Planned Bukhungu meeting on BBI splits Luhya leaders
Emeka-Mayaka Gekara and Enock Amukhale
Political leaders from the Luhya community are divided down the middle over the planned January 18 meeting at Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega aimed at discussing the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) taskforce report.
A section of the politicians led by Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader Musalia Mudavadi are warning that the meeting is bent on being used to whip up ethnic emotions for the political gain of certain individuals.
On the other hand, a faction led by Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, who is one of the organisers of the meeting, says the event is meant to give wananchi a platform to air their views on the BBI report.
The Bukhungu meeting was mooted at a Boxing Day dinner at the Khwisero residence of Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) secretary general Francis Atwoli, attended by ODM leader Raila.
Luhya leaders opposed to it are jittery on learning Raila was in the meeting that planned the event, and is also expected to address the Bukhungu rally.
Atwoli is spearheading the January 18 meeting.
“We will put our emphasis on BBI proposals, especially on expansion of the Executive with introduction of a powerful prime minister and two deputies,” said Oparanya after the dinner, adding that the event will be a national government function.
Leaders opposed to the meeting have questioned Atwoli’s role in preparing a national government function, with murmurs it could be used as a platform to advance Raila’s presidential ambitions as well as hoist Oparanya as the Luyha spokesman.
Yesterday, Mudavadi said while debate on the BBI report was healthy, it should not be used to serve political interests.
“Anybody is welcome to discuss the BBI but the meeting should not be used as tool to heighten ethnic sentiments. The BBI should not be an ethnic debate but one on national issues,” he told People Daily in an interview.
“Politicians should not use the BBI for ethnic mobilisation across the country. Nobody has approached me and I was not part of those who mooted the meeting. If they have failed to persuade people on the logic of their meeting, they should not blame me,” he added.
Impose a leader
Other leaders opposed to the meeting include Ford Kenya leader and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, Luhya Council of Elders led by veteran politician Philip Masinde and former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale.
Wetang’ula said they were not consulted on the planning and the agenda of the meeting.
“We want Luhyas to be given a chance to choose their leaders and not what Atwoli is doing. Someone cannot sit in his house with other brokers and decide for the Luhyas. All leaders must be consulted and be given the chance to decide who should be their choice,” said Wetang’ula
The senator warned that the meeting was planned with intention of imposing a leader on the Luhya community.
But Oparanya defended the meeting, saying it will draw delegates from all Western Kenya counties.
The meeting is touted as the biggest BBI event since the launch of the report at the Bomas of Kenya late last year.
Addressing residents of Emuhaya, Vihiga county, Oparanya said the meeting would go on as planned despite the opposition. He asked those opposed to it to stay away.
“Those spreading mischief that the meeting is meant to endorse a Luhya political kingpin are misplaced,” he said.
The four provinces that form the former Western Province, in addition to the neighbouring Trans Nzoia have a combined voting bloc of 2.3 million voters.
Official figures documented by IEBC indicate that in the 2017 General Election Kakamega had 746, 872 voters, Bungoma (559, 485) Busia ( 347, 911) Vihiga ( 267, 481) and Trans Nzoia (339, 832).
There is a growing perception on the ground that Raila is using Atwoli and Oparanya to re-ignite his presidential bid in the 2022 election. Raila’s comments on a local TV station that the 2013 Nasa deal has become irrelevant since it did not achieve its purpose has been interpreted as dishonouring his Nasa co-principals while in the same vein declaring his candidacy with Atwoli and Oparanya as his Trojan Horses.
Western region has steadily backed Raila’s bid in 2007, 2013 and 2017, prompting calls that he backs a Luyha candidate in the 2022 election.
Members of the Maragoli Council of elders known as Imbinga ya Mulogooli in Vihiga county also opposed the Bukhungu meeting. Speaking in Chavakali, organising secretary Joseph Magodzwi accused Atwoli of hawking the community for selfish gains. The elder claims the planned meeting is not a BBI discussion but a plan to create political platform for Raila.