Currently browsing '2007 Aspirants'

Constituency Profile: Juja (Part II)

Posted by on 1st November 2007

Categories: 2007 Aspirants Constituency News

By Mzalendo writer

On the other hand, Mr. Thuo is seen as a formidable force, but he will be required to work extra hard if he has any chance of dislodging Kabogo. Constituents have however expressed fears that he might drop out of the campaign like in 2002, when he had campaigned for his election as MP and refused to participate in the election at the 11th hour without explanation. Mr. Thuo however is well enriched in the church Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (Saccos) as he has continuously participated in various religious involvements. If the church decides to throw weight behind him, then he should not be written off.

As for former Juja MP, Stephen Ndichu, constituents have argued that he was not development conscious during his tenure and that he relied on populist politics like uprooting beacons from alleged grabbed land. But he is quick to point out that the CDF kitty was not there when he served as the area MP. Mr. Ndichu argues that by then, MPs could not have developed the constituency through money from their own pockets. Some constituents however accuses him of being a political betrayer arguing that during former President Moi’s era, Mr. Ndichu would shift loyalty from the opposition and join Kanu when his community was supporting
the opposition.

One other aspirant with a bit of a high profile is Mr. Dick Githaiga, he is the founder member of the Democratic Party (DP) in Thika. He is however presently a Narc Kenya activist. He is a prominent businessman with a string of businesses in Thika and currently enjoying state patronage for lucrative contracts. Githaiga has been a resident of Thika for over 30 years. Indeed, he claims that he is the only candidate who permanently resides in the constituency. Mr. Githaiga dismisses his opponents as persons who have residences in Nairobi and only travel to Juja for their political missions. Mr. Githaiga, who is a close friend of the Kibaki family, is known to have almost gone bankrupt after several of his business interest were attached and his flower farm collapsed at Yatta for allegedly campaigning for Mwai Kibaki to dislodge Moi in 1997. During his tenure at the town hall, Mr. Githaiga left a legend as one of the councilors who kept the then Mayor David Njihia’s on his toes over corruption and plot grabbing. On the social scene Mr. Githaiga has participated in various communal projects including development of churches, schools and dispensaries. Mr. Githaiga will be banking on these deeds during his campaigns. His detractors however claim that his main setback is that he cannot express himself adequately. Some constituents have also questioned the way he acquired his immense wealth.

Ms Alice Wanganga is not well known to Juja constituents although she is seen as a courageous woman who kept Mr. Kabogo on his toes during the recent Narc Kenya grassroots elections. She however draws her support from association with youth and women groups. The Narc Kenya activist has participated in various HIV/Aids projects in the Kiandutu and other slums. She has also been organizing clean-up exercises in Thika town and Waiteithie village.

Moving away from the lengthy list of aspirants to the issues – insecurity, widespread poverty, lack of clean water, electricity and unemployment will be the key issues during the campaigns. Aspirants will have to address the issue of slums which are mushrooming in the heart of Thika Town becoming a threat to investors.

Will the amount of money being poured into the constituency by the wealthier aspirants overshadow the issues? Only time will tell…

Constituency Profile: Gichugu (Part 2)

Posted by on 15th October 2007

Categories: 2007 Aspirants 2007 Elections Constituency News

By Leah W. Njuguna

ISSUES IN GICHUGU

Being the seasoned politician that she is, and enjoying the support of State House, Karua is promising a tough fight in Gichugu. Critics contend that besides her frequent visits to the area, Karua has not performed well in uplifting the lives of her constituents. Some claim that she is only involved in national matters and has failed to meet the dire needs of the constituents. Many also consider her as aloof and arrogant saying she must change. Her detractors are citing the alleged rigging of Narc – Kenya party election in Gichugu saying that the provincial administration aided the Minister in the exercise. The aspirants are accusing Karua of neglecting the constituency to an extent that it has performed increasingly poorly in national examinations, especially for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE). Former academic giants like Kianyaga High School, Mutiga Secondary School and Ngiriambu Girls have lost their former stature. In addition, many children have been forced to drop out of school and are either picking coffee or engaging in other cheap labour to supplement their parents’ meagre earnings. There has also been a major outcry over the state of dilapidated roads that slow transportation of goods to Kutus, Kianyaga, Kiamutugu and other market in interior places.
Critics argue that Karua is only available on Mondays at the constituency office and can hardly give an ear to the hundreds who throng the office seeking her attention. However, she is said to be fond of making appearances in religious functions and women groups where she is said to be donating generous amounts of money in the run up to the elections. In addition, since she once served as the Minister for Water Development, Gichugu constituents expected to have water at their doorsteps particularly for irrigation purposes. This did not happen and this made the Gichugu people bitter with their Member of Parliament. Instead, water services were taken over by a private company that is charging for connections and monthly water bills. This has not gone down well with Gichugu residents since most of them are poor hence cannot afford the monthly rates.

Constituents are also complaining that the minister has not done much to improve farming as an economic activity. Of particular concern to them is a project she initiated with the help of an international company where she is said to have some interests. The company was supposed to market French beans grown in the area to international markets. Farmers were in for a shock after the company went under without paying out the proceeds from the delivered crop. Upon raising the issue with the minister, Karua ordered that the farmers be paid using the CDF funds. The controversial 28,000 hectare South Ngariama ranch in Mwea is another bone of contention. The communal land and which was held under trust of the Kirinyaga county council has witnessed killings in bloody confrontations. Members of the ranch drawn from Kirinyaga and Mbeere districts are up in arms against what they call betrayal by the council instigated by local politicians. In the alleged plot, the scheme is up for grab by outsiders who have been allocated land. Sources from within the nine clans who are the real owners of the land allege that legislators from the district are using the land as a campaign tool by dishing it out to their allies and political supporters. Though the Minister hails from Mwea, she is alleged to have conspired with some legislators from the other districts to deny a rightful share to members.

These are some of the areas Karua’s opponents would be capitalizing on during the ongoing campaigns.

Constituency profile: Gichugu (Part 1)

Posted by on 11th October 2007

Categories: 2007 Aspirants 2007 Elections Constituency News

    By Leah W. Njuguna

GICHUGU BACKGROUND

Gichugu constituency in Central Province Kirinyaga district has over 80,000 registered voters and 58 Polling stations. Gichugu is a rich agricultural area with tea and coffee as the main cash crops and horticulture farming. Despite being an agriculturally well-endowed region with rich soils and good rainfall throughout the year, poverty levels are high. The high cost of farm inputs like fertilisers and seeds has greatly affected the economic standards of the region which is also grappling with deteriorating security.

The constituency has been represented by justice and constitution affairs minister Martha Karua for the last 15 years since the introduction of multiparty democracy in 1992. The constituency has fully supported President Mwai Kibaki in the past three elections, and is likely to continue the trend in the forthcoming general elections. Karua, who is also the deputy leader of government business in the house, is probably the most vocal and courageous fighting general for President Kibaki’s administration. She is expected to be one of the key pillars in marketing the newly launched Kibaki’s re-election vehicle, PNU.

The no-nonsense minister is among the few women who can articulate courageously their political stance without fear of intimidation by her male counterparts. In her native Gichugu constituency, her opponents see her as an arrogant woman who never takes a chance to listen to them.

In contrast, majority of Gichugu residents have commended the MP for her development projects through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) ranging from health, water and education. Since the introduction of CDF in 2003, there are over 130 complete and ongoing projects. There are 3 complete health centers in Riakithiga, Gaciongo and Joshua Mbai; four complete water projects in Kianyaga, Nyaru, Mukia and Ngumara; and seven bridges in Kathata, Konyu, Muratiri, Kanjangiri, Njambo, Gatuki and Karoki.
There has also been construction of Day secondary schools in most primary schools with 10 schools complete. This is under a new policy where the government is encouraging construction of secondary schools in unutilized land owned by primary schools. The complete secondary schools under this arrangement include Rukenya, Gatunguru, Kianguenyi, Kiandai, Gacatha, Kiaumbui, Kathunguri, Karumandi, Kavote and Thumaita. She has also assisted several primary schools in electrification and building of new classes for example at Kiathi, Rwambiti, Gikumbo and Kathunguri. Under her patronage, CDF has also aided in the construction of a laboratory at Ngiriambu primary and a youth polytechnic at Kianyaga.

Karua has also funded planting of trees in all sub locations in the constituency at a total cost of Ksh 400,000. She has also set aside Ksh 2.2 million from the CDF kitty to assist poor former students to obtain their secondary school certificates. Other major CDF projects are revival of the old Kutus Market at a cost of over Ksh 2 million, funding of Gichugu Horticulture exporters association at a cost of Ksh 3 million and funding of Gichugu diary at a cost of Ksh 1 million. Karua is also responsible for the construction of Kianyaga sub district hospital through the African Development Bank and the tarmarcking of the Rukenya-Kimunye road.

Aspirant Profile – Jonathan Mueke (Westlands constituency): The end

Posted by on 4th October 2007

Categories: 2007 Aspirants

So much about the other contenders, but who is Jonathan Mueke? Mueke was born and raised in the traditionally upper-middle-class Nairobi neighbourhood of Kilimani and went to the nearby Kilimani Primary School. He later joined Nairobi School for his secondary education and soon after left the country to join Wayne State University in Michigan, USA where he, supporting himself through working as a Systems Administrator for the University’s libraries, studied for his B.Sc. in Computer Science. While still in Michigan, USA, he enrolled for and completed an MBA course at Oakland University and managed to, over the years, work as a Systems Developer in Enterprise Messaging for K-Mart Corporation, a Project Leader in Plant Technology and Support for Daimler-Chrysler Corporation and as a Technology Services Manager for FiServ Inc.

But hasn’t he been away for far too long? Isn’t he out of touch with Kenya and its politics? “I returned to Kenya in September 2006,” he says. “But it doesn’t mean that I was away, entirely, for all those years. I always came home at least once every year and a lot more often in the last couple of years- since 2003/4- when I became convinced that I could come and be a parliamentary contender, win and make a difference for this constituency.”

At his age though and the fact that he didn’t grow up in the low income neighbourhoods where most of Westlands’ voters live considered, doesn’t he feel distanced from his constituents? “Eighteen years is a strong foundation,” he remarks. “I was born here. I grew up in Westlands for the first eighteen years of my life. It is true that there are places that I haven’t been to for fifteen or so years, but every time I go there now, it is as though I have always been there. I still have an instinct for these places. And as far as the slums go, I will admit that they aren’t the kind of environment I grew up in but, as always with the human condition, one can empathise… one can listen and learn. A good leader can recognise the challenges of his people and see how to work with them towards useful solutions.”

And where does Mueke stand in terms of Kenya’s party politics? “I am a member of the Labour Party of Kenya (LPK) which I believe to be the party for professionals and workers,” Mueke says. “When I came home and looked around for a party, I found that LPK was an ideological fit for me. I joined them and I am now their National Youth Co-ordinator. And since LPK is a founder member of ODM-Kenya, I am also involved in that too and, in fact, I sit in ODM-Kenya’s National Harmonisation Committee.”

As his party’s National Youth Co-ordinator what are his thoughts on the recently established Youth Fund and the much talked about intergenerational change in the 2007 election. “The youth fund is a noble cause lost in implementation,” is Mueke’s verdict. “It was set up with no consideration for what young people in this country want or need. It is also very clear that it is being used to serve political ends. In Westlands for instance, I can tell you that while those youth groups that enjoy the patronage of Betty Tett- who is in government- have benefited from the funds, groups that are seen to support me have not.

On the intergenerational change that you talk about, I will say that being young is not enough. Look at sitting Members, the likes of Khalif (Wajir West) and Kariuki (Nakuru) what have they done to further a youth agenda? What we must continuously ask ourselves is what values a certain individual can bring to his/ her people, what policy issues do they mean to pursue, do they have a vision for this country? … age, on its own, doesn’t count. Age should not be anyone’s sole platform, let us hear what the issues are.”

Our interview has been running for an hour or so and I want a break. I get up and walk around his office on the fourth floor of a Muthithi Road multi-storey building. Everything in this place, from his internet connection to the desk he uses is donated, er, sorry, an investment by a variety of local firms who support his campaign. I step up to the window and suck in the view of, arguably, Kenya’s most affluent business district. I know to my left is the opulence of Kitisuru, Muthaiga and the man-made-air-conditioning-dam estates of Nyari and Lake View. Straight ahead, beyond the Sarit Centre, is Kyuna and Loresho in all their glory of imposing brick and electric-wire fencing and ornate gates that slide open at the push of a button to reveal car parks with German-motor-show aspirations. To my left is Lavington, not as green as it used to be but still packing a monied punch. Beyond all these lies Kangemi- where the largest vote dwells and Mwimuto, in Kabete constituency and Kawangware in Dagoretti, where the ‘imported’ voters are.

As I stare through that window my mind cannot help but ponder over the ridiculousness of our political process. What will be Jonathan’s place in it all when our political outcomes have never had neither rhyme nor reason and yet he talks of manifestos and ideologies? In my mind the question is not whether or not Jonathan is the right fit for Westlands, whether or not his vision and promise is of the kind that this nation needs- the question I ask is: is Jonathan from the right tribe to win Westlands, is he in the right political party? Isn’t it sad, yet true, that no matter how much has been said lately about the political awareness of Kenyans, the winners in 2007 will only get there through a delicate balancing of the tribal equation and an ability to ride the crest of euphoria?

Within the intervening period between our interview and now, the presidential race has, as Jonathan had anticipated, evolved into a three horse race. Kalonzo Musyoka, Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki have emerged as leading contenders screaming myriad acronyms bereft of any real promise ideological, political or else. As their mantras of PNU, ODM-K, ODM, ETC, enchant the masses, it becomes clear that yet again parliament will be filled with hundreds of opportunists whose only qualification was backing the right horse. The ultimate question on my mind then becomes: Will Jonathan’s horse count in Westlands?

Aspirant Profile – Jonathan Mueke (Westlands constituency): Part II

Posted by on 2nd October 2007

Categories: 2007 Aspirants

Do you think that the current member of parliament for Westlands is unpopular? Is the question from me and Jonathan’s response is: Of course! “Gumo wins solely through violence.” Jonathan argues. “He (Gumo, the sitting MP for Westlands) has no ideas, fresh or otherwise to offer this constituency and neither does he have a vision, stated or else, nor a development record. If you counter Gumo’s violent tactics, he has no legs to stand on”

So is Jonathan intimidated by Gumo’s purported history of violence and political impropriety? “Absolutely not,” is the young man’s speedy response. “I am prepared for Gumo’s political shenanigans, I have in place a strong grassroots security team.”

Is this team tried and tested? At this point Jonathan gets animated and responds with a wry smile- almost a politician’s leer- as though he is attempting to invite me into his confidence. “You know on June 6th, at the time of my launch at the Office Park, there were attempts to disrupt the event. But I didn’t even know about it until the next day. A normal day on the campaign trail is what I had had, in fact better because I had appeared on the breakfast show on (Nairobi’s) Kiss FM that morning. Anyway, know what…? My security detail is fully functional and effective, the attempts (by Gumo’s goons it is implied) to block my launch were dealt with swiftly and efficiently. My security team prevented access by these hired thugs into our well attended meeting… they dealt with the disruptive elements!”

So security is an issue? “Indeed!” Jonathan is exasperated. “This campaign’s biggest budget item is security. Look at Betty (Betty Tett, nominated MP and perennial loser in Westlands), her she is always crying, ‘Gumo beat me, Gumo let his thugs loose on me…’ but what is she doing exposing herself? What is she doing without a sufficient security detail at the polling station? It is not the way I think it should be done but right now it is imperative that I keep a strong security detail. I insist though that it is a defensive one. What I find appalling though, is all this having to pay for security. Spending money on security is double taxation. The government, even though in this parts it has done a good job of acting like it doesn’t, has the responsibility of ensuring my safety, your safety, the safety of every Kenyan. I would hope for, (…as part of my campaign platform, I am working for…) a government that is responsible for the security of its citizenry. The truth is that when government shirks its duty, absconds on its mandate to secure not only its territories from external aggressors but also internal ones, the population rises to defend itself. What do you suppose this mungiki thing is anyway? It is a response to a need to secure; to police the urban space. Mungiki thrives on ‘protection,’ and everywhere you look in Nairobi you see people coming together to secure their neighbourhoods, to keep their taps running, to keep the garbage off their front yards- basically all those things that you pay taxes for- they are doing these things for themselves because the system has failed. Everywhere!. Look at all these posh neighbourhoods in Westlands and their Residents’ Associations… Residents’ Associations are the mungiki of the elite.”

So if the incumbent is not a threat, or seeing that Jonathan has a strategy for him in place, who does he think is the person to beat in the crowded field that is Westlands? The poll, that placed him second in the race was by a team- Independent Analysts- from the university of Nairobi which is, incidentally, in Westlands. The study put Betty Tett at the lead with support from 32% of the respondents, Jonathan had 26%, Fred Gumo 16% and that maverick businessman of Goldenberg infamy, Kamlesh Pattni was fourth with 10%.

Betty Tett? “She has never won an election, why should she win now?” Jonathan spurts out. That coming from an aspiring politician who believes that second place- almost won- doesn’t count, makes sense yet word on the street is that Betty Tett won the NARC party nominations in 2002; that she was the people’s choice but was rigged out. That though is word on the street and Jonathan and I momentarily digress into the politics of that vanguard of democracy that is America and the lessons that emerging democracies like Kenya learnt from Al Gore versus Bush. Gore versus Bush, what a beautiful analogy we could serve out to all those advocates for the will of the people: the will of NARC headquarters (or any other faceless politicos be they Directors of Elections or Electoral Colleges) prevail. But Gore Versus Bush is America’s politics and not Kenya’s and that, just like Jonathan being a founding member of Kenyans for Obama in 2004, is not a thing we can dwell on.

Jonathan, though believes that Betty Tett has proved to the people of Westlands that all she ever wanted was a parliamentary seat. He feels that she hasn’t used the nominated seat that NARC gave her, subsequent to the contentious Gumo win in party primaries, to advance the way of life of her constituents. “She has served in two key ministries: Housing and Local Government, yet Kangemi- where most of Westlands’ voters live- goes on as though slum upgrading never happened. There have been kiosks demolitions in the constituency, which is within reason, but what happened to the owners of those kiosks- what fall back alternatives were they offered?”

Beyond the incumbent and Betty, Jonathan feels that the rest of the crowd are spoilers. “In Kenyan politics there will always be that candidate, or group of candidates who have been paid to split a particular vote or are in the race hoping to be paid to step down in support of another candidate. There are too many decoys being served out at all times in our politics… Do you even know that there are people out there who keep inviting you to stage-managed harambees designed by your opponents to erode your campaign’s kitty? ”

The posers, the petulant and the petty players of Kenyan politics not withstanding, talking to Jonathan Mueke reveals that he is not taking Pattni’s declared candidature for granted. “No matter what you may think of him, Pattni draws crowds and a good politician can work a crowd to his advantage, the hard part is always in getting the attention of the masses. Besides, Pattni remains enormously wealthy and he has the ability to use his vast financial resources to manipulate the vote. What is interesting, though, about Pattni, is that he hasn’t been seen anywhere on the ground since he announced his candidature. I see him as an individual whose sole intent is to protect his wealth. What exactly does he have to offer the people of Westlands; which of their interests does he have at heart?”

Aspirant Profile – Jonathan Mueke (Westlands constituency): Part I

Posted by on 1st October 2007

Categories: 2007 Aspirants

By CHARLES A. MATATHIA

A Nairobi based social scientist and freelance writer.

“In politics, number two is never good enough,” says Jonathan Mueke. It is more a call to arms by a parliamentary aspirant who polled in second in a recent survey rather than a statement of self reproach. It is just the thing you expect to hear from a young man who decided at the age of twelve that all he wanted to be was a politician. In standard six, isn’t that the time when we all still want to be doctors and lawyers?

And now, some fifteen or so years later, Jonathan has his eyes on the prize. But long before the launch of his campaign for the Westlands parliamentary seat, Jonathan had been putting his best political foot out. As a Kenyan resident abroad – the United States precisely- Jonathan was between 2004 and 2006 president of the Michigan, USA, chapter of the Kenya Community Abroad. That means nothing to Wanjiku in Kangemi, or wherever else your average Kenyan voter lives, but the political elite have recently (and numerous campaign forays into the diaspora attest to it) discovered the Hummer-sized influence of the Kenyan Community Abroad.

The Kenyan Community Abroad has absolutely no political clout, they cannot even vote to begin with, but they have the one thing that keeps the wheel of politics running: money. It then becomes clear how a young man, with no private resources- earned from kickbacks, bribes, the wrong hands in the right CDF kitty, legalised tax evasion and a six million shilling a year sinecure- can benefit from being a part of this global network of Kenya’s diaspora.

For instance, Jonathan’s campaign raised over 3,500USD in its first couple of months through a Paypal link on his website. What is that, only two hundred and something thousand Kenya Shillings? But wait a minute…this is not money from his friends. It is all from a bunch of random Kenyans out there who feel invested in the political situation back home. But if you are still not impressed by the 3,500 USD, consider Kenya’s limited internet penetration and its predominantly cash economy and you start to view even a mere 500 dollars in online fund-raising as a feat as remarkable as imagining an Ipod in every Kenyan’s hand by the year 2030.

On June 6th 2007, Jonathan launched his campaign at the Office Park in Westlands. The launch was bankrolled by his friends and supporters in America. He has already made two fund-raising tours, in March and July this year, of the USA. In July, particularly, he appointed a campaign team that will set him up with a 10 cities in 2 weeks tour of the USA and that will also raise funds through merchandising. At present, Mueke also has a full time supporting staff of five whose salaries are paid for from a pool into which a group of his friends have committed to contribute 10,000 Kshs a month.

10,000 Kshs a month? I marvel…this guy is a year younger than me and I know that, speaking for myself and many other Kenyans my age, I would be hard pressed to raise a crowd of one to commit 5,000 Kshs a month.

Jonathan, who frowns upon the use of an aspirant’s private funds in financing their campaign, sees the cash and kind resources he has received as investments rather than donations. He opines that the contribution towards his campaign by individuals and communities is suggestive of their willingness to invest in his vision for better governance rather than a token of empathy.

Particularly endearing though is the existence, in his campaign, of volunteers. In Kenya people do not volunteer their time and effort to election campaigns. For a significant majority of Kenyans, the electioneering period is their only opportunity to get that odd five hundred shillings here and that bag of unga there.

Why then would anyone want to give their time and labour for free when the general perception is that parliamentary aspirants are flush with money? “It is a question of goodwill versus artificial (paid for, or rather bought) support,” Jonathan explains. “The campaign is not about (the aspirant), it is about the people.” He adds, “If the people believe in your vision for them, they will support you.” His verdict: the bulk of our politicians are incompetent and unpopular, they have no vision that the voting public can buy into so they resort to buying support.

PART II to follow….

Aspirants Update

Posted by on 4th July 2007

Categories: 2007 Aspirants Mzalendo News

How to support Edwin Macharia's campaign

Posted by on 5th June 2007

Categories: 2007 Aspirants

For those who’ve been asking for details on how to support Edwin’s campaign for Kieni, here are the details:

Send a check made out to Edwin Macharia to:
Edwin Macharia
PO Box 2011
Nairobi 00100
Kenya

or

Edwin Macharia
c/o James Mwangi
Dalberg Global Development Advisors
205 E42nd Street, Suite 1830
New York, NY 10017

2. Donate via paypal (www.paypal.com) to this email address: macharia@gmail.com

To make suggestions or volunteer for the range of programs running in Kieni, please email macharia2007@gmail.com.

Kieni Through the Eyes of a Youthful Aspirant Part 2

Posted by on 25th May 2007

Categories: 2007 Aspirants

CONVENING POWER VS DEVELOPMENT RECORD

A phrase bandied around during Kenyan electioneering periods is ‘Development Record.’ Development record represents all the tangible things that a parliamentary candidate has done for the electorate. These tangible things can range from the profound: initiating water projects and convincing the utility company to deliver electricity to your village, to the absurd: distributing shukas to women at the local market.

Whatever these developments are, they cost money and in most cases, for instance building roads and initiating rural electrification projects, significant clout within the corridors of power. The ultimate question then becomes, in the obvious absence of this might for young contenders, how will the much talked about generational change be realised this year?

Macharia’s response is one that betrays his background in the development industry, “It is about the size of your Rolodex,” he argues. Macharia believes that it is more worthwhile and ethical to leverage social and professional networks towards achieving tangible benefits on the ground than using one’s own financial resources and public office to bribe voters.

“One of the greatest assets any leader can have is Convening Power,” Macharia argues, “the ability to bring individuals and organisations together to solve a particular problem that a single individual cannot.” He illustrates this point with the story of a woman, Joyce Nyakinyua, a single mother of five that he met on a campaign trip to Kieni. Joyce depends on casual labour to fend for herself and her children and yet on the day Macharia met her, she had not found work for several weeks and her five year old son was so starved and his feet infested with jiggers he could barely walk. During this visit, Macharia was accompanied by his friend a catholic priest who runs a rescue centre for needy children in nearby Naromoru. The priest being touched by the plight of this family offered to take the children under his care. Yet a great imperative to keep the family unit together was noted and so the priest offered the mother a job on the spot.

In this jigger and poverty infested village in Kieni, giving cash handouts would have been the equivalent of the proverbial ‘giving a man a fish rather than teaching him how to fish.’ But unfortunately giving cash handouts is the method that Kenyan politicians apply every year to their advantage. It works in postponing the grievances of the electorate for another five years when the politicians return to seek votes with the knowledge that the voters will still be poor and willing to sell their vote.

And though more sustainable models for empowering the people exist, they involve huge human and financial resources that are beyond the means of a single leader and that really shouldn’t, as Macharia sees it, be the sole responsibility of any individual. A good leader her says is the one that connects the needs of his/ her people with the resources of others. That is the reason why he is working closely with organisations such as the Kenya Network of Women with AIDS (KENWA) to support other families in need including facilitating the identification of HIV positive individuals and their subsequent enrolment into KENWA’s programmes.

GOVERNMENT FUNDS

The last few years have seen the government plough back a significant percentage of its revenues into units managed closer to the citizenry. This has seen the setting up of such entities as the Constituency Development Fund, the Local Authorities Transfer Fund and, more recently, the Youth Enterprise Fund.

Macharia applauds the Constituency Development Fund as a force that will steer Kenya’s from the politics of personalities to that of issues. The CDF has defined, through its proper management or the lack thereof, a distinct parameter within which a sitting member of parliament’s performance can be judged by the electorate.

In Kieni, particularly, Macharia contends that the general feeling on the ground is that the current MP has been a disappointment. In Murungaru’s tenure, the running of the CDF has been characterised by a leakage of funds and a seemingly nepotistic awarding of contracts a situation which Macharia believes that the voters will express their disaffection with at the ballot. Interestingly, though, the Chairman of the CDF committee, Mr. Mathenge Wanderi is also a contender for the Kieni seat and he considers what he sees as his prudent management of the CDF as an asset to his campaign. Clearly politicians will argue this way and that but only the voters will carry the day.

In the matter of the Youth Fund, Macharia chooses to disagree with government’s preferred mode of disbursement. The government, in Macharia’s view, shouldn’t be in the business of lending out money; they are not a financial institution and they lack the capacity to determine what is or is not a viable business idea. What the government, Macharia opines, should have done was create a guarantee fund that would serve as security against additional risk financial institutions measure youth borrowers to have. This would not only increase the amount of funding available to the youth by leveraging the institutions’ own liquid capital, but also ensure the institutions lend money to viable projects by having some skin in the game.

But even with access to start up capital, the main challenge for youthful entrepreneurs remains that of markets. One avenue through which markets could be opened to youthful entrepreneurs would be through giving them a weighed advantage in government procurement. Since the Government remains the biggest procurer of goods and services, by defining a formula through which businesses run by women and young people earn affirmative action points when responding to government tenders gives them an opportunity to raise their profile and grow their businesses while still in competition with established corporations.

Macharia is of the opinion that the youth are the country’s most entrepreneurial demographic group and there is an urgent need to harness their strength. The challenge for the youth becomes one of identifying existing gaps in the market and grabbing them. But that is best made possible by availing to them entrepreneurial skills’ training. And that especially for those youths who for varied reasons find themselves out of school at a considerably early stage and thus their chance at formal employment reduced.

THE CAMPAIGN

The battle for the Kieni seat will be long and bruising. The field is crowded and the contest will go down to the wire. But one thing is almost certain; that the candidate who gets nominated to run on the ticket of the same political party, most probably NARC-Kenya, as President Kibaki will take the spoils. And even as Macharia argues that this will be the year of the generational change in Kenya’s politics, he is throwing his lot in with the president’s. Indeed politics is about the strategies of self sustenance.

The number of candidates in Kieni who count on running on the ticket of the president’s yet to be declared party is staggering. As a matter of fact, and an indicator that Kieni will be won at the party nominations rather than at the general election, of the ten or so declared candidates only Mr. Mwangi Mbuthia is running on the ticket of another party- ODM Kenya- of which he is the Chairman in Kieni.

Macharia might want to take advantage of the huge youth and women vote but both Mrs Lucy Kairu, who is the widow of the late Munene Kairu and Mr. Nemeysyus Warugongo might want to directly appeal to the same demographic group and they have an edge over him in that they have been on the campaign trail longer, have a distinct financial advantage and have nurtured local networks for longer.

But Macharia is hopeful. He quotes a recent informal opinion poll held by a local radio station that put him second only to Mr.Warugongo. Mr. Warugongo was the runner up in the last election and has a history of involvement with local women and youth groups but Macharia argues that since Warugongo has been campaigning for at least six years, the tables can easily be turned. In the long run then, one can only hope for a free and fair election and one in which the will of the people of Kieni will prevail.

Aspirant Profile: Edwin Macharia (Kieni Constituency) Part 1

Posted by on 23rd May 2007

Categories: 2007 Aspirants

Mzalendo announces yet another new feature -in depth profiles of 2007 aspirants. Please let us know if you like the profiles. If you are an aspirant who would like to be featured, please contact us.

Kieni Through the Eyes of a Youthful Aspirant – Part 1

By CHARLES A. MATATHIA

A Nairobi based social scientist and freelance writer.

Edwin Macharia wanted to be a well-rounded doctor so he traded his University of Nairobi Medical School admission to join Amherst College in Massachusetts where he majored in Biology as a pre-cursor to medical school. As the fifth Kenyan in Amherst and with the others being Alfred Gitonga, Ngengi Muigai, Uhuru Kenyatta and Francis Michuki (John Michuki’s son), you would imagine Macharia as a child of privilege. Hardly so, he says, as his mother still lives in a house with no running water in rural Kenya.

But Macharia has done well by himself. Born in Nairobi in 1978, Macharia’s family moved a lot, a situation that he credits for giving him a complete Kenyan outlook and an appreciation of the diverse strings of ethnicity and class differences that weave together into Kenya’s social fabric.

He went to nursery school in Thika and then began his primary education at Mugumo-ini Primary School in that industrial town in central Kenya. Shortly after, his family moved to Homabay, in the South of Nyanza Province, where he attended Homa Bay Primary School for three years. It is at Homabay Primary that he had the ‘opportunity’ to learn under a tree an experience he chooses to wear as a badge of honour in marking out his authentic Kenyan experience. In Nyanza he found himself immersed in Luo culture and even learnt the language, a smattering of which he retains today.

But his journeys through Kenya weren’t over yet. Soon after, the Macharia family moved to Kericho and he was quickly transferred to Highland Primary School there. He spent a year at Highlands Primary before the family moved to Nyeri and he joined Nyeri’s Mount Kenya Academy where he sat for his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education in 1991. It is from there that he joined the prestigious Alliance High School and finally Amherst College.

Somewhere along his way towards being a doctor, he realized that it was one thing to earn the skills and qualification to save lives and another to find the right environment within which to do it. As he argues, he wanted to get his medical degree in America and return to Kenya to practice but he came to the conclusion that despite the shortage doctors in Kenya, what was ailing the health sector the most was flawed management of the existing resources. Macharia decided that the best way for him to be of greater benefit to the largest number of people was to hone his management skills. So when an opportunity to work with McKinsey and Company, a management consultancy that advises leading companies on strategy, operations, organization and technology, he grabbed it.

After two years at McKinsey, they offered him a five month sabbatical. They were paying him, he could come back after the break or he could go somewhere else. He opted to go somewhere else: The Clinton Foundation. The Clinton Foundation offered him two choices: he could either join them in the Dominican Republic, or be part of the core team formulating the National HIV Plan in Tanzania.

He figured that as a Swahili speaker and a national of neighbouring Kenya, he would be of more value in Tanzania than in the Caribbean island. Besides, his father had just died of a coronary embolism the previous year. He needed to be close to home. And so Tanzania it became and there his journey as a globe trotting development worker began as he found himself staying on as The Clinton Foundation’s Deputy Country Director for Tanzania.

A short while later, Macharia was made a global director in the foundation’s Rural Initiative programme where he was tasked with spearheading the thought process towards creating and implementing solutions for service delivery of HIV/AIDS projects in rural areas. Then he was appointed the Director of Agriculture. This came with a 100 Million dollars budget directed towards rural development in Rwanda and Malawi with an emphasis on Agricultural and income development, health, water and sanitation and education.

After holding this post for one and a half years, he continued to feel that there were still other ways through which he could better apply himself towards achieving his quest to move forward Kenya’s and, broadly, Africa’s development. One of those ways was politics. Now he has taken a sabbatical from the Clinton Foundation to vie for a parliamentary seat in his home constituency of Kieni, in the Nyeri District of Central Kenya.

GEOGRAPHY

Kieni is a huge, in fact the largest in Nyeri District, constituency. It is bounded by Mt. Kenya on one side and the Aberdare Ranges on the other. These are two of Kenya’s most important water catchments yet the constituency remains predominantly dry; it is on the leeward side of both.

Served by two major trunk roads: the one from Nyeri towards Nyahururu in Kieni West the other from Nyeri towards Nanyuki in Kieni East, the constituency has two divisions with five locations each.

Kieni East division, on the leeward side of Mt. Kenya, is mainly arid and semi arid lands as the rains are generally poor. Water thus becomes an issue and a huge challenge to agriculture which tends to be the backbone of rural economies. But at least dairy farming is a source of succour. The dairy farming though, owing to diminishing plots of land is mainly of the one or two zero-grazed-cows variety. These dairy farms are served by two facilities very close by: The Nyeri K.C.C factory and a Brookside Dairies cooling plant. There are also a number of flower farms that create significant employment for the local people.

To the leeward side of the Aberdare Ranges lies Kieni West division. This area though receiving a little more rain, and its citizenry seeming generally more economically endowed, is faced with the selfsame challenges as the east of Kieni. Its dairy farmers are also, at great convenience served by the two dairy processors though the farmers there are in the process of setting up their own cooling plant through their cooperatives. Of great importance to this division is the existence of the gazetted Aberdare National Park a tourist attraction that beyond its national significance has a trickle down effect on the economy and well being of the local community through job creation and implementation of environmental management projects.

POLITICS

Politically, Kieni, since the introduction of multiparty politics in Kenya has maintained a strong support for the political leanings of Kenya’s current president Mwai Kibaki. Kibaki is also the Member of Parliament for Othaya constituency close by and as is elsewhere in the District of Nyeri, a nomination to vie for an elective seat on the ticket of a party supportive of him has seemed the sole requirement for any candidate’s election in Kieni.

The current Member of Parliament, Dr. Chris Murungaru, is a pharmacist whose political star rose in the early years of the Kibaki administration but its zenith proved to be at the nadir point of political infamy. Having been re-elected to parliament in a 1998 by-election occasioned by the death of his mentor and staunch Kibaki ally, Munene Kairu, Murungaru remained relatively unknown nationally until he was handed a contentious nomination certificate by the NARC headquarters as its candidate in the run up to the 2002 general election, was re-elected and appointed to the Kibaki cabinet.

Murungaru’s tenure as a cabinet minister lasted less than three controversy ridden years and was crowned by a disgraceful exit after the shake up that followed the Kibaki government’s loss in the November 2005 Referendum on a new constitution. Though nowhere charged and convicted in a court of law for impropriety (a case against him by the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission was thrown out on a technicality), Public Opinion has continued to judge Murungaru harshly with accusations of abuse of office and involvement in corrupt dealings a sentiment that has been heightened by the accusations of former Ethics and Governance Permanent Secretary, John Githongo. It didn’t help matters any wee bit when the UK government cancelled Murungaru’s visa on the grounds, as they claimed, of his involvement in the Anglo Leasing scandal.

Though no longer a member of the Kibaki cabinet now, Murungaru remains fabulously wealthy, a staunch supporter of the president and, with the benefit of incumbency to his advantage, a major player in the coming elections. So how does a youthful political novice like Edwin Macharia expect to win in Kieni and with at least ten other candidates, including Munene Kairu’s widow and the runner up in the last election having declared their candidature?

SECURITY

Edwin Macharia agrees that as far as Kieni goes Murungaru is still a force to reckon with. More than just loads of money, Murungaru as Macharia argues, tends to play dirty politics and is said to have flashed his gun at a polling station in the last election.

That could be the reason why Macharia admits that one of the biggest challenges to his campaign is security- or the lack of it- for both himself and his family. Driven by high unemployment rates among young people, and unscrupulous politicians, Macharia fears insecurity will feature prominently as the campaign heats up.

But even his own experience is telling: his father’s death was as a consequence to violent crime. His father was axed below the knee when a gang of armed thugs raided his Kieni home. He survived the attack but in recovery, blood clots formed leading to his coronary embolism. Macharia also says that in March of this year, a few weeks after the February launch of his campaign a car load of armed thugs pulled up at his mother’s gate. Though they did not harm anyone, only damaging some property, he is quick to worry and make connections to his declaration to run in Kieni.