Talk of Gusii party drives wedge between Jubilee, CORD factions

Kisii Senator Chris Obure addresses a gathering at Otamba Girls playground in Nyaribari Chache on 8.7.2016. Obure led other political leaders in announcing the initiative to hold the community’s unity talks and to form a political party ahead of 2017 polls. (Photo Eric Abuga/Standard)
High voltage pronouncements by a group of Gusii leaders have raised political temperatures and lifted the lid on a community struggling to find its place in the national politics arithmetic.

It all started when a group of elected leaders and prominent professionals criss-crossed the region calling for political unity ahead of the 2017 elections.

Over the past six months, Senator Chris Obure, Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi and MPs Richard Tong’i, Richard Onyonka, Jimmy Angwenyi, Elijah Moindi, Joel Onyancha, Zebedeo Opore, Stephen Manoti and former chairman of the defunct Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution Charles Nyachae, have held meetings in Nairobi to strategise on the community’s road map to 2017.

Key among the issues discussed by the group is formation of a regional party, an issue that formed the main debate last Friday.

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“Let’s sit and agree on the formation of a political party. We know we are ready for this and nothing should stop us from achieving our goals. We are tired of supporting others to advance their interests,” Onyonka said during the group’s first public rally, kicking off the debate.

But some leaders read sinister motive.

North Mugirango MP Charles Geni and his Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire feel those behind the unity talks are driven by selfish interests.

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“At the moment, there is no structured system to continue with the unity talks. These are the people who want to use the unity talks to bargain for their political gain,” says Geni.

“The formation of a single political party is good but the process must be structured. At the moment, we know of the two coalitions and many political parties that are affiliated to these coalitions, Ford People should declare where it belongs.”

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According to Geni, a few people cannot dictate to the entire community.

“When you start something, ensure you involve the community. It is clear their plan is to have the community join Jubilee. Let us respect the community and the democratic space in our country,” he says.

Bosire lashed out at the leaders, saying they are dividing the community. He claimed Jubilee had infiltrated Kisii and Nyamira and was using money to cause a rebellion against opposition leaders.

But in an interview with The Standard on Sunday in his office, Maangi, who is the group’s interim secretary, said their main agenda is to unite the community.

“These talks began after several leaders from Gusii visited the Deputy President William Ruto’s rural home early this year. We have based our talks on three issues; construction of roads, improving of Suka airstrip and elevating the Gusii Institute to National Polytechnic status,” says Maangi.

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Senator Obure also denied claims he had abandoned his longtime political ally, CORD leader Raila Odinga and the ODM party. He also denied reports he was among the rebel ODM leaders as he was still a loyal party member. “I have not decamped from ODM. I am only leading a group of elected leaders from Kisii in a move to unite the community ahead of the 2017 elections,” said Obure, the ODM Kisii branch chairman.

The senator said his dissatisfaction with the management of the Kisii County Government has nothing to do with ODM party politics.

“When the time comes, the challenge will be on ODM to find a replacement. I am firmly in the party and I support every activity being undertaken by the party,” he said.

 Maangi said none of the leaders in the group has decamped from their political parties.

“We must speak in one voice regardless of our political affiliations. The discussions will be robust and we will not allow fragmentation of the community,” he says.

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Onyonka says the leaders are only responding to demands by the community for unity ahead of the next general election.

“We have no plans to either join Ford People or Kenya Social Congress. We must come up with strategies and a professional team that will put up a manifesto that captures the interests of the community. This is what every community in Kenya has done,” says Onyonka.

The MP said the community must put the two major political coalitions into task and engage them positively.

Political observers in the region say the leaders are considering strengthening Ford-People, which has been dormant since its founder, former powerful Cabinet Minister Simeon Nyachae, retired from active politics.

Current party Chairman Albert Nyaundi wants all Kisii leaders to join the party.

“We will traverse every village in the region to aggressively sell our ideologies to residents in order to make Ford People a party of choice ahead of the elections. We are ready to hit the ground and popularise the party,” said Nyaundi.

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