Raila meets Gusii leaders in efforts to unify Nyanza region
By Eric Abuga
| July 1st 2021
ODM leader Raila Odinga today held talks with ODM and Jubilee Party leaders from the Gusii community and urged them to unite ahead of next year's General Election.
The meeting also came at a time when there has been growing anxiety in Gusiiland that development projects following handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila favoured Luo Nyanza at expense of the former premier's other political strongholds.
The meeting that was also attended by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i also came after his candidate and supporters squared it out with Raila’s during the Bonchari parliamentary by-election whose seat was bagged by ODM.
Political whispers showed that Matiang’i who backed Jubilee candidate Zebedeo Opore wanted to use the by-elections to weigh his strength as he prepares for a stab at the House on the hill next year.
Raila, who has been keen on consolidating his support in Nyanza, said they discussed matters of national interest and the development of the region.
He termed the meeting as a working luncheon “hosted by leaders from the Gusii community led by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and (Kisii) Governor James Ongwae."
The meeting was also the first public one between Ongwae and Matiang’i after the bruising Bonchari by-election, where the governor accused the CS of using police to harass and intimidate him. This had followed an incident where police officers stormed Ongwae's home as he met other leaders in the run-up to the by-election.
Following the altercation, leaders and elders from the community started the push for a truce between the two leaders.
ODM candidate Pavel Oimeke won the mini-poll, beating Zebedeo Opore of Jubilee Party, who was supported by Matiang'i.
Raila advised the leaders on the importance of working together irrespective of their political differences. He said their unity is for the benefit of the people.
“He told them to put aside their differences occasioned by the just concluded Bonchari by-election and pull together for the good of the people and the region,” a statement from Raila’s office said.
The ODM leader reminded the leaders about the Handshake he had with President Uhuru Kenyatta at the time when they had sharp differences over the 2017 presidential election.
He told them not to allow politics to divide them, adding that an election is just a one-day event and life has to go on after that.
“At the end of the meeting the leaders shook hands and resolved to put aside their differences and work for the people,” the statement said.
Sources in the meeting indicated that the leaders were also keen on ensuring Nyanza speaks with one voice on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) amid push for a referendum and next year’s polls.
ODM National Treasurer Timothy Bosire said this was a preliminary meeting that was geared towards harmonising development projects in the Gusii region.
“We understand the need to unify our Nyanza region. We will have other meetings,” said Bosire, a member of Raila’s inner circle.
Yesterday, Borabu MP Ben Momanyi said that suffice to say, the ongoing projects in Nyamira were brainchild of MPs during the 2013-2017 parliamentary session but which had been hijacked by people who had absconded their duties.
“These same fellows are clinging to National Government projects which we asked for to hoodwink the masses. They should instead, tell us what they have done with the little they get as a county from the National Government. We in the National Government will be vindicated soon,” he said.
Also in attendance of the luncheon were Gusii political bigwigs Prof Sam Ongeri who is Kisii senator, woman rep Janet Ongera, Jubilee Party MP Jimmy Angwenyi and Roads and Infrastructure Chief Administrative Secretary Chris Obure.
Ongera maintains that Nyanza is still Raila’s and ODM stronghold.
“This is not a question of who is the Nyanza kingpin but how we will maintain our solid ground. This is a warning to all those trying to undermine our strength that they will never make a start in their attempt to penetrate the region.”
The meeting comes at a time the Deputy President William Ruto has been making inroads to the region.
Ruto’s key allies in the region insist that they have enough support to change the region’s political matrix and be able to battle it with ODM which has been gaining attraction in the region for the past three general elections.
South Mugirango MP Sylvanus Osoro insists that the Ruto brigade have all it takes to dethrone the ODM from the region. “They are our competitors but let them be prepared for a shock in the next elections. We need to be told what our people will have gained by joining certain political formations,”? he said.
Suna East MP Junet Mohamed who is also Minority whip in the National Assembly also featured in the meeting.
Kisii and Nyamira have more than 800 registered voters with the areas being used as a swing vote in the previous election despite ODM getting the lion’s share.
The Gusii community is also scattered in other parts of the country.
Ruto through his close allies, Osoro, Deputy Governor Joash Maangi and former Kenya Ports Authority managing director Daniel Manduku has been working to penetrate the region. Ruto’s UDA candidate Teresa Bitutu came third in the Bonchari election.
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