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Is ‘Raila factor’ reason behind President Uhuru Kenyatta’s shelved tour of Nyanza?

By Dennis Onyango | October 18th 2014
CORD leader Raila Odinga.

After the meeting between the Office of the President (OP) and the Kisumu County delegation to plan for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s tour of Nyanza region at Harambee House on Monday, varied reasons have emerged for the postponement of the trip.

Kisumu MPs, it is understood, asked for more time to make ‘necessary’ arrangements.

Those who attended Monday’s meeting were Kisumu governor Jack Ranguma, MPs Ken Obura (Kisumu Central), Olago Aluoch (Kisumu West), James Nyikal (Seme), and Onyango Oyoo (Muhoroni).

Others were Fred Outa (Nyando), Aduma Owuor (Nyakach) and Kisumu County Woman Rep Rose Nyamunga.

“It was resolved that the trip be rescheduled to facilitate further consultations between the Office of the President and the leadership of the county,” Ranguma said, adding that the visit would “likely be next week”.

But the area MPs have since given opposing reasons for the postponement of the visit, some pointing at behind-the-scenes political intrigues that marred the planned visit.

They attributed the postponement to the need for “more consultations” and that some MPs had complained about “late invitations”.

Some of the legislators, it was claimed, were not comfortable with the timing of the visit, especially when their party leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, was out of the country.

“We did not want speculation that the President is coming to Nyanza when Raila is away,” Outa said.

He added: “Raila is a very senior leader of Nyanza and it would be good if he is around when the President is coming so that he can join the team.”

By Wednesday, when Uhuru was to begin his tour of the region, Raila was in Mozambique where he was leading an observer team for the elections there.

Other than the Raila factor, the legislator explained: “We saw it fit that we consult within Kisumu County leadership to come up with development initiatives for him (Uhuru) to implement. We, therefore, asked for one more week.”

Earlier, some of the legislators had expressed their discomfort following the ‘rare’ visit, and had even threatened to snub the event.

Outa had claimed that Uhuru’s trip was not likely to spur any development in the region.

Unlike in the Migori visit where President Kenyatta personally met the delegation led by Governor Okoth Obado, in the Kisumu case, the team was met by Uhuru handlers, a likely indication that the disquiet had got into the ears of the President.

Besides, the fact that the meeting chaired by the president’s political advisers Mr Joshua Kuttuny and Ms Nancy Gitau was held at Harambee House and not State House as was in Migori case, stirs the debate on whether there was suspicion between the two parties.

Although the local MPs maintained that they wanted one more week to prepare, the nature of arrangements the legislators intended to make is unknown, considering that most of the projects to be commissioned by the President were already identified.

Olago said preparations for the trip was under way and exuded confidence that it would take place next week. “We agreed to consult and upon reaching an agreement, the President will come to Kisumu. We plan to accord him the respect he deserves,” he said.

Remove suspicion

Kuttuny has since hinted that the trip is likely to take place next week from Thursday to Saturday.

However, the statement from State House sent to newsrooms on Tuesday, indicated that the new dates will be made public upon an agreement between the OP and the local leaders.

“The President’s commitment to visiting Nyanza to discuss the region’s development remains steadfast. He is, therefore, consulting closely with elected leaders and other stakeholders from the region, so that a mutually acceptable schedule for an extended visit can be agreed,” read the statement.

State House Spokesperson Manoah Esipisu, had indicated that the trip was deferred following the President’s inability “to reschedule pressing prior commitments in time”.

But in another version, Kuttuny on Monday pointed out that the postponement was purely at the request of the MPs, saying the OP was set for the visit.

“We have been preparing for the trip for the last six months, but we did not want to go against the expectations of the elected leaders since they requested for more time to prepare,” Kuttuny said.

And that Uhuru was set for the trip was evident as the “idle” Kisumu State Lodge was by then a beehive of activity as preparations for the visit went into high gear.

The contradicting information from the OP points to a likely confusion that has gripped State House after the planned trip flopped.

Obura said it was important for the two parties to develop a common agenda to remove any suspicion.

“We must engage the electorate to know the issues they want the President to address, and that is why we wanted more time,” he said.

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