ODM leader Raila Odinga yesterday met politicians from Western and pledged to prioritise revival of collapsed factories and improve infrastructure to spur economic growth in the region.
Mr Odinga spoke in Kakamega during a meeting attended by leaders from Kakamega, Vihiga, Busia, Bungoma and Trans Nzoia. They included governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia) and James Ongwae (Kisii). National Assembly Majority Whip Emanuel Wangwe and Minority Whip Junet Mohamed and several MPs also attended.
Mr Odinga said lack of unity among leaders from the region had negatively impacted development initiatives, contributing to unemployment and rampant poverty.
He said some leaders from the region had blocked plans for the revival of Mumias Sugar after an investor had shown an interest in reviving the fortunes of the miller.
“With your support, I’m confident this time around we will get to Canaan. Do not be swayed by leaders who are making empty promises and have nothing to offer. They are those saying I should not step foot in western. Who are they to stop me when I’m a son of ingo (home)?” posed Mr Odinga.
He went on: “This is why I want to engage in an active partnership with the Mulembe Nation and ensure communities from Western realise their full potential. We are not looking for followers or bystanders but partners so that we can engage them on how to improve the infrastructure and revive the collapsed factories in the region.”
He promised to also give priority to agriculture, fishing and sports. Mr Odinga said the region had huge potential in sports that remains largely untapped as he cited the victory by the Vihiga Queens that saw them qualify for the inaugural CAF Women’s Champions League in Nairobi on Thursday and world class sprinter Ferdinand Omanyala.
The ODM leader sought to counter the political onslaught by Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi and his Ford Kenya counterpart Moses Wetang’ula as the battle for the region’s votes intensified ahead of next year’s polls.
Mr Mudavadi and Wetang’ula, his former Nasa allies, have stepped up campaigns urging communities in the region not to be misled to vote for leaders from outside the region.
Mr Mudavadi has asked the Luhya community not to accept to be used as a ladder by those seeking the top seat and vowed he would not back Mr Odinga for the presidency.
Governor Oparanya said the region’s economy had collapsed due to the ailing sugar industry. He noted that the collapse of Mumias Sugar coupled with the effects of Covid-19 had impoverished communities in the region.
“We wanted to bring in a strategic investor to lease the factory but politicians from within interfered with the process due to personal interests. People are suffering from lack of employment and lack of income which has made life tough,” said Mr Oparanya.
MP Junet Mohamed singled out Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala for scuttling the planned leasing of Mumias Sugar by demanding a publicly advertised bidding process and fresh technical evaluation of the process.
“Right now smoke would be billowing from chimneys of Mumias Sugar had it not been for bad politics from a section of leaders in Western and particularly a Senator from Kakamega who scuttled the leasing process that was initiated by Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and the receiver manager at Mumias,” he said.
Mr Ojaamong said counties are going for more than five months without getting allocation from the National Treasury due to the collapsing economy that has seen the government borrow beyond its limit.
“As governors we are going through difficult times to manage the counties. It has taken the National Treasury five months without releasing funds to the counties and this has made it difficult to run the devolved units. That is why we want Raila Odinga to take over from President Uhuru Kenyatta to revive the economy,” said Mr Ojaamong.
Mr Ongwae said: “We have the opportunity to have a president from Western region and jump start the rotation of the presidency in this nation. So don’t play around with your votes.”