Uhuru moves to cut Ruto inroads in Western region
After successfully diminishing his deputy William Ruto’s influence in Mt Kenya region, President Uhuru Kenyatta now seems to have trained his guns on Western region where he is keen to dismantle inroads made by the former.
In a meeting with a section of Luhya leaders at Harambee House on Wednesday, the President dangled a dozen goodies to the region as he announced his intended tour of the five counties of Busia, Bungoma, Kakamega, Vihiga and Trans Nzoia that make the Mulembe Nation, immediately the coronavirus curve flattens.
According to a source that attended the meeting, Uhuru and Opposition chief Raila Odinga are determined to plough back any gains made by Ruto in the region that has in previous elections overwhelmingly supported Raila.
Between July 21 and 25, 2020, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i is scheduled to visit proposed and stalled projects in the five counties as a precursor to the President’s tour.
“In our meeting, the President was categorical that he would not like to leave Western behind in his efforts to unite the country and initiate development projects in all corners,” Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) secretary general Francis Atwoli, one of the organisers of the Wednesday meeting, told People Daily yesterday.
Others who attended the meeting were Governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia), Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia), Wilbur Ottichilo (Vihiga) and Wycliffe Wangamati of Bungoma.
Also present were Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, his Agriculture counterpart Peter Munya and Nzoia Sugar Company chairman Joash Wamang’oli.
Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi, embattled Ford-Kenya chief Moses Wetang’ula and Western politicians allied to Ruto did not attend the talks.
Atwoli said the President promised to tour the entire region once the coronavirus pandemic eases.
“He promised to give Western a priority in public appointments when chances arise,” Atwoli said.
The trade unionist disclosed that the delegation was particularly concerned with the few public appointments from the expansive region, an issue the President reportedly promised to address.
“Since the sacking of former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa, we do not have a CS from Western.
And neither do we have a single principal secretary in government. These are some of the things we want the government to address,” Atwoli said.
To this end, Atwoli disclosed that the President promised them more appointments in an impending government reshuffle, particularly in the Cabinet and other senior positions.
Atwoli was, however, quick to clarify that though Wamalwa comes from the Luhya community, he is classified as a Rift Valley resident both geographically and administratively.
Among the goodies lined up for the region which boasts 6.8 million people according to the 2019 population census, is the revival of stalled and struggling projects such as Mumias and Nzoia sugar companies.
Of priority, according to Oparanya, is implementation of the Task Force report on problems ailing the sugar sector.
The leaders requested President Kenyatta to write off debts owed to the two sugar factories together with Pan Paper Mills, as well as initiate intervention measures to revive them.
Oparanya said the region’s economy is threatened by the imminent collapse of industries, especially in the sugar sector.
The once vibrant Mumias Sugar Company is in receivership under the management of the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) over huge debts, while Nzoia Sugar Company is struggling.
“Our meeting discussed development agenda of the region, revitalisation of the region’s economy, completion of stalled development projects, the revival of ailing and collapsed factories and how our people can secure government appointments,” Oparanya disclosed.
He insisted that their team was only out to ensure Western people benefitted from the government and was not seeking political supremacy.
The meeting comes in the wake of a bitter supremacy feud between the Oparanya/Atwoli axis and that fronted by Mudavadi and Wetang’ula over control of the region’s politics.
Both Mudavadi and Wetang’ula have blamed the wrangles apparently engulfing their parties on the Oparanya/Atwoli axis, claims which the latter have dismissed.
Yesterday, Mudavadi did not mince his words about the Wednesday meeting, retorting: “It is part of the wider scheme to divide the Mulembe Nation.
Those empty promises have always been there without being fulfilled and they will always be there.
There is nothing new in their meeting. But let them know that the people of Western will not allow themselves to be used as stepping stones.”
Should the President make good his promise to tour the region, it would be part of his efforts to stop the inroads made by Ruto who had made several trips to the area before the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Last month, the President replaced former Jubilee Chief Whip in the National Assembly Benjamin Washiali, who is also the Mumias MP, with Navakholo MP Emmanuel Wangwe, in a purge on Ruto allies in parliamentary committees.
Also mid last month, police in Kakamega tear-gassed six MPs including Washiali, Didmus Barasa, Mwambu Mabonga, Justus Murunga, Ferdinand Wanyonyi and Mululu Injendi who had converged at the latter’s homestead to discuss what they described as socio-economic issues facing the region. Ruto had been anticipated to attend the meeting though he did not turn up.
Before Wednesday’s meeting, the Oparanya/Atwoli team had held consultations with Raila in Nairobi.
Yesterday, Wamang’oli told the People Daily that President Kenyatta had promised to operationalise the Task Force report on sugar cane as part of his efforts to revive the ailing sector.
He disclosed that the Head of State has directed Munya to move with speed to implement the report.
“As leaders from the region we implored on the President to zero rate local sugarcane and its products. We also raised the issue of sugar imports into the country, which he promised to address,” Wamang’oli said.