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How Marsabit was represented since 1963

By Eng. Mohamed Tache Dida

Marsabit County Map
In the first parliamentary elections, held in 1963 (shortly before independence), Marsabit district was divided into 2 constituencies: Marsabit-Moyale Constituency and Rendille Constituency. Each to be represented by an MP and a Senator to represent the District.

Rendille boycotted the elections and Elisha Daniel Godana—a tax clerk in the British commissioner’s office in Marsabit Town—took advantage of the Rendille boycott of the elections and was “elected” the member of parliament for the Rendille Constituency.

His “election” stoked tensions with the Rendille, who is the failure of the secessionist movement became apparent, chose to join Kenyan political life. Mzee Elisha lost the seat in 1966 during a by-election.

Elisha regained a seat in parliament in 1974, this time in Marsabit North Constituency, which was split between the Borana, Burji and Gabbra.

Constitution amended

In 1966 the Kenyan constitution was amended and the senate was abolished. The Senators who were representing Districts were converted into MPs.

Consequently, the Senator for Marsabit District, Senator Sora Ali Galgallo became the MP for the newly created Moyale Constituency (from 1966 -1969).

The MP for Marsabit-Moyale Constituency, Galgallo remained as the MP for Marsabit North.  Galgallo Godana was Gabbra, Garr clan.

With the exception of Elisha’s 1974-1979 tenure, a Gabbra represented Marsabit North in parliament in every year the constituency existed (1963-1988).

Interestingly, the first Borana candidate, Hon. Jarso Jillo Falana vied in 1974. (Please note that I use the word Hon. in line with established conventions, but Hon. J. J. Falana is my in-law & under normal circumstance, I call him as my wife does – Baba).

There was no Borana candidate in 1963 and in 1969.

The Gabbra dominance of the constituency contributed to growing hostility between the Boran and Gabbra.

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Mzee Elisha’s victory in 1974 was, however, the result not of inter-ethnic tensions, but of an intra-Gabbra split: the incumbent MP Alex Isako Umuro, a Gabbra from Galbo phratry, was challenged by his predecessor, the former Marsabit-Moyale Constituency MP Galgallo Godana, a Gar Gabbra, and another candidate, Haro Tulu Godana, an Algana Gabbra.

The 1974 Elections Results were as follows:

Elisha Godana  ——— 1,799

Isacko Umuro ———–1,721

Jarso Jillo Falaba —— 1,601

Galgallo Godana ——-710

Haro Tullu Godana —-153

Ahmed Bacji ———–.42

In 1966, the then Rendille leader Mohamed Kholkholle Hadichareh, at the time imprisoned for his participation in the shifta war ( as the deputy leader of the NPPPP), urged Rendille to vote for his surrogate Philip Kurungu (whom he later replaced as the MP in 1969).

All elections in Marsabit South Constituency (in 1988 renamed Laisamis Constituency) were won by the Rendille, until 2006 by-election when Joseph Lekuton, a Samburu was elected after the death of the former District Commissioner Titus Ngoyoni in an aviation accident.

Similarly, with the exception of the 1974 elections won by Mohamed Osman Said, a wealthy businessman from the Barawa community, the parliamentary seat for Moyale Constituency was held exclusively by Borana politicians.

Sora Ali Galgallo (1966-1969), Mzee Abajillo Osman Araru (1969-1974); Guyo Halake (1979-1983); Mohamed Galgallo (1983-1988); Philip Galma (1988-1992); Mohamed Galgallo (1992-1997); Guracha Galgallo (1997-2006); Wario Malla (2006-2007); Mohamud Ali (2007-2013); Roba Duba (2013-2017); Qalicha Gufu (current).

Marsabit North split

Inter-ethnic competition continued in Marsabit North Constituency until 1988 when it was split into North Horr and Saku constituencies.

The Gabbra had no challengers in North Horr; Saku Constituency, which comprises Marsabit Town and surrounding communities on Mount Marsabit, is more ethnically heterogeneous, but the Borana are the largest community and won all parliamentary contests in the constituency. Hon J. J. Falana won in 1988 garnering 5,941against his challenger Denge Wario Guracha who got 2,462 votes.


In North Horr constituency, a highly learned, genius of a man came into the race. The campaign of the newcomer read:

Dr. Bonaya Adi Godana (LLB, Nairobi; LLM, London; PhD, Geneva; Advocate of the High of Kenya) – Kura kwa huyu ni kura kwa maendeleo Bora. He beat the incumbent Abdikadir Yattani Boru by 3,264 against 1,609.

In Moyale and North Horr, intra-ethnic identities usually overshadow ethnicity as the most salient markers of political division. In Moyale political divide became clan divide from 1988. Elitist manipulations pitted two major Borana clans; Karayu and Worjidda against each other.

Current Marsabit County Constituencies

In North Horr, given the high degree of phratry autonomy and weak coherence of the common ethnic identity, intra-ethnic discord was often particularly pronounced among the Gabbra.

Thus, Galgallo Godana (MP from 1963-1969), a Gar, competed with his successor Isako Umuro (MP from 1969 to 1982), a Galbo, in the 1969 and 1974 elections.

After Isako Umuro was killed by the shifta in 1982, Galgallo Godana returned to elective politics but was defeated by Abdikadir Yatani, an Algana, in the elections held in the following year.

As mentioned earlier. Abdikadir lost his seat in the subsequent elections, in 1988 to Dr Bonaya Adhi Godana, a Gar but an individual larger than a clan.

Dr Godana, despite challenges from candidates from other phratries (including Abdikadir in 1992, Elema Isacko Filla & Wario Ukha in 1997), held on to the seat until (together with all other incumbent members of parliament from Marsabit) he died in an air accident in 2006.

Marsabit leaders who perished in Marsabit plane crash | Photo Courtesy

It is interesting to note that for the first time in Marsabit District, all sitting MPs were retained their seats in the 2002 general elections. Sadly they all lost their lives together in 2006.

In the by-elections that followed, the campaign narratives were dominated by a talk for humanity, for cohesion and the calls to stand with bereaved families.

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Marsabit and Moyale constituents elected the brothers of the deceased MPs.

In North Horr, a middle-aged man educated and raised by the deceased MP competed against the deceased’s widow and won the seat.

Hon Ukur Yattani Kanacho was elected as the MP for North Horr with near-zero support from the Algana phratry.

Consequently, he adopted a style of politics that inspired an irrevocable intra-ethnic discord so much so that, by 2007 elections the Algana effectively seceded from the “Ukur-led” constituency.

It only took the dissolution of Parliament, the election date to be set and the polling stations to be opened for Francis Chachu Ganya to end Hon Ukur’s tenure as MP.

But Hon Ukur later became the first governor of Marsabit county. However, as was the case for him between 2006 to 2007 as the MP,  his leadership style inspired a strong unity against him from other communities and serious discord and division among the Gabbra phratries. By 2017, Algana phratry has effectively seceded from the empire. It only waited for the opening of the polling stations for H.E. Gov Ukur Yattani to lose his seat to the current Gov. H.E Gov Mohamud Mohamed Ali.

Now, we have done a comparison year by year with the development and the changes that Marsabit has undergone from 1963 to date.

We will engage more robustly and as objectively as history should be.

Eng. Mohamed Tache Dida crossed Chalbi desert, flew over Sahara, swam in the Mediterranean Sea, lived on the long loaves of bread, spoke French through the nose, knows nothing about history but still has the audacity to write something about something.

About Whispers from the North

Whispers from the North is an online platform that appreciates the ecological, cultural and socio-economic diversities of Northern Kenya. We also acknowledge that the lives of the communities of northern Kenya has been shaped by a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors which have led to complex challenge that calls for a multifaceted approach.

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