Ruto's Nyanza charm offensive yields 'handshake' with 31 Luo leaders

President Ruto meets Nyanza political leaders

President William Ruto on Monday morning met close to 31 leaders from opposition Chief Raila Odinga’s backyard as part of a sustained political onslaught aimed at endearing himself to a region that barely voted for him in the last presidential elections.

In a move also meant to counter the mass action call by Azimio, the leaders drawn from all the counties of Luo Nyanza pledged loyalty to the President.

The Head of State who was accompanied by his Deputy Rigathi Gachagua, ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo and Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo in meeting the delegation of leaders at State House Monday evening.

The delegation comprised former elected leaders including ex-governors Dr Evans Kidero (Nairobi), Mr Zachary Obado (Migori), Mr Jack Ranguma (Kisumu) and former Senators Fred Outa (Kisumu) and Rose Nyamunga (Nominated).

President William Ruto Evans Kidero state house meeting

President William Ruto meets with Nyanza region leaders at State House on March 13, 2023.

Photo credit: Courtesy | PSC

Others were ex-members of the National Assembly such as Nicholas Gumbo (Rarieda), Martin Ogindo (Rangwe), John Pesa (Migori), Omondi Anyanga (Nyatike), Ken Nyagudi (Kisumu West), Mr Otieno Otieno Mak'Onyango (Alego Usonga), Silvance Osele (Kasipul Kabondo) and Jack Opiyo (Awendo).

Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority chairman Omondi Anyanga, Lake Victoria South Water Works Development Agency chairman Odoyo Owidi, former Police spokesman Charles Owino, Kisumu Assembly Mjaority Leader Mr Samuel Ong'ow, (Muhuroni), Aloo Ogeka (Muhoroni), former Nairobi Deputy Speaker Ken Obuya, former EALA legislator Clarkson Karan were also present.

On his official social media page, the President reiterated that he is open to working with all leaders.

“I will work with all leaders to transform the economy and uplift millions of Kenyans, especially those at the bottom of the economic pyramid. We believe this leadership model is the right approach for a stronger and more prosperous nation,” said Dr Ruto.

Deflate Raila's influence

The Monday evening meeting comes at a time when Dr Ruto has been trying to deflate Mr Odinga’s influence in the region traditionally viewed as his political stronghold.

Last week, most of the leaders were present when Dr Ruto's United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party opened an office in Kisumu to woo Mr Odinga’s supporters to register as members.

Before that, he hosted elected MPs from Luo Nyanza at State House, a move that attracted harsh criticism against those who honoured the invite. The Azimio MPs who met the President and his deputy in February include Jalang'o (Lang'ata), Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Mark Nyamita (Uriri), Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Shakeel Shabir (Kisumu East, Independent), Paul Abuor (Rongo), John Owino (Awendo) and Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda.

President William Ruto with Nyanza ODM leaders at State House on February 7, 2023.

Apart from being ejected and jeered in political meetings called by Mr Odinga like what happened to Langata MP Mr Felix Odiwuor aka Jalang’o, the ODM Party has instituted some disciplinary measures that include de-whipping the leaders from House committees and stripping them of their positions within the party.

Reconcile with Gusii community

The Monday evening meeting also comes a day after Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu held a meeting with former Interior CS Dr Fred Matiang’i, in what multiple sources say is the first move towards reconciling and uniting the Gusii community.

Apart from uniting the Gusii region, the move is also aimed at reconciling the former CS with President Ruto ahead of Mr Machogu’s homecoming ceremony on March 24 where the Head of State is expected to grace. They said continued persecution of the former CS was causing tension across Gusii and that needed to be addressed urgently.

There were also concerns that the continued pressure on Dr Matiang’i was giving the opposition ammunition to hit at the Kenya Kwanza government.

During the purported raid at Dr Matiang’i’s Nairobi residence, Mr Odinga was among leaders from Azimio who went to stand with him.