Showdown looms in Nyanza as Ruto and Azimio to tour region

PS Internal Security Dr Raymond Omollo with Uasin Gishu Woman Representative and National Assembly Deputy Speaker Gladys Shollei. July 6, 2023. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

A political showdown looms in Nyanza this weekend as President William Ruto's Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition conclude plans for two events amid heightened political tension.

President Ruto is expected in Homa and Siaya for a series of events and part of his administration's goal to win over the stubborn Nyanza electorate.

This comes at a time when ODM leader Raila Odinga has intensified his push back against Ruto's regime and is rallying his Nyanza backyard to reject Kenya Kwanza's excesses.

On Saturday, while the president will attend the homecoming of Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo in Homa Bay, Azimio has planned a major rally in Kisumu East.

The president's team has also planned visits in Bondo and Gem constituencies in Siaya in what his allies describe as a working tour of the region.

A section of ODM leaders from the region have asked residents to boycott the president's events and warned leaders against attending.

The stand is a sharp shift from the president's last visit to the region in January this year where key members in Raila's fold including governors Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay) and James Orengo (Siaya) welcomed the president.

ODM insiders claim the president's visit is more political than development-oriented as claimed by Ruto's allies in the region. They claim his last visit only delivered promises.

In Siaya, where the president is also expected to launch several projects, a section of leaders have asked residents to boycott his events.

While leading anti-government protests in Bondo town on Wednesday, Alego-Usonga MP Samuel Atandi termed Ruto's visit as personal.

"We don't recognise Ruto as the President and we are urging our people to keep off his planned visit in the county because we have no business to attend," said Atandi.

Atandi, who was accompanied by several MCAs and local leaders, said the street protests are one of the strategies to remove Ruto from office.

"We have also kicked off collection of 15 million signatures as another strategy to show the world that Mr Odinga is the legitimate president," said Atandi.

He said they will continue to reject the Finance Act, terming it punitive and want it repealed.

But Bondo MP Gideon Ochanda, who will host the President in his constituency, laughed off Atandi's sentiments, saying the Head of State had a right to visit any region.

In an interview with The Standard, the MP urged Bondo residents to welcome Ruto during his visit.

Ochanda said he is expecting Ruto to visit Mageta Island and help find a solution to harassment of fishermen and their safety.

Ruto, who will be visiting the county for the second time since assuming office, is expected to commission some projects in Gem including the construction of Gamba Technical Training Institute.

His tour will, however, run parallel to Mr Odinga's ODM events, which the party's director for Political Affairs James Wandayi said had nothing to do with the president's visit.

On Saturday, ODM will meet delegates from Kisumu East constituency and hold public engagement at Nyamasaria-Mowlem Bus Park before heading to Suna West constituency for a similar event.

It is not clear whether the President will be welcomed by area leaders, including Governor Orengo.

"We are yet to get a confirmation from the county government on whether they will attend the president's function or not," said Ochanda.

In Kisumu, ODM leaders led by Kisumu Central chairman and Market Milimani MCA Seth Kanga said they are expecting all ODM leaders in Nyanza to attend the rally planned on Saturday.

"On Saturday we expect all leaders to converge at Nyamasaria and not go to Homa Bay where the president will be. You are either with us or with our opponents and we will identify those who are not with us," he said.

In Migori County, President Ruto allies claimed Nyanza stands to benefit from his visit. Uriri MP Mark Nyamita and Rongo MP Paul Abuor said they look forward to the president pronouncing himself on major infrastructure projects.

They say the president's visit is a sign of good will that he is willing to work for the nation.

"Now that he has begun his new financial year proper, we look forward to him pronouncing and committing substantial infrastructure in Nyanza," Eng Nyamita said.

He said the president is under obligation to serve the nation with equity.

UDA officials in Homa Bay also expressed hope that President Ruto's tour on Saturday will bring goodies to county residents.

Led by UDA county chairman Collins Kadweya and Secretary John Kisiara, the officials said the president will launch construction of major roads.

The officials said the President is expected to launch construction of Mbita- Sindo- Magunga- Sori road which is going to be the first tarmacked road in Suba South Constituency.

"The President is expected to launch tarmacking of Adiedo- Karabok Junction road in Karachuonyo and Kasipul constituencies," Kadweya said.

Thursday, June 13,, Interior PS Raymond Omollo's brother Hesbon Omollo said the president will be the chief guest at his home in Karachuonyo Constituency.

"The President will be our chief guest. We are doing final touches for the meeting," Omollo said.

[Isaiah Gwengi, Anne Atieno and James Omoro]