Why Kakamega is running away from Raila

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ODM leader Raila Odinga.

The support enjoyed by Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga in Kakamega County could be slipping away after some close allies announced plans to embrace President William Ruto’s administration.

Three ODM MPs – Titus Khamala (Lurambi), Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo) and Bernard Shinali (Ikolomani) – have stepped up their campaigns to chart a new political direction after the August 9 General Election, declaring that residents of the region will benefit from the government if they work closely with President Ruto.

Although they have maintained that they are not planning to defect from ODM, the MPs said they did not need permission from anybody to meet President Ruto and embrace his administration. 

But they said they were planning town hall meetings in the county to explain to residents why it was important for all elected leaders to embrace President Ruto’s administration so that the region does not end up languishing in the political cold.

Mr Odinga won in Kakamega County in the last elections, garnering 357,857 votes against Dr Ruto’s 141,166.

ODM clinched nine out of the 12 parliamentary seats in the county, while ANC won the Malava and Shinyalu seats.

But two months after President Ruto was sworn into office, the political wave in the region is beginning to change, with some MPs shifting their focus to the Kenya Kwanza administration, arguing that they were under pressure from their constituents to work with the new administration.

Mr Khamala has been vocal about meeting President Ruto, whom he described as a personal friend.

“The election period is over and I want to meet President Ruto and work with him to ensure the people of Kakamega County are not left in the cold as the new administration settles down to work,” he said.

Mr Wangwe, the chairman of the Public Investment Committee in the National Assembly, said those questioning why they had met President Ruto had nothing to offer. 

Mr Khamala said without elaborating: “Power is never given. Power is taken and the three of us want to take power.”

The remarks appear to signal the quest by the MPs to push for a shift in the political direction in the region as they chart the new path to embrace President Ruto’s administration.

Mr Wangwe, for his part, said: “Kenya has only one President (William Ruto). If we don’t move close to him, we will continue waiting [in the] queue for our turn as other communities have their share of the cake from the government.

“We want to make it clear that we have been sent by those who elected us to talk to the President and work with him.”

Mr Shinali said that after they met President Ruto on November 11 at State House, he directed that contractors who had delayed the tarmacking of key roads in the region should be replaced and the projects should be ready by December.  

The three MPs met President Ruto with former Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali.

They said they had decided to meet President Ruto to seek his intervention on major projects in the region that were initiated by the national government and have them completed. 

Some of the projects are the tarmacking of the C41 Lurambi-Ingotse-Navakholo-Musikoma and the Ibokolo-Malaha-Nambacha-Navakholo roads, and the construction of a gold refinery at Lidambitsa in Ikolomani constituency.

Mr Shinali, the chairman of the parliamentary caucus of MPs from Kakamega County, said they were ready to welcome President Ruto to the region so that he could inspect some of the projects.

The MPs said the season for political campaigns had ended and the focus should shift to development issues.

“We do not want to be leaders who articulate our issues at funerals because we have decided to stick in the opposition. We want to meet President Ruto anytime and discuss with him our development agenda,” Mr Shinali said.

The MPs said they had asked President Ruto to ensure that the rehabilitation of the Kakamega Airstrip is completed.

Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa said he planned to meet President Ruto to seek support for the completion of the stalled Kakamega County Teaching and Referral Hospital.

The county government has spent Sh2.5 billion on phase one of the project, which is expected to cost more than Sh8 billion.

Last week, former Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya, speaking at a funeral, said the time had come for Mr Odinga to reciprocate the support he has enjoyed by backing him for the presidency in 2027.

“You all know I have sacrificed a lot and remained firm in support of Mr Odinga for many years, hoping he would clinch the presidency,” he said.

“But since this did not happen on August 9, I’m asking him to give me the opportunity to contest the presidency in the next General Election.”


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