ODM leader Raila Odinga has defended himself against accusations from a section of politicians that he has used the handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta to push for projects in his Nyanza backyard.
During a three-day tour of the region, President Kenyatta unveiled projects worth billions of shillings across Nyanza counties before presiding over Madaraka Day celebrations at Jomo Kenyatta Stadium in Kisumu last Tuesday.
The move has elicited reactions with politicians accusing the president of rewarding his handshake partner’s backyard with projects as part of tokenisms for his support. Yesterday Rift Valley leaders led by Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok said that much as they were not opposed to the unveiling of the projects in Nyanza they want the President to ensure equity in development across the country.
“We urge the President to do the same in Rift Valley by ensuring the resumption of stalled projects,” said Mr Nanok.
But in a statement sent to newsrooms, Raila sought to explain the importance of the projects nationally saying they are not meant to serve Kisumu County only.
“They are meant to, and will serve the entire nation. The revamped Nakuru-Kisumu Meter Gauge Railway Line will cater for passengers and goods from diverse parts of the country, the region and the world. The revamped railway line is not terminating in Kisumu. It will extend from from the port city in Kisumu County to Butere in Kakamega County,” he said.
The ODM leader noted that the revamped metre gauge line will run from Nakuru to Eldoret, both in the Rift Valley which will also be supplemented by a line running from Bungoma to Malaba in Busia county.
Raila explained that the rehabilitated port of Kisumu, which dates back to the colonial era, was not meant to serve Nyanza or Kisumu County alone but entire Eastern Africa, the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa through River Nile and the international community through linkages with the ports of Bukoba, Jinja, Mwanza, Entebbe, Mombasa and others on the Atlantic Ocean.
“The main beneficiary of this connectivity via the Port of Kisumu will not be Nyanza or any single county but the Republic of Kenya. The shipyard will not produce ships for Kisumu,” he said.
He said the employees, and the trainees at the Marine School and the other institutions surrounding the Port will not be for or from Nyanza. Madaraka Day and the public holidays preceding it fell within the trend started in 2013 of showcasing each county’s development, in an ideal partnership with the national government, which Raila said is the daunting task of taking Kenya forward.
Revival and showcasing of these projects he said was in line with what was witnessed in Kakamega and Kisii counties during Mashujaa Day celebrations.
The ODM leader noted that in Kakamega, the country witnessed a partnership between the national and county governments that led to the construction of an international stadium and a teaching and referral hospital, among other projects.
“There were no complaints by other leaders when these regions showcased their contribution to the nation. Its against this background, that it takes a very dim view of leaders who have attempted to portray Madaraka Day events in Kisumu as some kind of favour to Nyanza and Kisumu County,” read the statement.
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Raila said such talk was retrogressive, divisive, dishonest and against the spirit of building one prosperous nation out of its many diverse nationalities and regions and appealed to leaders to stand up for Kenya and to encourage their supporters to fully explore and showcase their potential to contribute to the growth of the nation.
Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi said that last weekend’s events were tagged a Luo-Nyanza affair to either create disfavour between Raila and the neighbouring communities of Luhya, Kisii and Kuria. “Luo-Nyanza does not exist in isolation. The identified projects are meant to benefit residents of the entire western Kenya and MPs from Nyanza only took a lead role because Uhuru was visiting,” said Mr Wandayi.