Disquiet over Ruto's planned tour of Western after State House visit

President William Ruto. He plans to tour Western region next week. [PCS]

A political storm is simmering in Western Kenya over President William Ruto’s planned tour of the region next week.

Leaders from Western have clashed over last Saturday’s visit to State House, Nairobi, in which key politicians from the region were left out. The meeting came ahead of the August 27 visit by the President.

Questions have been raised why Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi and National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula were kept in the dark about the meeting in which Ruto met UDA Secretary General Cleophas Malala and a lean delegation of selected leaders from Bungoma, Kakamega, Vihiga, Trans Nzoia and Busia counties to meet President Ruto.

The delegation comprised MPs Dan Wanyama (Webuye West), Titus Khamala (Lurambi), Mary Emase (Teso South) and Obed Mwale (Sabot), Trans Nzoia Senator Allan Chesang and former Bumula MP Mwambu Mabonga.

Former Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati, Utalii College chairman David Wamatsi and Kenya Union of Nurses Secretary General Seth Panyako were also present.

Others are Kenya Urban Roads Authority chairman Hamis Butich, Butere politician Habil Nanjendo Bushuru, Ken Vitisia from Vihiga and Lugari politician Isaac Andabwa. Conspicuously missing were senior politicians.

Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale kicked up a storm after learning of the meeting and the individuals who made it, questioning the composition of leaders who met the President. He has dismissed them as individuals pursuing selfish interests.

Dr Khalwale reminded the President that Western has Wetang’ula and Mudavadi as the region’s key leaders and that whoever wishes to enter the region ought to go through them.

“There are only three factors in Luhya leadership; Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetang’ula and Boni Khalwale. I would like to tell you, President Ruto, that the gateway to western is Mudavadi, Wetang’ula and myself,” he said.

“Those people we saw at State House are not our leaders, we voted for you, we respect you, we love you, I work for you, I am one of your leaders in the Senate and I would like to tell you (Ruto) ulituomba kura ya raisi tukakuchangia na Mungu ndiye aliamua (you asked for our votes, we gave them to you and God made you President),” said Khalwale.

“I promised the people that our region will not be the same again in terms of development if we elect you. I also told them that as we remove Uhuru Kenyatta from State House and usher you (Ruto), Western will have a chance to produce a President in 2032 as you exit,” he said.

“You cannot plan anything in Western without the input of these senior leaders,” Khalwale said, adding that there could be a plot to undermine Mudavadi and Wetang’ula during Ruto’s tour.

But a buoyant Malala has dismissed Khalwale’s assertions, arguing that long gone are days when some rogue politicians erected hurdles to bar people from meeting the President.

He argued that Khalwale and the senior politicians he mentioned enjoy unlimited access to State House and the President, “but we would like to have people without such privilege to meet and interact with the head of state also.”

He said the delegation was carefully selected and was representative of the expansive region. He said soon he will lead a team of mama mboga, boda boda riders and peasant farmers to State House. Ruto returns to Western amid huge expectations from locals seeking development projects from the Kenya Kwanza government. He will kick off his tour in Bungoma on August 27 with an interdenominational prayer.

Political analyst Barrack Muluka said only Ruto knows what he wants in terms of geopolitics. “As the Luhya community, we should look at it from the context of ‘olukhanya’ (Luhya word for a bunch of firewood tied together)”.

Muluka brings this allegory to demonstrate that if Luhya leaders stayed together like a bunch of firewood tied together, it would be hard to break them.

“In isolation, any one of the Luhya leaders, Mudavadi, Wetang’ula or Malala is weak. It is only when they come together with a view of benefiting the community that Malala’s inclusion in Cabinet will be of use,” Muluka says.

The delegation that met Ruto handed him a wish list of key projects they want him to prioritise. Among them is revival of Mumias and Nzoia sugar companies.

Meanwhile, leaders allied to Azimio from Western have accused the government of intimidating former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

This follows Oparanya’s arrest yesterday together his two wives over what the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission termed theft of Sh1.3 billion while he was serving as governor.

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi claimed that Oparanya was being targeted in a calculated move to kill Azimio in Western Kenya. “Let them arrest him and many other Oparanyas will emerge to continue spreading Azimio gospel,” said the lawmaker.

According to him, the arrest was suspect as it comes barely a week before President William Ruto’s planned tour of Western.