Luo Nyanza leaders who work with Ruto government are not traitors

A section of ODM 'rebel' MPs Elisha Odhiambo, Felix Odiwuor aka Jalango, Paul Aburo and Caroli Omondi after  addressing  the media at Parliament buildings, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The clamour for multi-party democracy in the early 1990s was hailed as the dawn of a new era, one marked by transformation, open and competitive governance founded on the principles of pluralism. It promised citizens a broad spectrum of political choices.

This transformative journey was spearheaded by numerous prominent Kenyan figures, with many Luo leaders leading the charge for multi-party democracy. Ironically, those who ardently championed multi-party democracy are yet to fully reap its benefits. For years, the Odinga-led political entities have maintained a near-monopoly on political power in Luo Nyanza until the recent resurgence of the UDA party that is shaking the status quo.

Since 1992, Luo Nyanza has predominantly represented the Opposition, with parties affiliated with ODM (and its predecessors) securing an overwhelming majority of positions in the region. Holding an ODM nomination ticket was, in essence, tantamount to victory in the general elections, given its stranglehold in the area. This situation gave rise to a network of power brokers within the party where party nominations often went to the highest bidders, resulting sometimes in selection of inept and corrupt candidates who amassed wealth to secure nominations and repay loans.

In general elections, Raila Odinga would come and call for six-piece voting and label other candidates as traitors. The recent ascension of the UDA party in Nyanza following Raila's electoral defeat by William Ruto, serves as a critical moment for reflection, prompting us to draw lessons from other global scenarios.

A nuanced approach to politics can coexist with a commitment to collective progress. We must acknowledge that unity and development should not conflict with diverse political landscapes. As a people who have fought for democracy, we should allow for a diversity of political ideas and nurture democracy by permitting individuals to freely associate with the political parties of their choice. We must appreciate that we can unite to develop our region even as we allow for diverse political opinions.

During South Africa's transition from apartheid, those who collaborated with the apartheid government were labeled sellouts, yet they were in government to serve the interests of their people and country. In Luo Nyanza, opposition leaders have often branded those working with the government as traitors and sello-uts, hindering regional unity and cohesion. If we fought for democracy, why not wholeheartedly embrace it?

Northern Ireland faced a similar situation, but its leaders came together and signed the Good Friday Agreement, opening doors for different parties to collaborate in pursuit of development. Embracing and embodying the spirit of pluralism transformed the region from a conflict-ridden area into a peaceful society on a path toward development.

Today, the UDA party is on the rise, and Luo Nyanza is experiencing a paradigm shift from the traditional Orange allegiance that has proved barren for two decades. Despite contributing little to the formation of this government, our people have been appointed to key government positions, including Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo and two influential PSs.

President Ruto's commitment to work with our elected leaders to foster regional development is a positive step forward. It's crucial that our elected representatives, including MPs and senators, align themselves with this vision and engage in productive legislation that can bring about tangible change in our region.

Our county governments should align to the bottom – up economic transformation agenda, aligning their County Integrated Development Plans to the national plans and working with the government of the day without victimisation from their parties.