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Luhya spokesperson to be named today amid division among leaders

By Ignatius Odanga and John Shilitsa | December 31st 2016
COTU secretary General Francis Atwoli to name the Luhya Spokesperson. (Photo:Kipsang Joseph)

A ceremony to name a spokesperson for the Luhya community will finally be held today amid sharp divisions from the region’s top politicians.

The event convened by Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary General Francis Atwoli has elicited mixed reactions from politicians, with some questioning the process through which the spokesman was picked.

Already, FORD Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula and his deputy Boni Khalwale have said they will not attend the function at Kakamega’s Bukhungu Stadium. But Amani National Congress (ANC) Secretary General Godfrey Osotsi confirmed that party leader Musalia Mudavadi will attend.

Osotsi said Mudavadi has always supported efforts to unite the various communities in the region.

“He has passionately supported any initiative aimed at bringing unity among leaders from Western. He is definitely going to join other Kenyans from the larger Western region today at Bukhungu Stadium,” Osotsi said.

But Wetang’ula has condemned the move by Atwoli to announce a Luhya spokesman on the eve of the New Year.

“I wonder who gave Atwoli the mandate to appoint the community spokesman. Which criteria did he use to make the decision? He did not consult leaders in the region. His agenda will not succeed,’’ said the Bungoma senator.

Former Ford Kenya leader Musikari Kombo described the move by Atwoli as an initiative bound to fail since it was “impossible to unite the Luhya nation in a span of six months”.

“What Atwoli is doing is something we tried many years ago and never succeeded,” he said.

Jubilee-allied politicians, among them MPs David Were (Matungu), Ben Washiali (Mumias East) and Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo) will also skip the event.

“How can someone attend a function you have not been invited to?” posed Were.

The group is said to have organised parallel rallies in Mumias to counter Atwoli’s event in Kakamega town.

Two groups of elders — the Council of Elders under the stewardship of Mzee Masinde and Luhya Elders Forum chaired by former Cabinet Minister Burudi Nabwera — have disagreed over today’s event.

“It is our prayer that for once, the search for peace and unity will be appreciated and accepted by all. This will offer us the way forward politically and economically,” said Masinde.

More divisions

But Nabwera said the planned naming of a Luhya spokesman will create more divisions within the community.

However, Atwoli is confident that the event will be successful. He said he traversed the entire region to consult politicians, elders, opinion leaders and locals on the spokesman.

“Watch out for the outcome. I am 100 per cent sure we shall succeed. I have traversed the region and consulted widely,” he added.

Veteran politicians, civil societies and the clergy are expected at the event. Transport has been organised for thousands of residents from the various parts of the region wishing to attend the function. They will be ferried to the venue in hired buses.

“Elders led by Mzee Philip Masinde, legislators and at least two governors have confirmed they will be here today to witness the unveiling of the spokesperson,” said Atwoli.

The two governors are Busia’s Sospeter Ojaamong and his Kakamega counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya.

Oparanya said he will grace the occasion in his capacity as host governor but castigated the methodology used to find the spokesperson. “I will be there in person though I don’t subscribe to the idea of naming a Luhya spokesperson because people have not been consulted about it,” he said.

Nonetheless, Atwoli is adamant that today will mark the first step in the search of elusive Luhya unity. Those backing him argue that he has taken a bold step being a non-politician “It has to begin somewhere and I think Atwoli’s gesture is critical,” said Tom Shivaji an elder from Shinyalu.

The ceremony comes amid talk of a super alliance that will bring the opposition together ahead of the 2017 polls.

The alliance is being championed by Mudavadi.

It remains to be seen how the naming of a Luhya spokesperson will shape the politics of the Western region.

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