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Unease as Western Kenya left out of Handshake billions

Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi. [Courtesy, Standard]

There are growing murmurs in some Western Kenya counties of being sidelined in the Handshake projects despite overwhelmingly backing ODM leader Raila Odinga in past elections and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government.

The unease, mostly in the four former Western Province counties and Gusii region, deepened when Raila together with Uhuru launched a host of development projects in Kisumu and Siaya last week. The two are also slated to commission more projects in August.

But speaking during the launch of a water and a roads project in Siaya last Sunday, Uhuru and Raila insisted their truce had led to growth in all parts of the country. Raila commended the Head of State’s resolve to unite Kenyans and initiate development projects across the country.

During Madaraka Day celebrations, Deputy President William Ruto also commended President Kenyatta for initiating development projects throughout the country. But Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi believes the Western region has not reaped much from the handshake.

He has vowed to fight for the presidency in order to develop the region and other parts of the country equally.

Mr Mudavadi told journalists at his Mululu home in Vihiga County that nothing will make him drop his ambition.

Former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale had earlier chided proponents of both the handshake and BBI from Western, challenging them to lay bare the benefits Raila and Uhuru have yielded for the region.

Share of projects.

National Assembly Chief Whip Emanuel Wangwe said it is time the President focused on initiating mega development projects in Western region.

“It is hard to defend the president’s performance when put to task by people to explain what the Government has done in Kakamega County,” said Wangwe (Nakholo MP).

The leaders have been pushing for revival of key industries in the region including Mumias Sugar which died three years ago, the ailing Nzoia Sugar Company, cotton ginneries in Busia and Webuye Pan Paper that was sold to a private investor. Lugari MP Ayub Savula, his Kimilili counterpart Didmus Barasa and Titus Khamala (Lurambi) said Western deserves a share of the projects.

He spoke during the first memorial anniversary of his father at Manyonyi village on Thursday. Khamala wondered why Western was being sidelined in terms of economic development.

“The president's tour of Luo Nyanza sends a clear statement that Western ought to unite and rally behind one of their own in the race to State House in 2022. That is the only way we shall realise development,” he said.

Ikolomani MP Bernard Shinali said the Jubilee administration ought to initiate projects in Western because the region gave the ruling party eight seats on top of the many votes President Uhuru garnered in 2017. Jubilee won Malava, Navakholo, Ikolomani, Mumias West, Webuye West, Kimilili, Sirisia and Mount Elgon parliamentary seats in the elections. Mudavadi’s ANC party won 11 parliamentary seats while ODM managed eight seats with Ford-K bagging four.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, who is also the ODM deputy party leader, said Western has benefited from the handshake. The governor cited several roads earmarked for construction in Western including Lurambi-Navakholo-Musikoma which will join Kakamega and Bungoma counties. Other key projects include the proposed gold refinery factory in Kakamega and the once-neglected Kitale, Kakamega and Busia airstrips.

Political analyst Barrack Muluka says leaders from other regions should understand how politics works. “Patronage inclined politics is all about benefit,” he said.

He says: “President Kenyatta has enjoyed a peaceful four-year stretch because of Raila. Doing all these kinds of things restores Raila’s image in Nyanza, by extension he could control his powers in Western and Gusii. Those aggrieved should talk to Raila.”

Muluka explains that Uhuru has ensured Raila remains the patron.

“These people must go through Raila in order to reach Uhuru. They need to up their game. The ODM leader has become the patron and broker. He is not just any other leader,” he says.

According to Muluka, it was not by chance that Uhuru ignored other leaders from the region during the Madaraka Day celebrations in Kisumu. Instead, he praised Raila and promised to continue working with him.

South Mugirango MP Sylvanus Osoro said Kisii and Nyamira counties are yet to gain from the current Jubilee government.

“We need to understand the needs of our people. Let us move away from just launching projects to delivering the same for our people,” he said.

[Eric Abuga, John Shilitsa and Harold Odhiambo]


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