Race to succeed Siaya Governor Rasanga gathers pace with aspirants weighing in

Siaya Senator James Orengo with Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo at the burial of mama Elizabeth Donde in Gem Siaya County. (Collins Oduor, Standard)

The race to succeed Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga is rapidly gathering momentum. Key Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga’s lieutenants are interested in the seat in what is already setting the stage for a battle of the titans in his backyard.

At the weekend, political temperatures flared when former police spokesman Charles Owino, who has expressed interest in the seat as well as MPs fronting Senator James Orengo stated their cases.

Owino’s position in the police service has now formed a campaign agenda against his candidature. During the burial of former Gem MP Joe Donde’s wife yesterday, MPs Samuel Atandi and Elisha Odhiambo renewed their criticism on Owino’s quest.

The leaders claimed that Owino does not have the mettle to succeed Rasanga and criticised him for failing to defend the public as a police officer during past cases of police brutality, especially during the 2013 and 2017 general elections.

Mr Atandi (Alego Usonga) claimed Owino has no authority to say he is seeking the county’s top seat to help Raila clinch the presidency yet he was in Nairobi in 2017 when ODM votes were allegedly stolen and never offered any help.

“When they were stealing Raila’s votes in Nairobi, he was just there and now he is coming here to Siaya claiming he wants to help him from here. We will not allow such lies,” said Atandi.

Atandi told Owino to focus on seeking votes wisely. “You cannot start preaching to us that you are an angel sent from above to Siaya people. Let us look for votes without insulting our opponents,” he noted.

Owino, who also attended the burial, however, steered away from the succession debate even though he confirmed that he was in the race for the long haul. The long-serving National Police Service Spokesperson was moved to the Kenya National Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons as a deputy director earlier this year.

The career civil servant has, however, not made it clear which party he will use  but is said to be keen on battling other Raila foot soldiers for ODM’s ticket.

He is on record asking ODM to conduct fair primaries for the gubernatorial aspirants when the time comes. About two weeks ago, Owino described Orengo’s interest in the seat as a betrayal to Raila and claimed that the Siaya senator should stick to national politics.

Yesterday, Orengo urged those keen on the seat to sell their agenda peacefully devoid of insults. “Anybody running for any seat I wish you well. Do not be scared of me. I am your friend,” said Orengo.

The Siaya County top seat has also attracted Deputy Governor James Okumbe, Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, who is yet to declare his interest, and former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo.