The Political rise of Cleophas Malala

Cleophas Malala's meteoric rise in politics can only be likened to the story of Simon Makonde. He rose from being a little-known MCA to a powerful Senator and was a heartbeat away from becoming Kakamega's second governor. Malala came into the limelight after his controversial play by Butere Girls High School, was featured at the national drama festivals giving him an upper hand to contest for the Mahiakalo MCA seat in 2013 on an ODM ticket.

Oct 19, 2023 - 14:37
Oct 19, 2023 - 14:54
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The  Political rise of Cleophas Malala

At the age of 27, Cleophas Malala broke into the limelight, right after his controversial play was featured at the national drama festivals.

"Shackles of Doom’ tackled tribalism and inequality, and depicted Kenya’s unequal society.

The play written and directed by Malala and presented by Butere Girls' High School was so controversial that the Ministry of Education banned it, but the High court lifted the ban.In 2013, Malala joined the political field where he clinched the Mahiakalo MCA seat on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket.

He later joined the Musalia Mudavadi-led Amani National Congress party and he secured the Kakamega senate seat in 2017. During his tenure at the Senate, Malala will be remembered for thedramatic debate over the Revenue Allocation Bill in 2020Being a critic of the state formula, he was arrested together with his counterparts Bomet’s Chris Langat and Samburu’s Steve Lelegwe on August 17, 2020, after a 10-hour standoff.

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala and his running mate Beatrice Inyangala receive the clearance certificate from Kakamega county IEBC returning officer Joseph Ayatta on Tuesday

Malala was driven from Nairobi to Mumias to face charges of violating Covid-19 containment measures. They opposed the formula backed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila. The arrests triggered a storm where some senators accused state functionaries of 'unleashing terror' on their colleagues who hold divergent views. Senators immediately linked the trio's arrest to the deadlocked debate on the contentious formula. On September 14, 2020, the former Kakamega Senator broke into tears as he narrated to two Senate Committees how five police officers had allegedly been assigned to eliminate him.

In an emotional presentation to the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee and National Security, Defence and Foreign Relations Committee, Malala said the five officers were from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI). “I am a husband and a young father. The most painful thing is that I am being accused of stage-managing my arrest on August 17,” Malala said while holding back tears. In March 2021, ODM Senators ousted Malala who was then the Senate Deputy Minority Leader and replaced him with Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo.

Cleophas Malala clarifies claims that he was bought by UDA

He had been at loggerheads with the then NASA’s dominant party, ODM, where he was accused of being a stumbling block to the coalition’s agenda, alleged gross misconduct and mischief among other things.When Malala announced his bid for the Kakamega Governor race, his dream was almost cut short when ANC officially joined Kenya Kwanza early this year. President-elect William Ruto-led United Democratic Alliance ( UDA) Party already had Boni Khalwale as its candidate.However after consultation among the two parties, on March 23, 2022, Khalwale stepped down in favour of Malala in the Kakamega governor race.

In a truce brokered by Ruto and Mudavadi, Khalwale was allowed to run for the Kakamega senatorial seat on a UDA ticket. He won the seat in the August 9 polls. Malala’s governor’s bid faced challenges after his degree attained at the USIU was questioned. Three petitioners moved to court and argued that the 37-year-old senator is ineligible to vie as he never graduated with a degree from United States International University Africa (USIU) and should be disqualified from contesting for failure to meet the requirement of having a degree to vie for the governorship.

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However, a Kakamega High Court has revoked orders barring IEBC from gazetting Malala’s name in the Gubernatorial list. On Tuesday, the former Senator was forced to eat a humble pie after Fernandez Barasa was declared the winner of the Governor’s race.Barasa garnered 192,768 votes against his closest challenger Malala who got 159,275 votes.

The election which was postponed twice by IEBC recorded a low voter turnout.Malala conceded defeat and said none of his votes was stolen."Hakuna kura iliibiwa. Don't be lied to, no votes were stolen. The results are valid and I accept them,” he noted.

The former Senator is however hopeful for a bright political future.“Our road ahead will go far and it is a step toward making history… I’m optimistic that we are going to do better.  We dared to dream,” he added.

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Clinton Ondigi Sports Journalist, TV host and news presentor,