Calls for Ruto, Raila unity dominate CS Owalo fete

William Ruto

President William Ruto shares a light moment with Siaya Governor James Orengo and Senator Oburu Oginga at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology on January 14, 2023.

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

Calls for unity between President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga dominated the last day of the Head of State’s tour of the Nyanza region.

President Ruto, while promising to work with leaders across the political divide, appealed for an end to hostility and tribalism in order to realise a cohesive nation.

He also promised to ensure that the government provides equitable development to all regions, in spite of how they voted in the close presidential contest last year.

In a speech while attending the homecoming ceremony of his Information, Communication and Technology Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo, the President said he has the responsibility of uniting the country after going through one of the closest presidential elections in Kenya’s history.

Dr Ruto asked residents of the region, which voted almost to a man for Mr Odinga in the August 2022 elections, to rally behind his government.

“Don’t wait for another government. This is the government of Kenya. The 2027 General Election will come but elected leaders have a responsibility to deliver on what they promised Kenyans,” he said.

He went on: “The fact that I got over 25 per cent in 39 of the 47 counties in Kenya is a clear testimony that I have the mandate to unite the country. Let’s not propagate tribalism in the country.”

The President also warned the media against balkanising the country into ethnic blocs, adding that any barrier to any Kenyan wanting to exercise their right in any part of the country should be removed.

The calls for unity had been kicked off by Siaya Governor James Orengo who challenged President Ruto to sit together with Mr Odinga in order to unify the country.

“I ask you to sit together with your brother Raila Odinga. The elections are over and we need to move together as a nation,” said Mr Orengo, one of the closest allies of the opposition leader.

Mr Orengo, who has been by Mr Odinga’s side since the 1990s pro-democracy politics, led a battery of lawyers in arguing for the nullification of President Ruto’s win in the August polls.

In the Supreme Court case, Mr Orengo lost, having won in the same arena in 2017, that time against retired president Uhuru Kenyatta, who would, barely a year later, enter into a ‘handshake’ with Mr Odinga. Mr Kenyatta subsequently backed his fiercest opponent against his then deputy, Dr Ruto, in the August polls.

All that, Mr Orengo said yesterday, were facts of the past, and as responsible leaders, the President and his closest challenger, whom he beat by slightly over 200,000 votes, should “sit together and talk”.

The Siaya governor accused some “irresponsible leaders” of a plan to start talking about 2027 “while Kenyans are waiting for service delivery”.

Taking cue from Mr Orengo, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua assured Mr Odinga’s supporters that the Kenya Kwanza administration will treat the ODM leader with the respect he deserves as a senior statesman.

He also assured members of the Luo community that they will not be abandoned despite not voting for Kenya Kwanza government.

“President Ruto has appointed your people in critical positions and there are many more to come. Let us forge a close working relationship with you as we head to the 2027 General Election,” he said.

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi also noted that the President has the responsibility of serving all Kenyans across the country equally.

On the other hand, Speaker of the National Assembly Moses Wetang’ula urged that President Ruto should be respected as the sole leader of the country.

“The crown is now on President Ruto’s head and needs to be supported to ensure a cohesive country. Let’s walk together,” said Mr Wetang’ula.

On Mr Owalo, the Speaker said: “I have known Mr Owalo for close to 20 years as a humble, determined and focused professional who performs his duty with zeal and passion. I have no doubt in my mind that you will deliver your mandate by serving Kenya as a whole.”

Among other leaders from the county, Mr Odinga’s elder brother, Siaya Senator Oburu Oginga, also attended the over three-hour closed-door meeting with President Ruto after the official opening of a research hub at Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology.

Dr Oginga, however, skipped the Owalo fete.

The President, who stated that he will return to Nyanza soon to implement more projects, said the region is part of his great plan as he seeks to ensure equitable distribution of resources.

Some of the projects the Head of State said are in the pipeline include electricity connection and completion of road projects.

The government has set aside Sh1.2 billion for Ukwala, Sega and Luanda water projects.

Dr Ruto noted that the Siaya-Bondo water project will be completed at a total cost of Sh280 million.

The government will add the county additional 20 tractors to help in ploughing and improve food security.

Governor Orengo urged the President to make his visits to Siaya regular, saying it would help improve the region’s economy.

His sentiments were echoed by Busia Governor Paul Otuoma who requested the President to revamp the sugar sector.

“For over two decades, we have been talking about revamping the sugar sector in Western Kenya and nothing has been done. The sugar industry was once a major source of income for majority of the people from this region. Today, because the industry has collapsed, even the taxes have declined drastically,” said Dr Otuoma.

He further urged the Head of State to consider revamping the textile and the blue economy in the region.

Murang’a Governor Irungu Kang’ata also called on the leaders to work together in harmony in order to improve the social and economic standards of Nyanza residents.

The event was also attended by a host of Cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries, local MPs and former elected leaders.