Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya has stepped up Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition campaigns in the county to counter the Kenya Kwanza onslaught as the battle for the governor’s seat intensifies.
Mr Oparanya announced that Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga is expected to kick off his campaigns in the region on July 9.
He joined the campaign forays to try to step up the momentum of the governor’s contest following a sustained push from the rival Kenya Kwanza camp.
Mr Fernandes Barasa, a former managing director of Ketraco, is battling it out with Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala for the governor’s seat.
Mr Barasa has been on the campaign trail but has struggled to pull in crowds to his rallies in some areas.
The entry of Governor Oparanya and other Azimio leaders and candidates appears to have dramatically shifted the ground, opening up a tight race for the seat.
Senator Malala (ANC), who is facing a legal challenge over his academic qualifications, has traversed Kakamega’s 12 sub-counties to popularise his bid. He has promised to address unemployment among the youth and create a special fund to advance loans to small-scale traders.
Not forcing anyone to withdraw bid
Governor Oparanya said candidates from parties in the Azimio coalition will not be forced to withdraw from the race in support of preferred candidates.
“Let candidates who are in Azimio fight out for the seats and meet at the ballot [box] on August 9. There will be no zoning in Kakamega …,” said Mr Oparanya at a rally at the Mutoma grounds in Butere constituency.
What is important for Azimio in the region, he said, was to intensify the vote hunt for Mr Odinga to ensure he clinches the presidency.
Sibling rivalry between ODM and DAP-K in Western region has played out at campaign rallies, creating confusion among supporters of the coalition.
Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said plans by Azimio to zone off some regions in favour of certain candidates would not work.
Mr Wamalwa told DAP-K candidates when he spoke in Busia on Sunday that they would not be forced to withdraw from the race on account of the Azimio leaders’ plan to drop “weak” candidates to avoid losing seats to rival parties.
“I want to assure all DAP-K candidates that they are free to campaign freely, since no one will force them out of the race,” said Mr Wamalwa.
Governor Oparanya’s move is meant to calm tension in the Azimio camp in the region and ensure candidates focus on campaigns for Mr Odinga.