President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election campaign in Mandera is threatening to disintegrate after Governor Ali Roba dared the Economic Freedom Party to back any other presidential candidate apart from Mr Kenyatta in this year’s General Election.
The President Kenyatta camp in the county and the EFP, which has endorsed his re-election, are engaged in accusations and counter-accusations on alleged illegal transfer of 50,000 voters, including elected leaders and candidates.
On Monday, Mr Roba hit back at the Senator Billow Kerrow–backed EFP, denying an allegation that it had colluded with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to effect the transfers.
“We strongly condemn this dangerous narrative which has the potential to derail the electoral agency from meeting its constitutional obligations, thus putting the entire electoral process in jeopardy,” Mr Roba told journalists in Nairobi.
Mr Roba singled out Mr Kerrow, whom he accused of leading the accusations against the Jubilee Party.
“And we dare these people to support any other presidential candidate,” Mr Roba said. “The ground is hostile to any candidate other than President Kenyatta.
“Their political threats are a hoax because their own survival hangs by a thread.”
At the heart of the renewed rivalry, however, is the so-called negotiated democracy, a phenomenon Mr Roba called an “idea of the Stone Age”.
The powerful Garre council of elders had in August last year, as they did in 2013, endorsed a group of leaders in a negotiated deal that Mr Roba rejected.
The council ordered Mr Roba and the entire leadership of the county, including Senator Kerrow who, unlike the governor, accepted the negotiated democracy, not to contest in the 2017 elections.
The deal, which handed Mr Hassan Noor the ticket, saw a division in the Jubilee camp in the county with Mr Kerrow and Mr Noor forming EFP after they were denied the council-backed team’s direct tickets.
Mr Roba has since energised his base, vowing to vigorously campaign for President Kenyatta, while accusing his EFP counterparts of arm-twisting the President.
“We have not officially moved but were considering trashing the agreement with President Kenyatta’s party and joining the National Super Alliance,” Mr Noor’s running mate Abass Hajir said on Saturday, further escalating the feud on the place of negotiated democracy.
Mr Noor and Mr Kerrow led other leaders backed by the elders to accuse the rebel team of being behind the mass transfers.
“EFP candidates Hassan Noor for governor, Hassan Osman for senator, woman representative, all six for National Assembly and 30 for MCA have been moved from where they registered to other polling stations across the country, making it hard for them to participate in the election,” Mr Noor said.
For instance, Mr Noor claimed, although he had registered in Rhamu in Mandera, he found that he was now a voter in Langata in Nairobi, while Mr Osman has been transferred to Kileleshwa, also in the capital city.
But on Wednesday, the IEBC refused to be drawn into discussing the allegations, saying only that it was “of great concern”.
“The commission has finalised the register and it will be available online from next week (for people to check),” IEBC Commission Secretary and Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba told the Nation.
“This Mandera issue is of great concern to us and we urge leaders from the area to ensure we have a free and fair election.”