Questions have emerged over government’s commitment to enforcing Covid-19 regulations in western Kenya, which has become a stomping ground for politicians.
While some politicians seem to be enjoying State security while holding public gatherings, others have been on the receiving end, with police accusing them of not adhering to public health regulations on the coronavirus.
On Saturday, some politicians led by former Kakamega Senator Bonnie Khalwale were teargassed at the home of Hamisi MP Charles Gimose. Police said the group, which is allied to Deputy President William Ruto, had not adhered to the regulations.
While the scuffle was unfolding at the MP’s home, governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Wilber Ottichilo (Vihiga), Sospeter Ojaamong’ (Busia) and Wycliffe Wangamati of Bungoma and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugine Wamalwa were meeting teachers from Kakamega County at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology under tight security.
The governors’ meeting was attended by more than 1,000 teachers while the meeting that was disrupted had about 50 people in Mr Gimose’s compound.
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Western Region Commissioner Ann Ng’etich yesterday maintained that the disruption of political gatherings was in line with the law. Ms Nge’etich said the Covid-19 guidelines should be followed regardless of who is hosting a meeting.
“Covid-19 containment measures must be followed by all. Enforcement should be done across board and as security agencies, we are not selective in enforcing the law,” she said.
The top security officer in the region could not, however, explain why other meetings were being disrupted as others go on.
In Bungoma, another political group, Mulembe Youth Movement, was at the home of ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna meeting youths from the county. Security was provided without disruption.
Ms Ng’etich explained that laxity of some officers may have allowed the Oparanya-Wamalwa meetings to take place.
“All I know is we are not allowing any gatherings. The decision to bar individuals from holding meetings is not political,” she said.
This was the second time police were lobbying tear gas at inside an MP’s home. Last month, Malava MP Malulu Injendi’s home was a battle ground when he tried to host other MPs. As his home was raided by officers, the Oparanya team was in Bungoma meeting with elders to drum up support for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). Two weeks ago, Lugari MP Ayub Savula was arrested in Butere, accused of flouting the Covid regulations. No charges were pressed.
Mr Savula was on his way to an vent in Busia where ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi and his Ford Kenya counterpart Moses Wetang’ula were meeting Busia leaders and elders. On the same day, the Wamalwa team was in Vihiga meeting elders and professionals. Speaking to journalists on the Hamisi incident, Vihiga Police Commander Leonard Omolo said he will not allow political meetings, although on Friday he had allowed Oparanya to hold a meeting in Luanda.
Meetings by politicians seeking to a slice of the vote-rich Western region has seen the two teams traverse the region to solidify their support base ahead of 2022 polls. The Wamalwa team denies being part of a plot to block Mudavadi and Wetang’ula’s presidential ambitions.
“We only have two years to transform the region and when time for politicking comes, we shall tell you. We don’t want to be Luhya spokesmen since we are already in power. By 2022, we shall have revived collapsed sugar factories, built hospitals among other stalled projects,” said Wamalwa on Saturday.
He added: “From next week (today), we shall be hosting Cabinet Secretaries for Mining, Water, Agriculture, Health and Transport. They are bringing development projects. This are the fruits of working with the government.”
Tongaren MP Eseli Simiyu told Mudavadi to join the Wamalwa-Oparanya faction, saying he risks being sent to political oblivion if he continued working with Wetang’ula.
The group that was dispersed in Vihiga accused the government of using draconian rules to silence anyone associated with DP Ruto and Mudavadi by denying them their right to assemble. They claimed that whereas other leaders from the region are allowed to hold meetings of more than a thousand people, they cannot converge no matter how few they are.