Deputy President William Ruto has hatched an ambitious plan to make inroads in Nyanza as campaigns for the August 9 polls gain momentum.
Nyanza is the stronghold of Raila Odinga, the Azimio One Kenya Alliance presidential candidate.
Although Raila’s team is confident the region will overwhelmingly back his bid like it has done before, Ruto is not giving it up and has unveiled teams to campaign for him.
Ruto’s UDA party has fielded candidates in almost all the seats in the region as he attempts to crack ODM’s dominance and lure more supporters.
His candidates are also bullish that they will break in to the stubborn Nyanza voting bloc and deliver nearly half of its votes to Kenya Kwanza after UDA’s sustained mobilisation birthed candidates for several seats.
However, the team has a daunting task given the support Raila enjoys in the region and his allies have also laid strategies to ring-fence the voting bloc.
Kenya Kwanza has a number of allies in Gusii and plans to wrestle the region’s votes from Azimio-affiliated parties.
In the past presidential polls, Raila’s rivals managed only a few votes from Nyanza but did not win any seats in Luo Nyanza, which has been behind Raila since his first stab at the presidency in 1997.
Ruto is keen to change the trend but it will be a big task since Raila is also strengthening his grassroots support.
Ruto is hoping the candidates UDA has fielded will mobilise enough support for his presidential bid.
In all the six Nyanza counties, UDA has candidates for the governor and MP seats. They are banking on Ruto’s point men led by Migori Governor Okoth Obado to help them win votes.
In Kisii, the Kenya Kwanza team is also relying on sitting MPs to deliver votes. In Migori, UDA has fielded 33 candidates for various seats.
It however remains to be seen how Obado will deliver the votes given that even his wife has given Kenya Kwanza a wide berth and stated publicly that she will vote for Raila.
She is contesting the Woman Representative seat as an independent candidate.
Ruto’s team is optimistic of winning some seats and has also shifted their focus to the Kuria, a region that defied an ODM wave in 2017 to elect Jubilee MPs.
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The two MPS Marwa Kitayama (Kuria East) and Mathias Robi (Kuria West) are in Ruto’s camp and are campaigning to deliver the two seats to UDA.
Rebecca Maroa, the former CEC for Water and Energy who wants to succeed Obado, are among the candidates bracing for a contest against Raila’s lieutenants.
Ruto’s party has fielded 30 MCA candidates to face off with Raila’s troops in the battle to control the County Assembly.
According to UDA county coordinator Fredrick Siengo, the party is doing a door-to-door campaigns to take their agenda to the grassroots.
“We are coming as a people who will embrace everyone,” Siengo told the Standard on phone.
The party’s allies have so far traversed the Kuria region and plans to hold a rally where the Deputy President William Ruto will be present.
In Homa Bay, UDA has fielded Charles Rabudi to compete against ODM’s Gladys Wanga and independent candidate Evans Kidero.
Although considered an underdog, Rabudi claims he will surprise many and win the seat. “My agenda is to ensure the common man in Homa Bay puts food on their table,” he said.
In the race for the Woman Rep seat, the party has fielded Melida Auma, the mother of slain Rongo University student Sharon Otieno.
In Gusii, UDA has fielded candidates for all seats and has several career politicians to help in garnering the region’s votes.
In Nyamira, the party is hoping to win through former Kitutu Masaba MP Walter Nyambati. Its Kenya Kwanza affiliate party, ANC, has also fielded former North Mugirango legislator Joseph Kiangoi to compete for the seat.
Ruto’s coalition is pushing for the leaders to work together to deliver the seat to UDA even as it also targets the Senate and Woman Rep seats where it has fielded Nyambega Mose and Josephine Omanwa, respectively.
In Kisii, the party has also fielded candidates for all seats including the governor seat where it is relying on Ezekiel Machogu to succeed James Ongwae.
Reporting by Harold Odhiambo, Anne Atieno, James Omoro and Stanley Ongwae