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Western charts own path without Raila

President William Ruto with Prime CS Musalia Mudavadi, Busia Governor Paul Otwoma and Health CS Susan Nakhumicha, among other Western Kenya leaders, at Busia County Referral Hospital, August 26, 2023. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

For close to three decades, Azimio leader Raila Odinga has enjoyed a fanatic following in the Western region.

Mulembe Nation has wholeheartedly supported Raila in his five unsuccessful stabs at the presidency in 1997, 2007, 2013, 2017 and 2022.

But Raila’s waning support in the region dates back to March 2018, after removing Moses Wetang’ula as Senate minority leader.

“If anyone wants a divorce, it will be messy, it will be noisy, it will be unhelpful, and it will not be easy. It will have causalities,” Wetang’ula told Raila.

At that point, Raila was enjoying a cordial relationship with President Uhuru Kenyatta. Wetang’ula promised him ‘political revenge’. ‘Be prepared. We shall serve our revenge in small but lethal doses,” warned the Ford Kenya party chief.

A bitter fallout between Raila on one side, Wetang’ula and Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader Musalia Mudavadi ensued and the then National Super Alliance (NASA) split. The two joined forces with President William Ruto and went on to win the 2022 presidential race.

Mudavadi was appointed Prime Cabinet Secretary, with Wetang’ula becoming the National Assembly Speaker. Raila remained in the trenches.

“When I was removed as Senate Minority leader, I said we shall have casualties. Raila became the biggest casualty. I told him (Raila) we shall revenge in small, calculated measures but painful doses, and it happened,” said Wetang’ula in Bungoma during a church service on Sunday.

President Ruto, his deputy Rigathi Gachagua, Mudavadi, and COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli graced the event attended by governors from Western and a host of lawmakers. Wetang’ula told the Mulembe Nation to unite and work together by charting a new political future ‘without Raila’  and support Ruto’s government to open the gateways for goodies and development projects.

He said the region secured two key appointments, that of Humphrey Wattanga as Commissioner-General of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Renson Mulele as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), among others, as a kind gesture for supporting Ruto’s election.

Wetang’ula said they are still lobbying for more appointments “but as a region, we need to see the light and vote wisely in 2027 to benefit more from the government of the day.”

“I come before you my brothers and sisters, with humility. Our unity of purpose will make a difference, and that unity will not come if we continue insulting one another. We may not be the very best you have, but we’re the ones you have, and just accept, that’s how you heal,” said Wetang’ula.

He added: “What’s important is to get government appointments, flagship projects and the revival of the sugar sector to grow our region. We cannot continue supporting politicians who, after ascending to power, forgot the “Mulembe Nation.”

Mudavadi echoed Wetang’ula’s sentiments, saying “Western region was against Ruto’s candidature, but he loves you, and that is why he is ready to give us development projects.”

“Let’s not waste time in opposition, let’s close ranks and come together,” argued Mudavadi. Gachagua told the Luhya community unless they fix their politics as a region and come together, “you won’t get any development.”

He urged the community to unite and defend its territory the way Central Kenya has been doing by rallying behind Mudavadi and Wetang’ula.

“We in Central have many sub-ethnic clans, and we have our problems, but when it comes to voting, we do it as a bloc, the reason we have a bigger say in government,” said Gachagua.

Azimio governors led by Paul Otuoma (Busia), Fernandes Barasa (Kakamega) and Wilber Ottichilo have pledged to work with Ruto.

“You have given us a housing project, and you are now launching tarmacking of roads and writing off Mumias Sugar debts. That’s what we want. As people of Kakamega, we are with you in government 100 per cent. We finished elections, and it’s time to work,” said Governor Barasa.

Dr Ottichilo said the Bottom-up Economic Transformation Agenda (Beta)’ was a noble idea enshrined in devolution, saying it was the main reason they would work with the government 100 per cent.

“Politics is about people and economic empowerment. Let’s plan for ‘ourselves’ and when we ‘come together, we shall make a big change’. Ruto means well for us,” said Mr Otuoma.