President Uhuru Kenyatta has endorsed footballer McDonald Mariga’s candidature in the Kibra by-election in a surprise move that now complicates the contest. Yesterday’s development is a major boost to Mr Mariga, whose entry into the political ring caused major infighting within the ruling Jubilee Party amid accusations that his candidature was being pushed by Deputy President William Ruto.
But his endorsement at State House jointly by Uhuru and Dr Ruto, who are Jubilee Party leader and deputy party leader respectively, ensures the Jubilee candidate now heads into the campaign projecting the ruling party is solidly behind his candidature.
Uhuru’s move now complicates campaigns in the constituency, as Jubilee and Opposition Chief Raila Odinga’s ODM will have to face off in a major battle that will test the March 9, 2018 truce between the two leaders that saw the ruling party skip subsequent by-elections to avoid a confrontation with their newfound partners.
His decision also throws into confusion a wing of Jubilee, mainly Kieleweke allied MPs, who had vowed to campaign against Mariga, who they had labelled a candidate of the Tangatanga camp, which they accuse of working to wreck Uhuru and Raila’s handshake.
Previously, there were reports that Uhuru was not keen on having a candidate in the constituency that has traditionally backed Raila to avoid a political face-off, but a statement from State House yesterday, backed with a photo of the President handing Mariga a cap branded with the Jubilee Party colours, signals that the ruling party is determined to wrestle the seat from ODM.
Uhuru assured the football star of his backing in the November 7 mini poll occasioned by the death of ODM’s Ken Okoth, and for which ODM has fielded the late MP’s brother Bernard Imran Okoth.
“The President wished Mr Mariga, who was accompanied by Jubilee Party Secretary General Raphael Tuju, success in the contest, and assured him of his full backing,” reads the statement.
Present at State House were National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale and Jubilee Party Chief Whip Benjamin Washiali among others.
There were claims that Uhuru gave in to pressure from Ruto’s camp for the outfit to have a candidate.
The claims were buttressed by the drama that followed the nomination process, with the camp allied to Uhuru declaring their opposition to having a candidate in the constituency.
It all started on August 26 when Tuju announced that the Jubilee Party would participate in Kibra by-election, and invited applicants. Later that evening a list with Mariga’s name surfaced.
The initial list of six aspirants to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission triggered a major fallout after one wing disowned it. Mariga has previously denied claims that his decision to vie for the seat was influenced by Ruto.
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