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Francis Atwoli sent to negotiate with other regions for Western's good

By Nathan Ochunge | October 12th 2021

Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli with some of the Western leaders at Kakamega Golf Hotel on Sunday. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

A section of leaders from the western region has picked Central Organisation of Trade Unions Secretary-General Francis Atwoli to lead talks with other communities and advise on the political direction.

The leaders passed the resolution at a sitting convened by Atwoli in Kakamega town yesterday.

Governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Wilber Ottichilo (Vihiga), Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma) and Sospeter Ojaamong’ (Busia) graced the occasion attended by at least 18 elected MPs and senators from the region.

Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, who was made the Luhya spokesman in December 2016 at Bukhungu Stadium by Atwoli; and Ford-Kenya party leader Moses Wetang’ula did not attend yesterday’s meeting.

Mr Ottichilo read out the meeting’s resolutions. “That Dr Francis Atwoli shall coordinate and help the community negotiate our stakes and be part of next government,” he said.

According to Ottichilo, during the seven-hour meeting, they unanimously agreed that the “Mulembe nation” would speak with one voice but not entertain any leader who does not work with other leaders in the quest to form the next government.

He said they agreed that the region strives to form or be part of the next government.

“The community, through Atwoli, shall immediately start to negotiate with the leading presidential contender in the handshake team, with the view of agreeing on the strategic engagement and stakes the community shall have in the next government,” said Ottichilo.

He said before the Bukhungu (II) meeting scheduled for December 31, they would have decided who their preferred presidential candidate will be.

ODM leader Raila Odinga is the said leading contender for the presidency in the handshake team.

ODM leader Raila Odinga. [File, Standard]

The leaders also agreed to work on modalities of raising campaign money to support the preferred presidential candidate and mobilise locals to register as voters.

Atwoli said time had come for the region to unite and cast their votes in one basket in the next polls.

“Western leaders are united than ever before, and I want to assure the community that come next year, we shall vote as a bloc in favour of one candidate who will form the next government,” said Atwoli.

“All parties were represented in the meeting, and nobody should say this was an ODM affair. We are not alienating anyone from the political mainstream as the meeting was not based on personalities. We shall even talk to Mudavadi.” But Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala dismissed the leaders for endorsing Atwoli to sit at the negotiating table ahead of the 2022 polls, saying Mudavadi was the community’s spokesperson.

“We, Mulembe nation, have Mudavadi as our spokesman, and that has not changed. We are not in the business of negotiating with anyone looking for the presidency since we have Mudavadi as the bona fide presidential candidate,” said Mr Malala, adding that the ANC leader had made it clear that he would not play second fiddle to anyone.

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala. [Courtesy]

In the last polls, data from the IEBC shows that Kakamega County had 743,736 registered voters, Vihiga 272,409, Busia 351,048, Bungoma 559,850, and Trans Nzoia 339,622, totalling 2.27 million.

At least 516,555 identity cards had been processed and issued in Western between 2017 and October 2021, according to Western Region Registrar of Persons Samuel Sagala.

Kakamega leads with 189,236 IDs issued, followed by Bungoma, with 168,842. Busia and Vihiga counties had 90,360 and 68,117 IDs processed and issued respectively, according to Sagala.

The officer has indicated that they intended to process and issue an additional 144,480 new IDs in the next three months. If the new ID holders will register as voters, then the Western region will have at least 2.93 million voters.

Buoyed by the projections, local political heavyweights believe they stand a chance to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Mudavadi and former Cabinet Secretary Mukhisa Kituyi have encouraged the youth in the region to register as voters and take an active role in the next elections.

Former Cabinet Secretary Mukhisa Kituyi. [Courtesy]

Raila and Deputy President William are also determined to get a share of the votes. Raila and Dr Ruto have intensified their inroads in the Western vote-rich bloc. After visiting Bungoma last weekend, Raila was in Vihiga on Saturday.

“The mouth-watering numbers in Western make the region a battleground in the coming polls. Just like Central, Western could play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of 2022 General Election,” says Emmanuela Mulaa, a political scientist from the University of Nairobi.

“If Mudavadi can play his cards well and the region backs his candidature as a bloc, he will have a bigger bargaining power at the negotiating table when positions are shared out,” she added.

Ms Mulaa argues that politicians seeking higher offices have used the region’s numerical strength in the past to achieve their goals. 

“Western has always been seen as a swing vote region with residents divided along political lines every electioneering period,” said Mulaa. 

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