Raila’s renewed interest in South Rift votes and leadership

ODM leader Raila Odinga addresses a gathering during the Annual Journalism Excellence Awards in Nairobi on August 09, 2019. [Denish Ochieng/Standard]

A recent meeting between Opposition leader Raila Odinga and a group of leaders from the South Rift has triggered speculations that the ODM leader is renewing his political interest in the vote-rich region.

The closed-door meeting last Monday was attended by, among others, former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, former Kuresoi South MP Zakayo Cheruiyot, former Bureti MP Franklin Bett and former Konoin MP Paul Sang.

Cheruiyot, a former powerful Internal Security PS who served under President Daniel Moi’s administration, says the talks with Raila centred on issues ranging from politics, development and the thorny Mau Forest evictions. “Our meeting with the former PM was centred on issues affecting our community, especially the Kipsigis living in the South Rift. Raila has always been ready to listen to us and help resolve some of them,” he told the Sunday Standard.

Cheruiyot said issues such as historical land injustices and the Mau Forest saga are matters that require the attention of national leaders and Raila seems to be the best bet at the moment.

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“I saw the need to reach out to national leaders and Raila is one of them. We want issues affecting our people to be addressed in a manner that will enable them to live in peace and co-exist with their neighbours,” he said.

Fallen out

Cheruiyot and Isaac Ruto have in the past fallen out with Deputy President William Ruto over his leadership style.

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Analysts say Raila is keen to renew interest in the entire Rift Valley ahead of the 2022 presidential succession race.

“Anyone who has been keenly observing the unfolding political events will notice that in recent months, Raila has escalated his talks with key leaders from North and South Rift, as well as gracing various functions in the vote-rich region,” says political commentator Harman Monyora.

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Although Ruto, who is the Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) leader, insists their meeting with Raila had nothing to do with 2022 politics, the ODM leader has been hosting various leaders from the region.

Two months ago, he hosted Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny and his Moiben counterpart Silas Tiren and within two months, the opposition chief has been to Elgeyo Marakwet twice.

Raila was first in the county under the leadership of Governor Alex Tolgos, who has fallen out with the DP, to celebrate Kuttuny’s mother-in-law who was retiring from teaching. Tolgos then declared his support for Raila.

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Raila OdingaZakayo CheruiyotIsaac RutoSouth Rift