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Musalia Mudavadi, Raila Odinga intensify battle for Western and Nyanza votes

By John Shilitsa and Eric Abuga | May 27th 2022 | 4 min read
Raila Odinga campaigned in Busia County while Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula campaigned in Vihiga County.

The battle for Western Kenya votes has moved a notch higher, with key political players intensifying campaigns in the expansive region.

Azimio presidential flagbearer Raila Odinga and Kenya Kwanza Alliance leaders Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula have been crisscrossing the region since Tuesday in a bid to get a share of the over 2.2 million votes.

They have addressed rallies in Bungoma, Kakamega, Vihiga, Busia and Trans Nzoia counties in a spirited attempt to win over locals barely two months to the August 9 General Election.

Statistics from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) as of December 31, 2021, shows Kakamega had 804,735 votes while Vihiga had 305,974. Busia and Bungoma had 410,676 and 644,366 votes, respectively.

IEBC is expected to complete the inspection and validation of the voter register by Thursday next week.

According to Prof Egara Kabaji from Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST), the region has many votes and residents are never herded like sheep “so each candidate knows that he will get a share of the votes if he plays his cards well.” Prof Kabaji says the people of Western care less about tribal politics as demonstrated in past elections.

Barrack Muluka, a communications strategist, says the fact that Western does not have a presidential candidate of its own, just like the Mount Kenya region, makes it attractive to key political players.

“It is just the beginning, you will see them (politicians) come and go, dangling carrots to woo voters because Western remains a high price competition space and the politicians are excited about the numbers in the region,” said Muluka.

The political analyst cited recent remarks by Mr Odinga, telling the people of Vihiga that Western, which has voted for him overwhelmingly in the past, is his space. “Mr Odinga is claiming control of the region while Mudavadi and Wetang’ula want to ring-fence it,” he said.

According to Muluka, Wetang’ula and Mudavadi are fully aware that in case the region slips away, they will never be able to recover politically.

“In the coming days, you will see Azimio la Umoja and Kenya Kwanza deploy teams all over Western and Central in their spirited attempts to outdo each other.”

Muluka opines that a team formed to coordinate Azimio campaigns in Western, led by Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, may not deliver much.

“Governor Oparanya’s popularity ends in Kakamega South, he has no capacity to sell Azimio across Western while Wamalwa is a liability because he failed to clinch Saboti Constituency seat and ran to Mudavadi who helped him secure a Cabinet slot in the Jubilee government. This is well captured in the former deputy prime minister’s biography,” he said.

Mr Wamalwa has been tasked to deliver Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties where Ford Kenya is the dominant political party. Mr Odinga has been pushing for zoning in Western, a move that will see ODM field candidates in Busia, Kakamega and Vihiga counties and have DAP-K present candidates in the remaining two counties.

Muluka believes Mudavadi and Wetang’ula have what it takes to deliver 60–80 per cent of Kakamega and Bungoma county votes.

He said Vihiga County appears to be pulling in the opposite direction. “The Maragoli people are not strategic and thrive in petty politics, which is a disease in some other Luhya sub-tribes living in Western.” 

Nyanza has remained Mr Odinga’s stronghold for a long time and the region is regarded as the country’s opposition zone.

However, in this year’s General Election, Mr Odinga’s competitors are seeking a share of the region.

Dr Ruto has made a series of visits to Kisii, Nyamira and Migori counties in a bid to woo voters.

South Mugirango MP Sylvanus Osoro says ODM can no longer claim to enjoy majority support in the region.

“We have done enough groundwork and it is only a matter of time before reality strikes,” said Mr Osoro.

He said unlike in the past general elections, more presidential aspirants have gained entry into Nyanza and even other political parties are allowed to field candidates in all elective seats.

“For a very long time we have been told about ODM dominance in Nyanza, this time people want change and this can only happen if we allow other leaders to campaign freely. This is not anybody’s backyard; voters will decide on who they will vote for depending on their manifesto,” he said.

ODM National Treasurer Timothy Bosire, however, says Nyanza is united under Mr Odinga.

“Leaders may come here to campaign but our people must speak in one voice and ensure they give majority votes to our candidate. More than before, our people have resolved that it is not about Nyanza but Kenya. Raila is not a Luo leader but an international brand that has been accepted,” said Mr Bosire. 

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