Ruto puts together dream team to deliver Nyanza economic change

President William Ruto during the Commissioning Ceremony of MV UHURU 2 at the Kisumu Shipyard, Kisumu County on October 09, 2023. [Michael Mute, Standard]

President William Ruto has assembled a dream team to help him deliver his ambitious economic and political reforms for Nyanza region.

This came as the Head of State concluded a four-day tour of the region.

During the tour the president commissioned the first locally assembled ship, MV Uhuru II, and held a cabinet meeting in Kisumu to discuss development projects.

The government is keen on initiating mega projects in the region to breathe life into Nyanza’s economy and cement Kenya’s dominance in trade with other countries.

They include investments in the blue economy, agriculture, trade and maritime transport.

In the early 1980s and 1990s, the region was a focal point of the country’s trade with other East African Community countries.

And if all goes according to plan, hopes are high that the revival of key industries will jumpstart Nyanza’s economic recovery process.

Keen to ensure that the vision becomes a reality, the president has assembled a team comprising senior civil servants, his loyalists in UDA, some ODM leaders, political stalwarts from Nyanza and opinion shapers. 

Also in the dream team are key strategists who played an instrumental role in organising the president’s tour of the region and have been at the forefront of building grassroots support

ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo and Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo are at the apex of the team. Both have been burning the midnight oil to help the president deliver his promises to the region.

During Ruto’s visit to the region, he spoke highly of his foot soldiers and said they had been steadfast and believed in him and his development goals for Nyanza.

Addressing residents of Homa Bay at the weekend, Ruto described Omollo as a strategist who helped him market UDA in the region.

“My friend Raymond Omollo helped me build UDA in the region even before I was elected president. He is one person who risked his job and stood with me,” said Ruto.

According to the head of state, Owallo and Omollo played a key role in his election and helped him strengthen his profile in Nyanza.

The two leaders have been inspecting government projects in the region and are keen to help the president achieve his development goals.

Although they are not politicians, the two are leading a group of technocrats pursuing the implementation of government projects in the region.

In the last few months, barely a week passed without either of them pitching tent in Nyanza to inspect projects and market the government’s vision.

The Standard has established that the leaders have been charged with working closely with the various State agencies to follow up on the progress of the projects the president launched in the region.

On the political front, the two technocrats have been meeting various groups to build grassroots support for government programmes.

Another key official tasked by the government to deliver on blue economy investmnets is Kenya Ports Authority Managing Director William Ruto.

He has been charged with breathing life into the region’s maritime transport and blue economy by delivering the quest by the government to revive small ports in the region.

Last weekend, the KPA director said the government is rehabilitating Homa Bay, Kendu Bay and Asembo Bay piers, as part of efforts to revive lake transport.

The process also includes the purchase of a Sh600 million ship to ply the small ports in the region.

During his visit to Homa Bay, the president launched the planned rehabilitation of Homa Bay pier. It is the first pier that the government envisions constructing before completing other piers.

According to the president, the pier will take six months to complete.

“The Homa Bay pier will reconnect Kisumu, Entebbe, Mwanza and other strategic towns along the edges of Lake Victoria,” said Ruto.

The government sees the region as key in its quest to continue dominating regional maritime trade, which other EAC countries are also keen to exploit.

According to Owalo, blue economy is at the heart of the government’s Bottom Up Economic Transformation Agenda christened “BETA”.

As part of the efforts to ensure that the projects are implemented smoothly, the president has also partnered with ODM governors from the region to follow up on the projects.

Both parties have described the partnership as a move protected by the constitution that provides for partnerships between the national government and county governments.

Although, they are Raila’s allies, governors Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu), Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay), James Orengo (Siaya), Ochillo Ayacko (Migori), Simba Arati (Kisii) and Amos Nyaribo (Nyamira) pledged to work with the government in pursuit of the projects. They, however, clarified that they are firmly in ODM and the partnership is purely for development.

Unlike the president’s other partners in the region who are singing Kenya Kwanza tunes, the four governors pour scorn on UDA’s forays in the region even as they tap projects from the national government.

On the political front, the president has assembled a list of political allies to help him achieve his ultimate goal of bagging significant support from the region.

Most of the career politicians in his camp have been awarded jobs in government, while others are considered rebels by the ODM camp.

The list includes former Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma (Chairman of SACCO Societies Regulatory Authority), former Rangwe MP Martin Ogindo (Chairman of Kenya Fish Authority), Rose Nyamunga (Chairperson Kenya Postal Corporation), Charles Owino (Chairman of Kenya Institute of Mass Communication), among others.

Former governors Evans Kidero (Nairobi) and Okoth Obado (Migori) are also leading a political onslaught in the region to market the president’s ideals.

Sources within Kenya Kwanza told The Standard that the president is banking on at least 1,000 allies holding senior government positions to help entrench his influence in Nyanza. They are among those who have been awarded government jobs.

Questions remain if the five rebel ODM MPs will help Ruto achieve his political goals after they were heckled by residents at some of the president’s stops.

On Sunday, MPs Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Senator Tom Ojienda (Kisumu), Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem) and Siaya Deputy Governor William Oduol were booed by residents during the president’s event in Awendo.