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Raila takes first step to unite Gusii leaders

By Eric Abuga | July 4th 2021
ODM leader Raila Odinga (centre) poses for a photo with key Gusii leaders after a meeting with them on Thursday. He was accompanied by Suna East MP Junet Mohamed (second left). [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

ODM party leader Raila Odinga has taken the first step to unite Gusii leaders after the bitter campaigns in the May 18 Bonchari by-election.

There have been calls to unite the Gusii political leadership, especially at a time when Jubilee and ODM leaders are involved in talks to form a coalition ahead of the 2022 General Election.

Plans to have a Gusii political kingpin fell apart after the Bonchari mini poll.

Raila on Thursday met with a section of Gusii leaders largely drawn from Kisii County in what is said to be a culmination of a series of meetings aimed at uniting the leaders, some of whom have not been seeing eye-to-eye since the Bonchari election.

The meeting was attended by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, Kisii Governor James Ongwae, Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri, Kisii Woman Rep Janet Ongera, MP Jimmy Angwenyi (Kitutu Chache North), Transport Chief Administrative Secretary Chris Obure and ODM treasurer Timothy Bosire.

A brief statement from the ODM leader indicated that the meeting was called to discuss development matters in the Nyanza region.

“Discussed matters of national interest and the development of the Nyanza region at a working lunch hosted by leaders from the Gusii community,” read Raila’s brief statement. 

Gusii leaders hosted Raila Odinga on July 3, 2021. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

However, a separate statement from the ODM communications director Philip Etale suggested the meeting was called to reconcile Gusii leaders.

“Leaders from the Gusii region have resolved to put aside their political differences and work together for the good of the people and the region,” wrote Etale.

However, a source who attended the meeting told The Sunday Standard that the meeting didn’t start after a senior politician from the region who attended argued that whatever the differences they had were home-grown and could be sorted out locally.

Raila is said to have called on the leaders to set aside their differences.

After the meeting, Bosire, who is the ODM leader from Nyamira, told The Sunday Standard that they held a brief meeting aimed at unifying Nyanza region.

Later on Thursday evening, Ms Ongera posted on Twitter a quote attributed to former South African President Nelson Mandela: “When we dehumanise and demonise our opponents, we abandon the possibility of peacefully resolving our differences, and justify violence against them.”

During the Bonchari by-election campaigns, Dr Matiang’i was accused by top politicians in both ODM and UDA (United Democratic Alliance) of sanctioning police brutality, harassment, and intimidation through arbitrary arrests.

Interior Coordination of National Government CS Dr Fred Matiang'i. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Mr Obure and Mr Angwenyi had campaigned for Jubilee party candidate Zebedeo Opore.

The seat was won by ODM’s Pavel Oimeke who was backed by Prof Ongeri, Ongera, and Ongwae.

Taken very seriously

An aide to Raila who requested not to be named told The Sunday Standard: “It obvious Odinga is now taking Ongwae very seriously.

“This is a governor who has delivered everything the party has asked him to work on.”

Ongwae was the engine behind Oimeke’s campaigns.

The county chief organised a campaign team, which went from door-to-door drumming up support for Oimeke.

Another campaign team used social media to counter any propaganda against Oimeke.

Kisii Governor James Ongwae at Kiamwasi Rehabilitation Center in Kisii County. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Ongwae attributed Oimeke’s win to grassroots mobilisation, an experienced campaign team and God’s grace.

Political analyst Dismas Mokua said the Bonchari by-election demonstrated that Kisii is a liberal community and that ODM, UDA and Jubilee had a fair chance of winning.

“Voters were not voting for the three top candidates.

“The candidates were merely special purpose vehicles. Governor Ongwae, CS Matiang’i and Deputy President William Ruto were the key determinants,” he said.

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