was all about ODM defending its seat. Does it mean that there is a misinterpretation of what Kenyans want? Are strategies working on the ground?" he asked.  

    He opined that the by-election would have a huge implication as it drew politicians from different regions to campaign for their candidates. It would also have a bearing in terms of coalitions that would be made ahead of 2022 as national leaders would want to align themselves with regional leaders who have a mass following. 

    The national political battle expands to the Coast as Joho and Mvurya angle to stump their authority as the regional kingpins. 

    Both analysts wondered whether Odinga was losing his grip at the Coast as he had physically availed himself to campaign for Boga and lost to Ruto allies.

    The DP himself did not personally campaign for winner Feisal. Bigambo, however, warned that Ruto should not let the success get into his head, but use it to plan how to grab more Odinga strongholds and expand his influence. 

    Msambweni MP Feisal Badder casts his vote in Kwale on Tuesday, December 15, 2020