ODM leader Raila Odinga on Friday received a thunderous welcome in Eldoret, where he held a rally to popularise his Azimio la Umoja (quest for unity) call.
Eldoret, located in Uasin Gishu County, is the political bastion of his rival, DP William Ruto.
During the Azimio la Umoja North Rift chapter meeting, professionals vowed to back the ODM’s boss quest to be the next president.
The leaders and professionals drawn from Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Nandi and Baringo counties in their resolution read by African Development Corporation (ADC) chief executive, Dr William Kirwa, rallied behind Mr Odinga.
They called for unity in the region ahead of the 2022 election and revitalisation of the agriculture sector by lowering production costs.
“We will support Raila Amolo Odinga for the presidency of the Republic of Kenya and this support is pegged on his past and current position. We are convinced that he will take care of our socio-economic aspirations,” read Dr Kirwa, noting that they believe in the ability of Mr Odinga to strengthen devolution and agriculture, which is the lifeline of Rift Valley residents.
Wooing the Rift Valley
In wooing the Rift Valley, a region predominantly known for maize, tea, coffee, cotton, dairy and sugarcane farming, Mr Odinga said his administration will come up with subsidies to lower production cost for farmers as well as stabilise the local market.
He also said his government will honour the Maputo declaration, which says that agriculture needs to get a 10 per cent allocation of the country’s budget.
“We must invest more in agriculture to enable us to create more jobs for our youths. We have to make agriculture look lucrative,” said the ODM chief.
He accused the Jubilee government of failing farmers by incessantly importing maize flooding the local market, noting that importation should only happen when mopping of all local maize has been done.
Mr Odinga went ahead: "During the grand coalition government, we dealt with these issues including the dairy section because when we found that KCC was dead, we revived it and that increased milk prices for farmers. For years, the government has not been keen on the welfare of our cereal growers. They import maize from Uganda and other countries filling government silos at the expense of local farmers."
On the issue of the multi-billion Arror and Kimwarer dams, Mr Odinga said even though funds were embezzled, their constructions should not have been cancelled or downgraded.
He further said there is a need for the revival of fluorspar mining in Elgeyo Marakwet to elevate the economy of those around it.
He was accompanied by Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos and his Kakamega counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya, MPs Junet Mohammed (Suna East), Justus Kizito (Shinyalu), Kanini Kega (Kieni), Stanley Muthama (Lamu West), nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi, ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna, Gender CAS Beatrice Elachi and ODM devolution secretary Kipkorir Menjo.
According to Mr Odinga, the increase of resources to the counties as it was proposed in the thwarted Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), should not be left to the discretion of government but has to be anchored in law for it to be respected by those in power.
Transport operations along the busy Eldoret-Uganda highway were temporarily interrupted as Raila’s entourage entered Eldoret Town with thousands of his supporters lining up and blocking the highway demanding he addresses them.
Police had a hectic time controlling mammoth crowds along the highway.
Mr Odinga addressed crowds outside Barngetuny Plaza and Paradise Hotel where he hit at DP Ruto’s bottom-up approach.
“He is part of the government that promised a laptop for our children but he has now come up with a wheelbarrow and Kazi ni Kazi. What Kenyans need is economic revolution to improve their lives,” said Mr Odinga in an apparent reference to DP Ruto to the applause of the crowd.
He hit out at his critics who claimed he was ‘too old’ to contest for the presidency arguing that his strategy was to uplift the lives of Kenyans by fighting widespread corruption and introducing policies aimed at improving the economy.
Former MPs and envoys Tabitha Seii and Stephen Tarus, ex assistant minister, Dr Joseph Misoi and Elgeyo Marakwet ODM chairman, Micah Kigen also attended the event.
Governor Tolgos promised to lead Mr Odinga's presidential campaign in the region and cautioned against intimidation of voters.
“Everyone is free to join any political coalition and exercise freedom of democracy in electing any presidential candidate,” said Governor Tolgos, who led the BBI agenda in the region.
Governor Oparanya called for eligible voters to register in the ongoing exercise and vote wisely.
“As we advocate for unity, there is a need to intensify voter registration and do away with ethnic chauvinism that is blamed for violence in elections,” said Mr Oparanya.
Kieni MP said he will spearhead Raila campaign in Mt Kenya and urged North Rift electorates to support his presidential bid.
“For a long time, falsehood has been peddled against Raila in Mt Kenya because he was competing for the presidency with one of our own but the narrative has since changed and we shall vote for him this time round,” said Mr Kega. Mr Muthama said the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader has fostered unity among Kenyans and caution against acts of violence during electioneering period.
Mr Kizito took issue with the North Rift residents for allegedly being misled to vote out popular leaders including former MPs Tabitha Seii and Stephen Tarus.
Ms Seii described Mr Odinga as a liberator and urged electorates to vote for leaders devoid of corruption.
“Corruption is what has destroyed our country and as an electorate, you need to make wise decisions when choosing leaders,” said Ms Seii.
Later, Mr Odinga was in Western, where he promised to revive the ailing sugar industry.
Mr Odinga who led a team of ODM politicians to the burial of Dorcas Wamayi, mother to Mumias West MP Johnson Naicca blamed rampant corruption for the collapse of the sugar industries in the country.
Suba East MP Junet Mohammed dismissed a firm associated with Mr Julius Mwale that applied to be given the lease to revive Mumias.
Lugari MP Ayub Savula asked ODM politicians to stop looking at the former Nasa partners ANC, Ford Kenya and Wiper as enemies.
“When Nasa collapsed, it did not mean that we became enemies. We must remain friends focusing on a common enemy,” said Mr Savula.
By Onyango K’onyango, Barnabas Bii and Shaban Makokha.