William Ruto to flag off team to halt Raila Odinga big march in Western

Kenya Kwanza rally preparations at Bukhungu stadium in Kakamega town on June 11, 2022. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The choice of the iconic Bukhungu Stadium to flag off his Western Kenya presidential campaign team as he tours Kakamega today is a sufficient indicator that Deputy President William Ruto is keen to wipe out the gains Raila Odinga has made in the region.

The stadium is where Cotu boss Francis Atwoli led western leaders in the hyped Bukhungu II declaration last December where the region vowed to support Raila’s fifth stint at the presidency, a call that Kenya Kwanza is keen to soil.

“We will be at the venue not only to declare unwavering support for Ruto but also to present the Mulembe wish-list to him. We started small in campaigning for Ruto in the region, kept the pace, and are now on a very good standing,” said Boni Khalwale, a key figure for UDA who is now vying for the Kakamega senator seat.

The meeting comes on the back of an opinion poll showing the popularity of Raila in the swing region had soared above Ruto’s after the former chose Martha Karua as his running mate.

The poll released by Infotrak early in the week places Raila’s popularity at 48 per cent against Ruto’s 23 per cent.

The poll result was disputed by another Ruto key ally in the region and Ford Kenya leader, Moses Wetang’ula, who while on a campaign tour of Busia on Wednesday wondered: “Where is Raila getting the tally when we have no single ODM aspirant in Bungoma for MCA?”

The visit comes also in the wake of the revelation of a secret MOU the region signed with Raila where the region will get three more slots in the Cabinet and the National Assembly Majority Leader’s position.

Western will also get seven principal secretaries, five chief administrative secretaries, 12 ambassadorial positions and 10 parastatal board chairpersons should the Azimio coalition win the August 9 elections.

Raila had initially promised to reward former speaker Kenneth Marende and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya with the Senate speaker and Treasury ministry posts should Azimio form the next government.

Ruto, on the other hand, has promised the Mulembe nation 30 per cent of his government if they manage to deliver 70 per cent of the region’s votes to Kenya Kwanza.

“If we gave former President Mwai Kibaki and Raila about 90 per cent of votes in Western, we are capable of delivering more than the 70 per cent required of us,” said Khalwale as he led a team of Ruto-aligned leaders to inspect the Bukhungu Stadium in readiness for today’s gathering.

Ruto has held meetings in the region - where Raila has enjoyed unwavering support since 2007 - dubbed Economic Forums in which he promised to revive the sugar sector that has been the economic backbone of the region.

Sporting talent

Raila, on the other hand, has given a similar promise to the region, adding that he would as well empower sporting talent from the area associated with great sportsmen if elected president.

Sources in the Ruto camp say Mumias East MP Ben Washiali, who dropped his bid to defend the seat and took on marketing Ruto in the region, will be given “big names to assist him on the demanding assignment”.

The big names expected on the list that will comb the five western counties of Busia, Vihiga, Bungoma, Kakamega and Trans Nzoia are Mudavadi, Wetang’ula, Khalwale and Kakamega senator Cleophas Malala.

The team is expected to counter Azimio’s Western and Nyanza presidential campaign team chaired by Mr Oparanya.

Others from Western alongside Oparanya in the Azimio’s 16 regional teams tasked to sell the Raila-Martha ticket are Wafula Wamunyinyi (Kanduyi MP), Eseli Simiyu (Tongaren MP), George Khaniri (Vihiga senator), Ayub Savula (Lugari MP), Caleb Amisi (Saboti MP ), George Natembeya (Trans Nzoia governor candidate) and Emmanuel Wangwe (MP Navakholo and Jubilee Chief whip).

Also in the group are governors Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia), Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma) and Wilber Otichillo (Vihiga).

Paul Otuoma, former Funyula MP and Busia governor candidate, Florence Mutua (Busia Woman Rep) and Geoffrey Osotsi (nominated MP) complete the 12-person formation.

Shinyalu MP Justus Kizito said there was nothing new Ruto was going to do in Western rather than give empty promises. “He has been the deputy president for about nine years. What will he do for Western as president that he couldn’t do as DP,” asked Kizito. “Our votes as declared in the Bukhungu declaration will go to Raila.”

He said Ruto had retorted to panic campaigns after Raila chose Ms Karua as his running mate: “You saw him in Nairobi meeting women after realising the women vote has left him.”