There is anxiety over Deputy President William Ruto’s tour of Kisumu this week, a region perceived to be political bedrock of his rival Raila Odinga.
Yesterday, a group involved in planning the visit said it had started mobilising support for Ruto in the region.
John Odenyo, the secretary of the Nyanza Youth Movement for Ruto 2022, however, said the visit is yet to be confirmed.
“The DP will come to Nyanza but we are still not sure of the date. He will definitely come,” said Mr Odenyo.
The group has been meeting in the lakeside city to marshal support for DP even as some residents described the planned visit a waste of time.
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The planned visit comes hot on the heels of the defection of Eliud Owalo, a former aide to Raila Odinga, to Ruto’s camp after ditching Amani National Congress led by Musalia Mudavadi.
In the past, Ruto has given Kisumu, Siaya and Homa Bay a wide berth and has only been visiting neighbouring Kisii and Nyamira. He has not held a political rally in Luo Nyanza since political temperatures started rising.
Should his planned visit to Kisumu bear fruit, it will test political temperatures in a region that has been solidly behind Raila for decades. Campaigning against Raila in the region has not been a walk in the park.
Uncharacteristically, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Nyanza leadership last Friday said Ruto was welcome in the area as long as he avoids verbal attack against Raila.
Ruto is seeking to capitalise on disgruntled ODM members as well as those who fell out with the Orange party from the region, to infiltrate the Nyanza voting bloc that has been firmly behind Raila.
A number of Ruto allies claimed hostility from ODM members has always made campaigning in the region difficult.
ODM officials yesterday told journalists that nobody will gag Ruto from visiting Orange party’s turf to drum up support for his presidential bid ahead of 2022 General Election.
The region’s party coordinator and former assistant minister for Education Ayiecho Olweny said Ruto is welcome to the region.
‘’Ruto is free to campaign in Nyanza. His associates also have the political freedom to associate and make a personal choice on whether to join a political party grouping of their choice,” Prof Olweny said.
The statement comes at a time Ruto is busy galvanising national support for his presidency bid.
Addressing the press at the Ofafa Luo Council of Elders office in Kisumu, ODM branch officials called for peaceful campaigns ahead of 2022 elections.
“We want the Deputy President to avoid insulting our party leader and more so when he will be visiting his (Raila) electoral turf to avoid public confrontation that would cause chaos,” warned Prof Olweny.
The party officials told the press that they had no ill feelings against Ruto because, after all, campaigns have not officially kicked off and that they were also warming up to counter his move.
“This is not the first time Nyanza is hosting a politician with divergent opinion. We have hosted many and the DP has a democratic right to visit any part of the country, we have no problem,’’ said Olweny.
But he reiterated should Ruto or any of his political lieutenants try to insult ODM leadership or the party, then they will have themselves to blame because Raila still has and commands the critical mass.
The ODM leaders spoke as the national party top brass officials vowed to make sure they are not overtaken by Ruto’s political overtures.
ODM Chairman John Mbadi said they were working on more elaborate programmes to undo Ruto’s move ahead of 2022 by pushing for reforms that will create more wealth and jobs to all Kenyans.
Mbadi also hinted at ODM fielding Raila again for president, but the details would be unveiled much later as they are focusing on the BBI that is likely to herald a grand coalition government come 2022.