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Mulembe nation falls apart again as leaders split over Kibra poll

By John Shilitsa | Sep 14th 2019 | 5 min read

ANC Party leader Musalia Mudavadi (L) and Ford Kenya Party leader Moses Wetang'ula are top Luhya leaders set to show political persuasion in the Kibra poll. [Photo: Standard]

The last nail seems to have been hammered into the hopes and dreams of the numerous calls for Luhya unity by Western Kenya’s political leadership in the run-up to the 2022 elections.

This follows failure of two political front runners from the region, Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula and Amani National Congress (ANC) boss Musalia Mudavadi, to front one candidate for the Kibra by-election after numerous meetings between the two parties initially agreed to back one candidate.

In addition, ANC has declared that its leader, Mr Mudavadi, who last year was installed as the Luhya kingpin, does not need any endorsement from any particular leader from the region to vie for the presidency in 2022.

Sharp divide

In recent past, the region’s political leaders have been sharply divided along two camps; those supporting Deputy President William Ruto and those backing Mudavadi’s presidential ambitions.

Others, including Kakamega senator Cleophas Malala, senator George Khaniri (Vihiga) and nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi, have pledged their support for Raila Odinga.  

Council of Governors (CoG) Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) and his Busia counterpart Sospeter Ojamoong are whetting their appetite for the top seat while Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma) remains a staunch supporter of Wetang’ula.  

The Ruto camp has also been calling on Mudavadi to shelve his ambitions and team up with the DP.

The political supremacy that played out during the burial of Ikolomani MP Bernard Shinali’s son last month served as a stark reminder of the elusive Luhya unity, as the region’s MPs championed their preferred man’s agenda as opposed to the community’s unity.

Reports that close friends of Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa have formed a new political party complicates matters even further.

The new outfit, Democratic Action Party of Kenya, received a provisional certificate on August 2 from the Registrar of Political Parties.

The new outfit has David Muchele as interim chairman while Kizito Temba, Wamalwa’s personal assistant, is the secretary. Wamalwa is yet to confirm or deny links to the party, which adds to numerous others in the region.

The CS was the New Ford Kenya party leader before he relinquished the political outfit to Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka, then Governor of Bungoma, when Wamalwa assumed the Water and Irrigation Services docket in 2015.

New Ford Kenya alongside other parties were collapsed in the run-up to the 2017 General Election to form a strong Jubilee political outfit on whose ticket President Uhuru Kenyatta was re-elected for a second term.

According to ANC Secretary-General Barrack Muluka, Mudavadi will not seek endorsement from anyone in the community to achieve his presidential ambitions.

He noted that Luhya political unity is a far-fetched dream especially after Wetang’ula reneged on their gentleman’s agreement not to field a candidate for the impending Kibra by-election. 

“ANC leadership reached out to Wetang’ula and Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka not to field a candidate for the by-election. They all agreed in support of the ANC candidate only for us to see the Bungoma Senator unveiling his party’s candidate. Is this really the western unity we are talking about? posed Mr Muluka.

“I can you that Mudavadi is not looking for an endorsement from any of the leaders from the community. He is getting an endorsement from the electorates and he is for nothing other than the presidency in 2022.”

Other voices have weighed in on the matter, suggesting that the elusive Luhya unity is a farfetched wish. Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa went as far as saying unity is unrealistic.

“It is hypocritical for some leaders to pretend to be pushing for Luhya unity when they are the same people who sow discord that leave the community polarised and divided,” argued Barasa.

“Those pushing for the unity are ‘cowards’ and not ready to confront the reality because the Luhya nation is united by a strong bond,” argued the lawmaker.

In a phone interview, the MP said the community has suffered a lot due to politics of self-seeking. “Why would ANC and Ford Kenya field candidates in Kibra?” he posed.

According to Barasa, Mudavadi and Wetang’ula had demonstrated that they can work together are at peace with each other.

Mudavadi’s ANC is fronting Eliud Owalo, a former ODM presidential campaign manager, while Wetang’ula has unleashed Hamisi Butichi, his close ally and a Ford Kenya diehard, in the Kibra by-elections.

The MP said the worst mistake Mudavadi can do is join forces with ODM leader Raila Odinga at the last minute as has been the case in the past elections.

He also said the move by Wamalwa’s allies to register another party clearly shows the CS was not ready to listen to Mudavadi and Wetang’ula.

“These different political ideologies are our biggest undoing,” he said.

Political alliances

But Malala believes Mudavadi has no option but to forge a political alliance with Raila in order to enhance his visibility on the national platform.

“Truth be told, Mudavadi has two options: either to work with Ruto or Raila. He will be safe if he joined forces with the ODM leader,” said Malala.

Malala, who spoke at Mutemesi in Mumias East constituency, in the company of Khaniri, said Mudavadi was free to choose who he works with but warned the former Deputy Prime minister against developing a soft spot for Ruto.

Osotsi accused leaders vocal about Luhya unity of hiding their heads in the sand when it matters most.

“Western has not found an inspiring leader in the last 15 years after the death of former Vice President Michael Kijana Wamalwa. Maybe it is time for us to think about new leadership approach,” he said.

He said the focus must now shift to molding new leaders to take up the mantle.

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