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Ruto, Karua step up campaigns in Nyanza

By | July 19th 2011

By Kepher Otieno and Kenan Miruka

Over the weekend, presidential hopefuls William Ruto and Martha Karua stepped up campaigns in Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s backyard.

The Ruto, Karua onslaught in Nyanza comes at a time of intense political activities among the Gusii community, which is viewed as one of the several potential swing votes around the country in next year’s General Election.

So far, what is becoming clear is that no single party will drive a candidate to victory, be it ODM, PNU, UDM, Kanu, Narc-Kenya or Ford-Kenya, to cite a few.

According to Dr Adams Oloo, the head of Political Science at the University of Nairobi, for any serious first time presidential candidate to gain popularity they must move around the country.

Oduor Ong’wen, who is a former NGO Council boss, concurs with Oloo that much as Karua and Ruto are running around they might not make a big impact in 2012.

"Moving round the country is no guarantee that they will make it to State House. They are only but trying to create a national constituency," argues Ong’wen.

Unity talks

While in Kisii at the weekend, unity talks dominated the leaders’ speeches. Not even former Ford People leader Simeon Nyachae who had hung up his political boots was left out.

Nyachae resurfaced at the burial of councillor Steve Arita, where he reconciled with Ruto and former Assistant minister Omingo Magara and preached peace, unity and reconciliation.

Even though in the past Nyachae, Magara and Ruto were strange political bedfellows due to their divergent political ideologies, Nyachae shed off the past for unity.

Ruto and Magara also dwelt on peace as the linchpin for development programmes and called on Kenyans to tolerate one another.

With Ruto and Karua stepping up the campaigns amid poor ratings from the latest pollsters, it showed just how ambitious they were.

Arguably, over the years, some presidential candidates overlooked certain areas. Voters claimed successive general elections saw some presidential candidates confine themselves to their home-turfs, mostly central and eastern.

Take Nyanza, for example, most presidential candidates did not set foot in the region, which was perceived and assumed to be largely dominated by ODM.

Ruto and Karua’s consistency, therefore, showed serious commitment.

Analysts argue this is why credit goes to the new Constitution, which now dictates that all major political parties must have offices in all counties.

Again, for either candidate to win, he or she must get the most votes as well as win in more than half of the country’s 47 counties.

But even as Ruto and Karua intensify their campaigns in Nyanza generally, and Kisii region in particular, rifts have emerged among Kisii leaders over the unity talks.

Opinion divided

With the community’s history of voting diversely in general elections, leaders want unity to enhance relevance on the political scene, but opinion is divided on the matter.

A section of professionals and former legislators from the region have been spearheading unity talks aimed at uniting the community ahead of 2012 polls.

Sharp divisions have emerged among Gusii leaders following the move by Nyachae to attend the recent unity meeting in their absence.

The unity talks dubbed the Kisii Consultative Forum were convened by professionals led by Justus Mochoge and attended by parliamentary aspirants and former MPs from Kisii and Nyamira counties.

Former MPs Magara, Mwancha Okioma (Kitutu Masaba), Hezron Manduku (Nyaribari Masaba), Stephen Manoti (Bobasi), Henry Obwocha (West Mugirango), Zebedeo Opore (Bonchari), Joel Onyacha (Bomachoge), Jimmy Angwenyi (Kitutu Chache), and Godfrey Masanya (North Mugirango Borabu) have been key figures while professionals led by Luka Mogoa and Engineer Mochoge have been coordinating the meetings.

Factional meeting

Public Works minister Chris Obure dismissed the regional leaders’ meeting, saying it was factional and bound to breed further divisions. "I was not invited to that meeting. It is unbelievable a leader of Nyachae’s status could attend a factional meeting. Such a meeting creates fertile ground for further division," said Obure.

Dr Obure said he supports unity for the sake of the region’s development, but not for other reasons.

"On development, we shall speak with one voice on issues that are of benefit to the region like roads. But if the purpose is to speak in one voice to support a particular presidential candidate, you can be sure we can’t agree," observed the minister.

South Mugirango MP Manson Nyamweya (Ford People) accused former MPs of using Nyachae as a plank to further their political interests disguised as unity talks.

"Nyachae stated clearly that he has retired from active politics and personally, I respect that decision. I do not doubt his word so these former MPs should stop these games under the guise of preaching unity," said Nyamweya.

Speaking at Nyamagwa in Nyaribari Chache constituency at the weekend, Nyachae confirmed he attended the unity talks at the invitation of professionals and leaders from the community.

"When they called me to the meeting as a Kisii elder, could I have refused? There was no politics at the meeting and my interest is on the community’s unity," said Nyachae.

In characteristic abrasive style, Nyachae took a swipe at sitting MPs for staying away from the unity talks, and challenged them to face their political opponents and discuss community issues.

"If you are man enough, you do not fear sitting face to face with other men. Let us sit and advise each other on community issues," added Nyachae.

Magara, who is among the initiators of the unity talks, refuted claims that current MPs were excluded from the meeting.

"The leaders were not invited but knew of our meetings. We went to brief Nyachae on what we have been doing in our previous meetings and seek his advice," said Magara.

"They should stop looking for scapegoats now just because Nyachae is in the picture. Nyachae remains a crucial leader who means well for the community, added Magara.

Transport Assistant minister and Bomachoge MP Simon Ogari concurs with Obure saying any meeting that excludes sitting MPs cannot purport to build unity.

"Suspicions have been created amongst current leaders. If they have had seven meetings so far without our involvement, then the agenda is suspect," Ogari told Tuesday Politics.

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