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Western Kenya leaders divided as Marende and Jirongo form political party

POLITICS
By Eric lungai | June 1st 2015
National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende (R) shows former Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo a message on phone while they attended a funds drive at Imusutsu secondary school in Vihiga County on May 29, 2015. The leaders said they were in talks to make a new party United Democratic Party to unite the Western Region. [Photo: ERIC LUNGAI/STANDARD]

KAKAMEGA: The battle for the control of the vote-rich Western Kenya has started in earnest as the region's political heavyweights position themselves ahead of 2017 General Election.

But the heavyweights are competing among themselves as camps come up with varying political vehicles for the country's top leadership positions.

The latest kid on the block is the United Democratic Party (UDP) recently formed by former National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende and former Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo.

And last weekend, the two leaders went out of their way to convince residents of the region why their party is the best placed to protect their interests.

The two dismissed Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi's Amani National Congress (ANC) as ineffective in delivering the presidency saying the party is not inclusive.

They said ANC should be treated with suspicion as it cannot be trusted to lead the region to the top seat in the country just like the fading United Democratic Front party failed to deliver in 2013.

GOING NOWHERE

"Amani National Congress is going nowhere. It may be a vehicle to fool the people of this region. We want a solid party that will unite all the people from the region," said Mr Marende.

The leaders said UDP will be more inclusive and speak for the whole region collectively.

But Lugari MP Ayub Savula has rejected plans to form political parties and instead asked leaders to focus on registration of voters.

Mr Savula said statistics show that the region has registered the lowest number of voters and it is time for leaders to sensitise residents to register as voters before forming political parties.

"Let us start by fighting to have more voters registered. Our region has the lowest number of registered voters yet we are struggling to register parties. It is a waste of time to form parties now," warned Savula.

He said the region should stick to their target of registering over six million voters then they will have more bargaining power in the next elections.

"Having many political parties will not help us,. It is like having many vehicles on the road yet they are no passengers to ferry. You will end up making a loss. Let us have our priorities right as leaders," he said.

But Marende underscored the importance of having a new political party saying the region will remain irrelevant if voters were to go by Mudavadi's party.

He said Mudavadi failed to convince them in the last polls when he joined Jubilee for awhile before he was thrown out.

"The new party is in the offing and we will soon unveil it in the region for the benefit of the people," he said.

Mr Jirongo said the new party originated from the region unlike other parties that are already popular in the region, like the Orange Democratic Movement and Ford Kenya, which have their roots in the former Nyanza province, and thus cannot be trusted.

The leaders spoke at Imusutsu Secondary School in Hamisi constituency, Vihiga County on Friday during a funds drive to help the school construct a dormitory.

The function was also attended by Vihiga Senator George Khaniri and Hamisi MP Charles Gimose, among other leaders.

Jirongo said he and Marende were looking for partners with a common agenda.

PERMANENT ENEMIES

"In politics, there are no permanent enemies. It is about taking power and that is what we have started scheming for. Whether we will partner with President Uhuru or his deputy William Ruto or Kalonzo Musyoka, it does not matter, as long as a Luhya will be allowed to carry the mantle," he said.

Mr Khaniri warned it will be tough for former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Musalia Mudavadi to claim to vie for any top seat in the country come 2022 if they fail in 2017.

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