Leaders put region ‘under lock and key’ as 2022 battle looms

ODM leader Raila Odinga addresses a gathering at Gusii stadium on Friday during the Nyanza BBI summit. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]
The decades-old voting patterns in Nyanza could change ahead of the 2022 elections after communities in the region brokered a unity pact that could see them vote as a bloc in the coming elections.

A surprise dalliance between ODM leader Raila Odinga and Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi has left tongues wagging, with speculations that the two want to put Nyanza under lock and key and keep out Deputy President William Ruto who seems determined  to get votes from the region.

At the inaugural Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) summit for Nyanza, at the Kisii Sports Club on Friday, Matiang’i and Raila led six Nyanza governors  and more than 40 MPs in charting a new unity pact for the region.

One Nyanza

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By rallying the region’s six million people under their new vision of One Nyanza, One family, Matiang’i and Raila want to make political history by making the Luo, the Abagusii and the Kuria vote in the same line.

The three communities have since the return of multi-party politics in 1992 been exhibiting diverse voting patterns. 

While the Luo have been voting for the opposition, the Agagusii have had one leg in the opposition and another in government, as have the Kuria and some minority communities such as the Luhya living in Migori.

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This has attracted various presidential candidates to the region during electoral campaigns.

In 2013 and 2017, for example, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto pitched camp in Kisii, Nyamira and Kuria as they convinced the communities to break ranks with the Luo and vote for them. As a result, they ate into Raila’s home province.

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In 1992, the Abagusii, especially those living in Nyamira, voted overwhelmingly for the late opposition leader Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, even though he went on to emerge third in the elections having been beaten by former President Daniel arap Moi and then Ford Asili leader Kenneth Matiba.

But on Friday, Raila and Matiang’i announced that the BBI has united Nyanza.

“Nyanza will now talk as a community. Kisii, where we are meeting today, was for a long time the headquarters of South Kavirondo. If Nyanza is united, the whole country will be united," Raila said.

In a rare show of unity, speakers at the BBI summit pledged to bury their past political differences to strengthen the new-found unity.

The leaders said the show of solidarity will start with the proposed BBI referendum, which the leaders at the summit insisted must be held by June.

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Matiang’i said the ghosts of the past that saw police break pro-Raila rallies with tear gas have been exorcised.

He said Nyanza will only achieve their economic and political dreams through unity.

“For the first time in my memory, we are meeting together as Nyanza to speak as a people. We will not allow anyone to break this unity,” he said.

He added: “Nyanza  is now truly one. As a son, I can now ask Raila anything I want. Whatever happens, come rain or anything, never again should we see  each other differently.”

The CS asked the Abagusii community to support the President and Raila, saying the two hold the key to Kenya’s political future.

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“Some people are wandering around here, speaking meaningless things. This elder (Raila) and Uhuru have given us the direction. Let us reject people who want to divide us,” Matiang’i said.

Other leaders from the region who addressed the meeting were governors James Ongwae, John Nyangarama, Okoth Obado, Cyprian Awiti, Anyang’ Nyong’o and Cornell Rasanga.

Senators Okongo Omogeni, Sam Ongeri, James Orengo and MPs Janet Ong’era, Gladys Wanga, Otiende Amolo, Jimmy Angwenyi, Ben Momanyi, Richard Onyonka, James  Nyikal, John Mbadi, Marwa Kitayama, Junet Mohammed, Simba Arati and Samwel Arama also addressed the summit.

Mr Kitayama supported the unity calls but asked leaders from the region to help the Kuria get a county of its own.

“We have been fighting for recognition since independence, but our voices  have not been heard.  This time, we want support to have our own county,” he said

More powers

Meanwhile, a move to have Deputy President William Ruto fired before 2022 is part of the reasons why some law makers want the BBI referendum held within 90 days.

Nakuru West MP Samuel Arama and his Borabu counterpart Ben Momanyi now want to push the proposal that gives President Uhuru Kenyatta express powers to sack his deputy. They accused Ruto of frustrating the president in his Handshake pact with Raila and the efforts to unite Kenyans. 

The legislators said among the most serious proposals they are pushing for inclusion into the BBI is to give the President powers to suspend his deputy.

But this, they said, should be taken to Parliament for enactment.

“As it is, the president cannot fire his deputy because there is no law guiding him on the matter. What we are witnessing, where the Deputy President is dancing to his own tune when his boss is playing the fiddle, should be tamed through properly constituted laws,” Arama said.

The two were part of a the consultative forum on the BBI draft that was held in Kisii town on Friday.

Mr Momanyi told the gathering that there was an urgent need for the introduction of the law that will enable the Head of State fire an errant deputy.

“One key proposal we want to take to Parliament is giving the President powers to deal with a rogue deputy,” he said.

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NyanzaSuccession politicsElections 2022