After The Big Re-Launch, Hon. Ababu Namwamba Hits The Road Running

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Three weeks after  the relaunch of  his new political vehicle, Labour Party leader Ababu Namwamba has hit the ground  running, with some flurry of activities in his native Western and other regions  viewed as ‘political battlegrounds’ come 2017.

Within the three weeks, Namwamba has opened seven party offices, secured over 100 aspirants seeking various elective positions on his party ticket in 2017, and lured several former ODM officials in various counties to cross over to his fresh Labour Party.

Among those who have left the Orange Party to join Namwamba in Labour include Sylvia Leah Mingala who quit her position as ODM Women League Secretary General and former ODM Kwale county chair Furaha Juma Sheba who is now  Labour’s Secretary for  Social Welfare.

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Others are Caustancia Chiry Tanui from Uasin-Gishu county, who is now Labour’s Deputy National Treasurer, Kericho County ODM chairman Samuel Kiplangat Kurgat who is now Labour’s  National Vice-Chairman, and Labour’s new Organising Secretary, Peter Ole Musei from Kajiado county who is eyeing the Kajiado North Parliamentary seat. In his native Busia county, large numbers of ODM grassroots leaders accompanied him from ODM to Labour, seriously denting fortunes of the Raila Party in the county once rated the most Orange in Kenya.

“All these officials accompanied me on my tour of Western Kenya where we opened offices in Busia, Kanduyi, Mayanja, Webuye, Budalangi, Kisii and Teso South in a three-day blitz that kicked off in Busia and ended in Kisii last weekend,” noted Namwamba.

Speaking in Nairobi Wednesday when he received Mr. Samuel Karanja and Mr. Kaleku Dickson Mukare, aspirants in Nairobi and Narok West, respectively, Namwamba also noted his party was already enjoying massive goodwill, and that over 200 aspirants across the country had already committed to seek its ticket to contest various seats in the coming general election, and the number was growing fast. Mr. Karanja was joining Labour from Jubilee while Kaleku has come in from ODM. “We are very happy our Kenyan family is growing rapidly across the length and breadth of our country”, he added.

This weekend, the Namwamba brigade will be camping in the coastal region with meetings, identification of potential aspirants and opening of offices in Kilifi, Kwale and Mombasa while next weekend, they will shift focus to Rift Valley with high profile activities in Uasin-Gishu, Elgeiyo-Marakwet and Kajiado counties.

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While on his maiden western tour as Labour Party Leader, Ababu pledged to lead efforts to help identify and support a joint Luhya presidential candidate, but warned that if current aspirants do not agree on a winning formula for 2017, he would definitely be in the presidential race in 2022.

His message in Western was that the region has been relegated to the periphery of national power and that the  remedy for this was to rally behind one of its own in the presidential race. “We must ensure Western region’s political muscle on the national scene matches our numerical strength and demographic profile”, Namwamba repeatedly told the large enthusiastic crowds that turned up to receive him at the more than 20 stops he addressed.

“I will lead the efforts to mobilize support for whoever is agreed upon to be the presidential flag-bearer from Western in 2017. But if they fail to agree, I will personally be on the Presidential ballot paper come 2022,” vowed Namwamba. It is a message that seemed to resonate very well with his audiences going by the ecstatic cheers it received.

In the coast region this weekend, he will be seeking to convince residents the region and Western share similar challenges, and that they have both suffered exclusion under successive regimes since 1963.

“The late Ronalda Ngala and the late Masinde Muliro planted the seed of a very fruitful Coast-Western collabo with a great partnership in Kadu. Todate, the two regions have not benefitted much from successive regimes and thus the need for the two to collaborate politically moving forward,” noted Namwamba. That collabo seems to be finding new life in the Labour Party leadership of Namwamba and his deputy, Esther Ndolola Kondo, a Mijikenda from Rabai in Kilifi County.

Beside selling these agendas to various regions, political analysists opine three things seem very clear and at the core of Labour Party and Team Namwamba’s strategy. One, perhaps aware that in Kenya about 80% of incumbent elected leaders always loose elections, Namwamba is picking new fresh mostly youthful faces not already household names on the political scene.

In his Deputy, Esther Ndolola Kondo of Kilifi, Secretary General David Makali of Bungoma and Organising Secretary Peter Ole Musei of Kajiado, Namwamba has not only gone for youthful verve and exuberance, but also a clever regional balancing game in areas that are already shaping up as battlegrounds for 2017.

Its no coincidence therefore when Makali told a public rally in Bungoma town that local residentsa should give Labour a chance, since it was a party  for the youth, and the future of national politics.

All these three key officials will be seeking elective posts. Esther is gunning for the Rabai Parliamentary seat in Kilifi, Makali is in the race for Bungoma Senator while Ole Musei will be seeking to wrestle the Kajiado North Parliamentary seat from Jubilee. Had the February 2014 Kasarani elections proceeded to script, Ole Musei was poised to be elected ODM Deputy Secretary General, having been a key player in the then Namwamba-led TeamFresh whose devastating campaign blitz captured the public imagination and stunned ODM Party owners.

Secondly, Namwamba  appears keen to build on the existing pedigree, history. structures and international connections of Labour Party. This explains why Prof. Julia Ojiambo has retained the position of Party Chairperson alongside several other old officials. This institutional memory and solid foundation that is already 18 years old means Namwamba does not have to start building from zero.

Finally, he seems to be raiding the ODM fold in the construction of his new political home going by those who have joined him in Labour. He certainly is using his networks very well, having been a key party insider since its founding ten years ago .

“The three strategies are clearly visible, but he is also playing the ethnic card by rallying Western to support one of their own. Of course he knowns Kenyan politics is ethnic and that he can cultivate some leverage by championing something that may be dear and resonate well with Western crowds,” points out Titus Bittok, a Moi university law lecturer.

Bittok points out that if Western fields a single Presidential candidate partly through Namwamba’s efforts, it may give him political mileage to withstand ODM’s dsetermination to neutralize him politically, especially in his Busia backyard.

Namwamba had played key campaign roles like his revolutionary 2012 ODM Reloaded, 2014 ODM Fresh and 2015 TokelezeaID campaigns, all of which he personally created and led. He has been a key party luminary, rising to hold the coveted seat of Secretary General. He thus knows the ODM terrain intimately and understands exactly where, when and how to strike.

While Namwamba’s moves given his  former key position in ODM are worth watching, the questions are, Will he and Labour Party alter the country’s political landscape, especially in Western Kenya?

How does a resurgent Namwamba affect the fortunes of ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetangula? Can Namwamba’s moves spell the death knell for Raila Odinga and ODM in Western? Who between Raila and Uhuru would most benefit from the Namwamba factor come 2017?

Its on record Namwamba has already told Cord co-Principal Raila Ondinga that Labour can only be with Cord if Wetangula or Mudavadi are nominated as the Cord Presidential candidate.

Namwamba has also in the past dismissed claims linking him to Jubilee and Tuesday snubbed an invitation to attend an Accountability summit at State-House.

Without a doubt, the force, precision and tact with which Namwamba has unleashed his new political move has the traditional big boys watching with kin interest and only time will tell how it will all umfold. As he has repeatedly proven, this is one young political animal anyone in the Kenyan jungle can only ignore at their own peril.

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