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Western leaders' supremacy war hots up

By Grace Wekesa and Ignatius Odanga | Published Wed, January 11th 2017 at 00:00, Updated January 11th 2017 at 08:02 GMT +3
Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi address a press conference at the Party headquarters in Nairobi on Tuesday 10 2016 alongside other party supporters. {PHOTO: DAVID NJAAGA/STANDARD}

The resurgence of Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi as a key political figure in Western region is raising political temperatures as the country gears up for the August elections.

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula and his Ford Kenya brigade have maintained that Mr Mudavadi (pictured) is being used by Jubilee to weaken the Opposition even as those backing the ANC leader warn they risk becoming politically irrelevant.

Mudavadi has declined to respond to the allegations by Ford Kenya leaders, arguing his new position as the Luhya spokesman prohibits him from engaging in verbal wars.

Addressing a press conference yesterday, Mudavadi said he would not be derailed by such claims because his eyes were trained on forging a united front by like-minded Opposition leaders.

"I won't waste my time trying to deal with sideshows. The most important thing is we want unity for the Opposition. The government in power is Jubilee and an opportunity is being given to Kenyans to vote for a new dispensation. That is what we want to target as the Opposition," he said.

"We are not going to the joint Opposition meeting divided. It is also important that we are not attending the meeting as Luhyas. We are going there as representatives of various parties. So tomorrow's (today) meeting is not about tribes but a meeting of political parties yearning and pushing for Opposition unity," he added.

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Ford Kenya Secretary General and Tongaren MP Simiyu Eseli and his Kiminini counterpart Chris Wamalwa have defended Wetang'ula's remarks on Mudavadi, saying the Senate minority leader was not threatened by the sudden rise of the ANC leader.

Wetang'ula and Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale earlier said Mudavadi was a Jubilee administration project.

Mudavadi was installed as the Luhya spokesman on New Year's eve and is also fighting for the realisation of a united Opposition.

Speaking to The Standard yesterday, Eseli and Wamalwa insisted that Wetang'ula was not in competition with Mudavadi and pointed out that opinion polls could not be used as a yardstick to determine such an important issue.

The Tongaren MP argued historically, Mudavadi had always taken a different route politically when the community decided to consolidate its votes.

"Mudavadi's track record does not augur well for the future. In 2002, when Western region decided to vote for Narc, Mudavadi was going a different direction and opted to support Kanu. In 2013, he took a different direction. Is such a person capable of leading the community?" posed Eseli.

However, political analyst Barrack Muluka advised Luhya leaders to back Mudavadi or risk being politically irrelevant in this year's polls.

He urged Western residents to ignore utterances made by some politicians from the region.

"At the moment, there is nobody from Western who can match the political stature of Musalia Mudavadi. Even at his weakest time, he was still the strongest politician from Western. There is nobody who can match his stature at the moment," Mr Muluka said.

Wamalwa said the Ford Kenya party leader was not worried by the new development but maintained they did not recognise Mudavadi's installation as the community spokesman.

On Mudavadi's support for the National Super Alliance, the Kiminini lawmaker said they were all pursuing one objective.

"We are moving together as a team in a bid to strengthen our support as we have only one aim, which is to remove Jubilee from power," he said.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya called on leaders from Western to back Mudavadi.

Mr Oparanya explained that not everybody could be a leader at the same time and asked the Wetang'ula to support Mudavadi.

Funyula MP Paul Otuoma took issue with leaders pulling in different directions while Central Organisation of Trade Unions Secretary General Francis Atwoli dismissed claims he was being used by Jubilee to divide the Opposition.

Additional reporting by Moses Nyamori