Olive branch? Raila urges Nyanza leaders to attend Ruto functions
Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader Raila Odinga has signalled a ceasefire with President William Ruto after he hosted Nyanza leaders on Wednesday and rallied them to welcome the Head of State in Homa Bay and Siaya.
Today, the President begins a two-day visit of the two counties for what is officially packaged as a development tour but which has heavy political undertones given his last tour of Homa Bay saw some of Mr Odinga’s allies give his events a miss.
President Ruto is today expected in Homa Bay, which is led by Governor Gladys Wanga, who skipped the President’s visit last October. Tomorrow, he will head to Siaya, Mr Odinga’s home county, now under the stewardship of Governor James Orengo.
In the meeting with politicians from the two counties in Nairobi, Mr Odinga advised them to embrace the Head of State during his visit for the sake of development.
Mr Odinga has refused to accept President Ruto defeated him in the elections, insisting the vote was rigged and accusing the electoral commission of bungling the polls.
This hardline position has seen his close allies, especially from the Nyanza region, keep the President and his ruling coalition’s allies at arm’s length.
Yesterday, Rangwe MP Lilian Gogo, who was at the Wednesday meeting, told the Nation: “It was agreed that we travel and welcome the President.”
ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya said that although he did not attend the meeting, he was privy to the deliberations to welcome the President.
“The party leader met leaders from the counties which the President will be visiting today and tomorrow and gave them express permission to host him on his development tour of the area,” Mr Oparanya said yesterday.
The meeting came four days after Mr Odinga reiterated that Azimio governors were free to work with the government and should not be perceived as having defected from the coalition.
“The relationship between the county and national government is in the constitution. The two are distinct but must cooperate and work together. That is why governors must work with the national government; it doesn't mean they are or have defected to UDA or the Kenya Kwanza coalition. The governor has to work with the national government because it’s in the constitution,” Mr Odinga said in Mombasa last Week.
Mr Odinga and President Ruto were fierce opponents in the run-up to the August 9, 2022 elections, which saw their supporters from opposing backyards exhibit hostility towards them.
During President Ruto’s visit to Kisumu county in November 2021, his convoy was stoned in Kondele by perceived Azimio youths.
Mr Odinga’s chopper was also stoned by perceived UDA supporters at Kebenes, Soy Constituency in Uasin Gishu County in April last year.
With the elections now over, Mr Odinga is said to have urged his lieutenants not to shy away from working with the Ruto administration for the sake of development in their jurisdictions.
Unlike last October when the local leaders gave the President a cold shoulder, the situation according to multiple interviews with local leaders will be different today and tomorrow.
Ms Wanga and Mr Orengo are expected to host the Head of State in their respective counties. National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi, who is away on official duty in the US, told the Nation yesterday that the President is free to visit Nyanza anytime since it's part of Kenya.
“The Luo people are known for their hospitality. We also cherish democracy. Ruto and his entourage are therefore most welcome. However, I will personally not be on the ground since I am out of the country,” he said.
Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo said he did not attend the Wednesday meeting in Nairobi but said: “We will host him (President) and table our development requests. In Gem, which I represent, for example, we want land for Odera Akang’o University and construction of a TTI (technical training institute) in Gamba,” Mr Odhiambo said.
“We are sure his visit will be able to generate various projects. We want him to address the Kisumu-Busia road issue and probably have it made a dual carriage in the near future,” Mr Odhiambo added.
His Bondo counterpart Gideon Ochanda said local leaders have been advised by the Azimio leadership not to shy away from the “President’s official visits”.
Mr Odinga’s move gives the President an easy time touring the region and articulating his development plans.
President Ruto will later in the evening tomorrow attend Information, Communication and Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo’s homecoming ceremony in Asembo, Siaya County.