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Raila banks on Mau debate to win Maa votes

ODM leader Raila Odinga at Olaro Hotel, Ongata Rongai, Kajiado County, with a delegation from the Maa community. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

ODM leader Raila Odinga yesterday reignited debate on the controversial Mau Forest reclamation that significantly cost him the Rift Valley votes in the 2013 General Election.

Speaking during a meeting with members of the Maa community from Kajiado, Narok and Samburu at a hotel in Rongai, Kajiado North constituency, yesterday, Raila said he will champion for the conservation of the Mau and Aberdare water towers.

“We must however remain focused on long-term solutions that would lift the Maasai and other pastoralist communities from cycles of drought, floods, famine, poverty and marginalisation. That means we must be unapologetic in preserving our water towers like the Mau and the Aberdares and planting more trees to green the land and raise our forest cover. In the interest of pastoralists, we must preserve and protect the environment,” said Raila.

He said Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko and governors from the Maa community have his support on reclamation of the water towers.

“Very soon, I will return to this agenda to green our land and restock our forest to safeguard livelihoods. Maasai lands are part and parcel of our plan to transform rural Kenya,” said Raila.

The ODM leader’s decision to revisit the Mau reclamation is seen as a huge political gamble that could help him win over the Maa vote that is heavily divided between him and the Deputy President.

Raila was accompanied by Tobiko, Kajiado Governor Joseph ole Lenku, Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina, Kajiado Central MP Elijah Memusi and his Suna East counterpart, Junet Mohamed, former National Assembly Speaker Francis ole Kaparo and other community leaders from the three constituencies. 

This comes a day after Ruto held a meeting Maa leaders led by Kajiado Senator Phillip Mpaayei, MPs Katoo ole Metito (Kajiado South), George Sunkuyia (Kajiado West), Gabriel Tongoyo (Narok West), Nixon Korir (Lang’ata), George Theuri (Embakasi West) and Mary Senata (Nominated).

During the Rongai meeting, Raila said the government should ensure the Maasai get reliable, efficient and quality healthcare services and efficient veterinary services. 

ODM leader Raila Odinga speaks to Maa delegates at a hotel in Rongai, Kajiado North. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

“It is my hope that the government is currently making plans for these initiatives, including livestock off-take by the Kenya Meat Commission and borehole drilling should the situation demand. We appreciate the critical first step the president took recently of declaring a drought emergency,” he said.

The ODM leader noted that the Maa community had historically received a raw deal from the government.

“You have unfinished issues of land, marginalisation, human-wildlife conflict, traditions you hold dear that jeopardise your desire to march at the same pace with other communities, environmental degradation and poverty, among others,” he said.

The Maa community endorsed Raila for the presidency describing him as a focused, strategic and a realistic leader.

Memusi, Lenku, Ole Kina, and Kaparo pledged to support Raila. “We want to know what you would be able to do for us, because we are very sure that you will become the next president of Kenya,” said the Narok senator

“We are here as handshake partners to rally our support behind Raila as president. We will walk this road with you because we know we will be well represented,” said the governor.

Memusi urged the community to unite adding that they feel “safer and included” under the leadership of the ODM boss.

Memusi argued that Raila is the only candidate with reforms credentials in the country.

“Unlike others who are solely focused on others and leaving out others, Raila will leave none behind,” said Junet Mohamed.

“I am not in Jubilee nor ODM, I have no party at the moment, but I have a vote and mine is for Raila Odinga. This man will not forsake the Maa. Do not be lied to in broad daylight. Be smart,” said Kaparo.

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