Doubts over fresh Luhya unity quest

ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and MPs Ernest Kivai, Peter Mwathi and Nelson Koech during Kivai’s homecoming in Vihiga yesterday. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]
Luhya leaders remain undecided on who they will support in 2022 despite a fresh attempt to galvanise the vote-rich Western Kenya region.

It was expected that the leaders would have settled on a name of the community’s torch bearer at the 15th memorial service for former Vice President Kijana Wamalwa in Kitale on Thursday but that, like many other previous attempts, was never to be.

Several local politicians, including host Governor Patrick Khaemba and his Kakamega counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya, were conspicuously missing at the function that was to bring all the leaders together, at least for the first time.

ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula led a host of lawmakers and MCAs from Western to mark the memorial service. Also present were Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, former Cabinet ministers Noah Wekesa and Muskari Kombo and former Speaker Kenneth Marende.

Political undertones punctuated the event, as every speaker underscored the need for unity of purpose. There was also a rallying call to have them back one of their own in 2022.

Locals were once again left disappointed after the leaders left them with a call to action, a promise of further talks and a halfhearted vow to follow in the footsteps of Wamalwa.

“Wamalwa brought together all leaders in Western, that is the direction we must take as leaders,” said Wetang’ula.

Mr Wekesa asked the leaders to brace hard for eventualities ahead since there were already two front-runners in the 2022 election in Deputy President William Ruto and Opposition chief Raila Odinga.

But other politicians from the region were quick to pour cold water on these recent attempts, terming them selfish and out of touch with current realities.

“People talk of Luhya unity, yet if you analyse our voting patterns, we always vote together for the preferred presidential candidates fronted by our leaders. Our people are already united. The problem with leaders singing about unity is that they want to benefit individually,” Oparanya said.

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala also dismissed the new unity push. “There are those who are telling Luhyas to unite so they can get jobs. We must have the unity of helping our people evade poverty, boost our economy and infrastructure. But any unity targeting only a few leaders is useless and I will not support it,” Malala said. At the Wamalwa memorial, Mudavadi urged those present to sign a new MoU to show their commitment to the fresh unity road map. “It is not enough for the leaders to declare that they will rally behind one of them, they must have been bold to choose who to fly the Western flag and vow to stand with him,” said Martin Andati, a political commentator.

According to Andati, most of the politicians present, especially the MPs have a soft spot for Ruto. “Most of them have been trooping to Mr Ruto’s home and it would be a daunting task for them to commit to a unity agreement signed by the leaders,” he said.

Andati said there exist a lot of intrigues and dynamics that would make it hard for the unity deal to hold. He said Luhya leaders would need to get more creative and find ways of ring fencing Western to lock out political rivals. ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna and nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi also dismissed the unity talks.

[John Shilitsa, Eric Lungai and Peris Barongo]

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Luhya leadersGovernor Patrick KhaembaMusalia MudavadiEugene WamalwaLuhya Unity