Which way Western as Raila, Ruto battle for region votes intensifies?

ODM leader Raila Odinga during the Azimio La Umoja rally Kakamega chapter at Bukhungu Stadium on December 31, 2021. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

ODM leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto have used the delay of the One Kenya Alliance in announcing their presidential candidate to gain ground in Western Kenya.

And that has effectively hit Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi’s support base, making his task of delivering a united vote from the region difficult.

Suspicion has been rife after rumours emerged that the two leaders from Western, Mudavadi and Ford-Kenya leader Moses Wetangula were in talks with Ruto although confidants says no such meetings have taken place.

A Ford Kenya MP told Sunday Standard that they know their supporters are getting anxious but they are waiting for Musalia to launch his presidential bid.

“I know they (OKA) are determined to have a third horse on the ballot but there is a lot of pressure now being exerted by other political forces in the region,” said the second term MP.

Mudavadi has kept people guessing over which partnership he will work with as he insists on running for President under the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) banner.

“I have the freedom of associating with other leaders but rumours that I will form a coalition with Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) are not true,” said Mudavadi.

The region will in the next few months be bombarded with high octane politics by all political forces wooing it.

Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli announced that they will hold rallies in all counties in the Western soon to ensure that all votes go to Raila and candidates vying on the Azimio la Umoja movement ticket.

He was reacting to Ruto’s latest forays in the region, telling the DP that Western Kenya is sealed for Azimio and it is a waste of time even if he visited the area 20 times per week.

“We are going to have rallies in each and every county and that is when he will realise that those who are cheating him that he will get votes there are just after something else,” said Atwoli.

But having kicked off his campaigns in the area almost three years ago after he decamped with almost all Jubilee MPs, Ruto appears to be increasing his campaign tempo.

Apart from Navakholo MP Emmanuel Wangwe and Ikolomani’s Bernard Shinali who are in Azimio, other Jubilee MPs like Mwambu Mabonga (Bumula), Didimus Barasa (Kimilili)

and Dan Wanyama (Webuye West) are in UDA.

Ruto has also made his presence felt in Busia especially in Teso where his United Republic Party (now defunct) won two seats in 2013 and in Budalang’i through CAS Ababu Namwamba.

Political analyst Martin Andati argues that Ruto may have noticed that he needs support from Mudavadi and Wetangula to reach his target of 50 per cent plus 1 threshold to win the presidency.

“He is now rallying the youth and other masses in the region to put pressure on the two leaders to work with him because he knows they will deliver the numbers he needs,” said Andati.

Over the last two months, Ruto has changed tack by repeatedly asking people at his rallies if they want him to work with “omwami Mudavadi and omwami Weta” to form the next government instead of attacking them.

Andati also attributes Ruto’s intensified campaigns in Western to the Azimio brigade in the region turning their guns against Mudavadi and Wetangula, while hoping that Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya, Atwoli and Eugene Wamalwa will deliver victory for Raila.

And so, that makes Ruto the only possible suitor for the duo, should they decide to join another alliances if the OKA option fails in its quest of creating a third force.

Mudavadi is expected to launch his presidential campaign later this month, long after all other key players apart from Ruto convened their national delegates meetings in Nairobi.

Analysts argue that his passive approach and delay in launching his campaign has also created an opportunity that Ruto has seized.

Ruto never took a break during Christmas and New Year and used the opportunity to run around Western saying that he was in the region with Musalia’s blessings.

Asked if the Oparanya, Atwoli, Eugene team will have a big impact in directing how the region votes, Andati says it will be difficult because of their diminished political clout.

“Oparanya is the Second Deputy Party Leader in ODM which is Raila’s party and both Atwoli and Eugene do not have any elective positions which makes it difficult for them to convince the masses,” says Andati.

Interestingly, all the three — Oparanya, Eugene and Atwoli — will not vie for any position but sources within their ranks claim the governor and the CS will be angling for appointments in the Azimio Movement government.

The most challenging task for Oparanya now is to ensure that he delivers the community as a bloc to Raila and also negotiates for the region’s interests should the ODM leader take power now that he is the Luhya spokeman.

That is a huge task for the governor because of the big forces he is facing, among them the UDA onslaught in the area and the indifference of the two regional kingpins Mudavadi and Wetangula.