Inside Nyanza leaders wishlist for President Ruto

President Ruto

President William Ruto. 

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

Leaders and residents from opposition chief Raila Odinga’s backyard in Nyanza have drawn up a wish list for President William Ruto who will be on a two-day tour of three Luo Nyanza counties starting Friday.

Revival of maritime transport connecting the four riparian counties bordering Lake Victoria, revival of the sugar and cotton industries and completion of the ‘Handshake projects’ top the wish list of locals and leaders.

President Ruto is expected to lead a government delegation to the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader backyard on Friday and Saturday visiting Homa Bay, Kisumu and Siaya as his allies intensify their charm offensive in the region to win the hearts of voters. 

The Head of State will start his tour in Homa Bay County where he is to launch various projects and later spend at the Kisumu State Lodge for the first time ever since he took over reins of power.

In Kisumu, the head of State will be meeting the leaders from the region where a number of demands are likely to be tabled.

On Saturday, he will be in Rarieda Siaya County where he will attend the homecoming party of his ICT and Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo.

The January 14 visit will shed light on the possibility of having the expectations of leaders and residents from the region met.

This comes as the ODM leader gave the governors the green light to work with the government. But at the same time, the region is still reeling from the recent controversial elections that saw their preferred candidate Mr Odinga lose in a hotly contested polls.

During the handshake period between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, there were many projects that were initiated and not completed. They top the wishes of leaders and residents from the region.

Kisumu Deputy Governor Dr Mathew Owili said he is keen on hearing what Dr Ruto has for the region especially on the pending big capital projects.

“We do not really know Dr Ruto’s priority for the region when it comes to development. We are keen to have him commit to us that he will finish what his predecessor with our party leader started which was going to transform the economic fortunes of the region and our people,” said Dr Owili.

He mentioned extension of the SGR to Kisumu, revitalisation of the Kisumu Port, completion of the Koru-Soin dam to stop floods downstream, various crucial road networks and the establishment of Special Economic Zones as some of the projects they want implemented.

To set pace or plan for the meeting, Mr Owalo hosted leaders who were once loyal to M Odinga but have turned to be Ruto’s point men in the region for tea at a hotel in Nairobi.

When asked about the deliberations from the meeting by the Nation, Mr Owalo said: “We were basically having tea and catching up with leaders from the region and comparing notes on the unfolding events from our area.”

The meeting was attended by Former Governors Zachary Obado (Migori), Jack Ranguma (Kisumu), former Senators Fred Outa (Kisumu), Rose Nyamunga (Nominated), and former Odinga advisor turned critic Mr Miguna Miguna.

Others were and former MPs Polynse Ochieng (Nyakach), Martin Ogindo (Rangwe), Edick Anyanga (Nyatike), Silvance Osele (Kabondo Kasipul), Jared Kopiyo and former Lake Basin Development Authority chairman Odoyo Owidi among others.

A fully operational Kisumu Port serving the three East African countries that share Lake Victoria is also in the expectation list of the Nyanza electorate as well as revamping of the feeder ports on the four riparian counties to foster intercountry trade and transport system.

It will be the first time Dr Ruto will be visiting Siaya County after a long time; during campaigns, he did not set foot in the county.

Homa Bay County Commissioner Mr Moses Lilan confirmed that the head of state will mainly visit the county to launch projects funded by the national government.

The visit will however be mixed with politics as the head of state will share the same platform with some politicians who had opposed his leadership in the past regime.

This will be Dr Ruto’ second visit to Homa Bay County after his election as President.

The first one was on October 2, 2022 which was given a wide berth by area leaders allied to Mr Odinga. The Friday meeting will however be different.

Governor Gladys Wanga is said to be among leaders expected to receive the head of state.

On development, the president is expected to commission the construction of affordable houses which will commence with 5, 000 units.

Besides the housing project, President Ruto will officially open a municipal market in Homa Bay town.

Construction of the market was funded by the national government.

Other projects include construction of a non-motorised transport system from Junction Kodoyo to Makongeni through Homa pier and putting up a fish market which will be funded by the State Department of Housing.

While welcoming Dr Ruto to the region, former Nairobi Governor Dr Evans Kidero termed the visit as of great significance to Homa Bay and the entire Nyanza Region as it opens the taps and channels for accelerated development that we so require. 

“There are serious programs that we cannot achieve as people of Homa Bay without forging a working relationship and engaging constructively with the government of the day. These developments are critical to the economic turn-around and will completely open the region for business,” said Dr Kidero.

He wishes that the President prioritizes completion of Oluch-Kimira Small-Holder Irrigation Project, completion of link roads, dredging of the Mbita Causeway and development of Tom Mboya University, with satellite campuses in various parts of the County. 

Bondo lawmaker Dr Gideon Ochanda confirmed he will be attending the meeting by the DP in Rarieda despite not receiving an invitation to place demands for the people of Siaya and Nyanza.

Prior to the August polls, when Mr Odinga’s victory was almost certain, the Nyanza region had a long list of expectations.

“Being a fishing community, I believe that the president will shed light on the possibility of having a fish processing plant within the region, to enhance the earning of the thousands of fishermen,” said Mr Ochanda. 

The Jubilee administration last year commissioned two fish landing sites in Rarieda and Sori in Migori County, with modern cooling machines; however, they have not begun operations.

“We are optimistic that the president will initiate the establishment of a fish processing plant in Nyanza. This will be a major boost to the fishing community,” said Mr Samuel Owino, chairman of Fishermen association in Rarieda.

He added, “We also call upon him to initiate talks with the neighbouring countries of Uganda and Tanzania to avoid the conflicts that we have been having with them.”

Nyanza also hopes for the revival of the Sugar and the cotton industries through Kisumu Cotton Mills (KICOMI).

Cotton farming was once a major cash crop in Alego Usonga and Rarieda sub-county; the industry collapsed back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The sugar industry in Nyanza is also on the verge of collapsing, the majority of sugarcane farmers abandoning sugarcane.

Farmers in Uriri, Awendo and Rongo sub-counties in Migori County, Nyando and Muhoroni in Kisumu in the recent past were forced to uproot their sugarcane and resorted to cultivating alternative crops.

Improvement of the Kisumu Airport to an international standard is also on the expectation list; the locals are optimistic that Kisumu will begin receiving international flights from other countries as well as travel outside Kenya via the airport.

By Rushdie Oudia, Kassim Adinasi and George Odiwuor


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