Raila Odinga in fresh bid to reclaim Rift Valley support, endorses Kimaiyo

CORD Principal Raila Odinga is adorned with Marakwet traditional regalia at Chesongoch area in Elgeyo Marakwet County. He has in recent weeks stepped up efforts to win back the support he once enjoyed in the North Rift. (PHOTO: KEVIN TUNOI/ STANDARD)

CORD leader Raila Odinga has in recent weeks stepped up efforts to win back the support he once enjoyed in the North Rift.

The ODM leader has made numerous visits to the area, and during a tour of Deputy President William Ruto’s Uasin Gishu backyard on Tuesday, he made it clear that if his party is elected, it would improve security and address many of the problems that local people face.

Raila said the Jubilee administration had failed to address these problems, and asked voters in the region to support his bid for the presidency in next year’s General Election.

The rousing welcome Raila received from the large crowd at the meeting in Meibeki appeared to indicate the approval his comments elicited before he left for the volatile Kerio Valley, which has been the epicentre of violence between the Pokot and Marakwet communities.

More than 20 people have been killed this year, while hundreds others have been displaced as the conflict raged.

Raila was in Nandi last Saturday where he attended the burial of former Nandi County Council chairperson Sarah Jemutai.

Runaway corruption

He criticised the Jubilee government for its inability to contain runaway corruption, which he said was orchestrated by well-connected state officers.

During Raila’s visit to Kerio Valley, some residents accused the Jubilee administration of abandoning the region, despite the overwhelming support it received in the 2013 elections.

William Kipruto said the region felt more appreciated by the Kibaki administration, which appointed the first person from there to a Cabinet position and ensured a tarmac road was built.

“But the Jubilee administration has rewarded the 99.9 per cent votes we gave them with utter contempt. We will vote against them in the coming elections,” Kipruto, a resident, vowed.

ODM has identified agriculture, corruption, insecurity and unfulfilled promises by Jubilee as key issues that local people want addressed.

However, attempts to gain inroads into the region have been hampered by ODM’s lack of champions in the Rift Valley to push the party’s agenda. Raila’s former allies in the Rift Valley, including former ODM chairman Henry Kosgey and former ministers Musa Sirma, Magerer Langat, Margaret Kamar and Franklin Bett, have all left the party and aligned themselves with DP Ruto.

ODM is now seeking to identify new point men to reduce Jubilee’s influence ahead of the General Election. It is expected that these new champions will bolster the work done by the ODM Secretary for Devolution, Mr Kipkorir Arap Menjo, and Ogla Karani, the party’s national Deputy Treasurer, to push the party’s agenda.

During his tour of the region, Raila debunked the myth that he was behind Ruto’s tribulations at The Hague where the DP had been charged with crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court. The charges were linked to the violence that engulfed the region after the 2007 elections.

ICC trials and Mau Forest

Raila also said he was not behind the Grand Coalition Government’s push to have thousands of local people evicted from the Mau Forest in 2010.

Both the ICC trials and Mau Forest evictions were used by Ruto to stir up a rebellion against Raila in the Rift Valley and rally voters behind Jubilee in the 2013 elections.

Menjo believes Raila stands for progressive policies that will benefit ordinary Kenyans.

“This is just the beginning of ODM events in the North Rift. There will be more rallies across all counties in the region,” said Menjo.

He was supported by ODM Uasin Gishu branch chairman David Songok who said they would back Raila’s bid to become president.

And in what could be seen as a bid to court more support, the Opposition leader endorsed former Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo for the Elgeyo Marakwet Senate seat. The seat is currently held by Kipchumba Murkomen, a Ruto ally.

Raila who spoke in Marakwet East Sub-county defended Kimaiyo’s development record while in government, noting that he is capable of transforming the region.

“During our regime with former President Mwai Kibaki, we realised that he had a good leadership record and that is why we proposed him for the IG’s post. It is unfortunate that he was later hounded out of office without any solid reason,” he said.

The former Prime Minister told the gathering that he would grant Kimaiyo an ODM ticket if he agrees to run using his party in 2017 polls.

“He has informed me that he wants the Senate seat and I am aware that he has the necessary expertise and is tough against corruption. He should compete on our party’s ticket because we shall support him,” said Raila.

Speaking separately, Kimaiyo thanked Raila for the endorsement, saying he is the best suited for the Senate post.

He said he will soon announce the party he will use next year after consulting the electorate.