Oparanya, Eugene take battle home

Busia Governor Sospeter Ojamong, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, Bukusu Council of elders Patrick Wangamati and Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa addressing the press at Bungoma Diocese ACK church on June 4, 2020. Bukusu council of elders endorsed Oparanya and Wamalwa to be Luhya spokespersons. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Two leaders tasked with being the mouthpiece of the Western region took their new titles and battle to the ground yesterday.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa sought the blessings of Luhya elders, essentially giving an exit notice to the current regional kingpins.

This comes even as Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya's Moses Wetang'ula are still battling the ongoing coups with Wetang'ula ousted from his own party and Mudavadi replaced as the Luhya spokesman.

Oparanya's and Wamalwa's tour came barely a week after they were handed the onerous responsibility in a meeting held at Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli’s Kajiado home.

In yesterday's meetings with the Bukusu and Saboti councils of elders at St Crispin’s Anglican Church in Bungoma and in Kitale town, the shadows of Opposition leader Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta loomed large.

Former Cabinet Ministers Muskari Kombo, Noah Wekesa and Fred Gumo as well as Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong and Trans Nzoia Senator Michael Mbito accompanied the duo on the tour.

But the leaders were seemingly apprehensive of the tension brought about by upheavals in Ford Kenya and had to spend a couple of hours at Webuye Airstrip in Matulo as they strategised on how to hold their meeting without confrontations with groups allied to Wetang’ula.

They were forced to change the venue of the meeting from Satellite View Hotel along Webuye-Kitale road to the Anglican Church Bungoma Diocese.

Ford-K, ANC and ODM politics came into play, with leaders present down-playing the impact of the party leaders in their new push.

Mr Gumo said they had resolved to have Oparanya and Wamalwa take the region’s leadership mantle after Mudavadi and Wetang’ula refused to play ball.

“We want Oparanya and Wamalwa to be at the negotiating table and work with President Uhuru Kenyatta. However, we respect other leaders but if they digress, we shall just replace them like we have done and continue with our journey,” he said.

The former Westlands legislator said Mudavadi and Wetang’ula appeared to be guessing which direction to take. 

Mzee Richard Walukano, the chairman of Bukusu Council of Elders, said they had resolved to endorse the Kajiado Declaration that recognises Oparanya and Wamalwa as spokespersons for western because they were in a good position to negotiate for the region.

“Wamalwa is the only Cabinet Secretary in Western while Oparanya is the chairman of Council of Governors. We may have other leaders but let these two represent us,” Walukano said.

He urged all western Kenya sub-tribes to co-exist peacefully and called for an amicable solution to clashes between Nandi and Luhya communities along the Kakamega-Nandi border which claimed two lives and left many injured.

Patrick Wangamati, the Luhya Elders Forum chairman said Oparanya and Wamalwa have the onerous task of leading the region into the government.

“We have been in the opposition for many years and missed out on many things. We would like them to push for economic recovery of western,” Mr Wangamati said.

Wamalwa and Oparanya said they would be meeting elders from all communities in the region to seek their blessings. 

“We have a mission to put together the people of western, and our mission is to ask our people to support the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in their efforts to unite the country,” Oparanya said. 

Wamalwa played down claims that their tour was politically instigated.