Raila promises growth under 'Azimio la Umoja'

ODM Leader Raila Odinga in Kakamega town after Azimio la Umoja Western Edition. [Emmanuel Wanson,Standard]

ODM leader Raila Odinga on Friday took his Azimio la Umoja (Declaration of Unity) campaign to Western Kenya, explaining to delegates how it will change the country.

Raila, who met delegates from Trans Nzoia, Kakamega, Busia, Vihiga and Bungoma counties in Kakamega town, explained what he would do for the country and Western if elected president next year.

He argued that Azimio holds that no economic model, however perfect, can thrive amidst chaos.

The former premier said the country had failed to register economic and political success because of negative political energy that has for ages crippled growth.

He said Western Kenya's economic potential, just like other parts of the country, had been marred by bad politics.

“Lack of political unity can make a people miss out on important things like the revival of Mumias Sugar Company. MPs from this region rushed to the National Assembly and Senate to stop efforts to revive the giant miller. We learnt that they (politicians) had been influenced by a few bidders at the expense of their own people,” he said.

He went on: “Azimio envisages an environment where the sugar sector can return to profitability rather than being the source of agony to the Western region people because of negative politics.”

Raila praised Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, describing him as one of the “performing governors” who plays good politics.

“He spearheaded efforts to revive Mumias Sugar but negative politics derailed his efforts,” he said.

Away from the large-scale sugarcane farming in the region, Raila's Azimio message targets small-scale farmers, with the promise of a better future.

“We have so many women who engage in indigenous vegetable farming, especially in Vihiga and Khwisero in Kakamega. They grow mrenda, managu and all sorts of local vegetables with rich nutrients and high market demand. Under Azimio, we are looking to help them to go large-scale,” he said.

The concept equally promised to revolutionarise "kienyeji" chicken farming.

The Azimio message seemed to sink in when the ODM leader mentioned Vihiga Queens Football Club and sprint sensation, Ferdinand Omanyala.

Vihiga Queens were crowned the CAF Women Champions and qualified for CECAFA after beating Ethiopia's CBE FC 2-1 on Thursday. Omanyala, on the other hand, smashed the country's 10 seconds record in 100 metres race besides performing spectacularly in the just-ended Tokyo Olympics.

“Jentrix Shikangwa of the Vihiga Queens scored goals at will to be a top scorer; Omanyala is now a world-class athlete and they all come from this region,” said Raila amidst cheers.

He went on: “This region has been consistent in producing sports talents since independence, which goes a long way to show that with support and streamlining, we can produce more world-class material in sportsmen and sportswomen.

Raila, a football lover, regretted the “perpetual struggling ways” of the major community football clubs like AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia.

However, a mention that sports talents would be paid stipends under the Azimio umbrella did not fully answer the question of dealing with the mess and untapped potential in the sector.

Raila said there was need to formalise the mining sector that has largely remained under artisanal miners.

Exploration estimates shows that the Busia-Kakamega gold belt covers some 1,162 square kilometres and that the exploration being done has gold worth at least Sh200 billion.