By Dikembe Disembe
Former National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Otiato Marende is a man under the spotlight even as Bungoma Senator and CORD Minority Leader Moses Wetangula returns to the Senate.
Marende, alongside a host of Luhya MPs from Musalia Mudavadi’s UDF party maintained a studious silence or chose to secretly campaign for Jubilee candidate Musikari Kombo.
Mr Marende’s silence and absence from the campaign trail of CORD’s Moses Wetangula has left tongues wagging with many asking where his loyalties lie.
During the March 4 elections, Marende, despite being a respected and senior politician from western Kenya did not join the CORD campaigns, chosing to instead play it safe and fence-sit. He would emerge as the CORD candidate fro the National Assembly speakership where he lost to Jubilee’s Justin Muturi.
During the last parliament, Marende made a series of rulings which were hailed as ‘solomonic’ but which weakened the position of ODM in the Grand Coalition government. Throughout Marende’s time as speaker; he projected a ‘neutral’ stance on issues which ODM, which sponsored him to parliament, felt strongly about. He now needs to take lessons from current speaker, a Jubilee partisan per excellence!
But it is the the absense of Marende in the Bungoma CORD campaigns which has disappointed many CORD followers. Marende was a little known Member of Parliament when Raila settled on him to be the ODM candidate for the speaker; and lobbied MPs to make him ascend to the apex of parliamentary power. At the time, other regions had felt that he did not deserve the position.
In the 2013 speakership race; Marende lost when Mudavadi lobbied UDF luhya MPs to support Jubilee candidate. MPsÂ Hon Yusuf Chanzu, Hon Dan Wanyama, Hon Savula, Hon Reginalda, Hon Wafula, Hon Bunyasi, Hon Nangabo, Hon Otsiula, Hon Shinali, Hon Agoi, Hon Malulu, Hon Wangwe, Â and Hon Washiali all voted for the Jubilee candidate. Â Yet Marende is rumoured to have secretely supported Musikari Kombo.
Both Hon Wetangula and CORD legislators from the region supported Marende candidacy, yet when the election of Senator Wetangula was nullified and after the campaigns started, he never showed up for the campaigns. In fact, it would fall on Kakamega Senator Dr Boni Khalwale to rejoin the CORD brigade and spiritedly camapign for Wetangula.
The little interest Marende has shown towards CORD also complicates issues in ODM, where he was widely expected to stand for a party position. In February, it will be interesting to see delegates support his candidature freely without the patronage of party leader Raila Odinga.
As the dust settles on Bungoma polls, the future of Luhya campaigns may see Hon Marende having to return to the drawing board. Or, may be, the former Speaker has quit politics or , like Eugene Wamalwa, Musalia Mudavadi and Musikari Kombo, he too has joined the long list of Â those waiting to be acquired by the Jubilee government.
Soon, the country may wake up to news that Hon Marende is the new Kenya’s envoy to the Bermuda Triangle!