President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto have intensified the hunt for Bukusu votes, leaving nothing to chance as the election year begins.
And some Ford Kenya leaders now think the appointment of Mr Wafula Chebukati to chair the Independent, Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is the latest among the freebies the community with about 600,000 votes, has attracted just seven months to the General Election.
Kabuchai MP James Lusweti says they are aware the appointment of Chebukati and former Anglican Church Archbishop Eliud Wabukala to head the anti-graft agency are meant to woo the community to support Jubilee. He says, however, the appointments are personal and will not influence the community’s decision.
“It’s like sleeping with a woman the entire night then wake up in the morning and pretend that she was not there before. This is what Jubilee is doing, coming out last minute to pretend that they are development oriented,” said Lusweti.
Uhuru picked Chebukati to head the IEBC alongside six other commissioners to take over from Issack Hassan’s team that resigned two months ago.
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Weeks earlier, Uhuru appointed Wabukala as chairman of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to replace embattled Philip Kinisu, who was hounded out of office for allegations of conflict interest in the National Youth Service (NYS) saga.
Mr Kinisu resigned after an Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) report showed that Esaki Limited, a company associated with his family, received Sh246 million from doing business with NYS, an organisation he was investigating.
Kinisu, Chebukati and Wabukala hail from Bungoma and Trans Nzoia, together with the IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba.
Ford Kenya secretary general and Tongaren MP Eseli Simiyu said Jubilee was perpetuating skewed appointments that Uhuru and Ruto had entrenched on their communities.
“You do not have to replace Kinisu who is a Bukusu with a fellow member from the community, then appoint Chebukati to chair IEBC when you have Chiloba as the CEO. That is completely wrong, even if they come from my community,” said Mr Eseli.
“Even then, the community members are being given very contentious jobs; who wants to head the EACC and IEBC? They will only leave the holders without face. Appointing a former bishop to fight entrenched corruption in Kenya is like giving a clergy a job as a tax collector,” he told The Standard on Sunday.
Prior to the appointment of Wabukala, Uhuru and Ruto had spent two days dishing out goodies to Bungoma County residents as they intensified their campaign in the region.
During the visit two weeks ago, the height of Uhuru and Ruto tour was the reopening of Pan Paper Mills in Webuye town, which has since be renamed Rai Paper.
And it was not just the factory opening alone, former workers would receive their three-month salaries for losing their jobs when the factory went under in late 2007.
To add more spice, the factory would be expanded to include another line of production before July to create more jobs. “I am sure the reopening of the factory will help the people of Bungoma and it will have an impact on the region as well. It will reawaken other businesses in the once vibrant town as I hear residents call it,” Uhuru told the excited crowd at Webuye Sports Ground.
Uhuru also commissioned the tarmacking of the Kapsokwony-Kopsiro-Namwela and the Malinda-Cheptais-Chepkube roads in Mt Elgon and Musikoma-Buyofu-Mungatsi road connecting Bungoma and Busia counties.
The President further issued title deeds to squatters at the Chebyuk Settlement Scheme and while appealing for the community to stand with Jubilee in the General Election, he promised to continue developing the region by improving its infrastructure.
In November last year, Uhuru awarded a charter to Kibabii University College before commissioning the Chwele-Lwakhakha road.
Bungoma and parts of Trans Nzoia were political battlefields for Senator Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya and the now defunct New Ford Kenya that was in September last year merged into Jubilee Party. The party was led by Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa.
Wetang’ula, in an interview with the Standard on Sunday, said the forays by Uhuru and Ruto to Bungoma were efforts in futility and no increased number of visits would yield any support because the region was fully in the Opposition.
“The residents are waiting to be part of the next government and they will not be enticed by what is wrapped as goodies but are the work of their own taxes. They are clever and can distinguish political gimmicks from development,” said Wetang’ula.
Eseli said if Jubilee administration thought that it would use the freebies to bait the community, then it was in for a rude shock come the election day.
“The Bukusu community decided long ago that they will persevere in the opposition, no amount of baiting will change their minds,” he said.
But Governor Kenneth Lusaka said Uhuru and Ruto’s development tours were serving the county well and more residents were endeared to the government. He said the assault by Jubilee administration had made serious inroads in Bungoma.
“Residents can see what has happened and will appreciate the gesture by re-electing the current government. Road projects such as the construction of Chwele-Lwakhakha road will not escape the locals’ eyes,” said Lusaka.
Of the 11 predominantly Bukusu constituencies of Sirisia, Tongaren, Kimilili, Webuye East and West, Bumula, Kanduyi, Kapuchai in Bungoma and Kwanza, Kiminini and Saboti in Trans Nzoia, Wetang’ula’s party won six in the 2013 General Election, while the five are shared between Jubilee and Amani National Congress (ANC).
Wetang’ula said political realignments had taken place and the leaders who have taken sides with Jubilee Party would be casualties. He said he would ensure a clean sweep by Ford Kenya.
Agricultural Development Corporation Board Chairman Bwifoli Wakoli said it would be foolhardy for the Opposition to believe the region is still stuck with its “empty rhetoric”.