What you need to know:
- The President said the housing programme was included in the manifestos of Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja.
- Under the programme, the government intends to construct 20,000 affordable houses in each of the 47 counties.
President William Ruto has lauded Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga for reportedly acknowledging his government's affordable housing plan, saying this should end the debate on the housing levy.
The President said most developed countries in the world have implemented the housing programme which provides job opportunities for the youth and gives ordinary citizens a chance to become homeowners.
Mr Odinga, who has been a fierce critic of the housing scheme since its inception, was quoted by a section of the media saying there was nothing wrong with the affordable housing plan.
However, he faulted its design and implementation.
"The government should have first held a major national conference to make Kenyans understand its change of policy on housing and what it is all about before rolling it out," Mr Odinga was quoted as saying.
Speaking during an interdenominational prayer service at Approved School in Kakamega on Sunday, President Ruto urged the opposition to end the debate on the affordable housing programme.
"The former Prime Minister said affordable housing is a very important thing and that is what I have been saying. What was the bickering about? The argument over this programme must stop now," President Ruto said.
The President further said the housing programme was included in the manifestos of Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja.
"If Azimio had formed the government, they would have implemented it in their own way, but since we (Kenya Kwanza) are the ones in power, we will implement it in our own model," President Ruto said.
"Let everyone understand this so that we can move forward with this noble programme that will provide job opportunities for our youth including engineers, carpenters, masons, manufacturers, quarry producers, architects, transporters among others," he added.
Under the programme, the government intends to construct 20,000 affordable houses in each of the 47 counties, which President Ruto said will provide employment opportunities for 30,000 youths in each of the counties.
The affordable housing programme was introduced in the country under the Narc regime alongside slum upgrading programmes to improve the housing standards of people living in informal settlements.
While acknowledging that the programme is good for the country, Mr Odinga accused the Kenya Kwanza administration of burdening the programme with heavy taxation and repayment schedules.
He called for a national dialogue involving experts to come up with a clear roadmap on how to end the housing levy impasse so that people are not forced to pay and buy houses.
President Ruto said leaders should stop bickering and allow the government to deliver on its mandates such as creating jobs, improving food security, electricity connectivity, health services and water supply to Kenyans.
"In addition, I have negotiated with several overseas countries, including the US, England, Germany, France and Asian countries, for half a million jobs for our youth to work in their countries. We cannot allow a few people to be empowered while millions of people remain unemployed," he said.
To access overseas jobs, the President directed MPs to establish digital hubs in counties within the next four months, with the government providing plans and equipment under the revised NG-CDF Act.
In Kakamega, for instance, President Ruto said the government will provide 15,000 sets of computers to be installed in technical and vocational colleges and digital hubs across the county.
"I have already distributed 100 of the computers to Mushiangubu TVET College in Khwisero. This is how we can eradicate poverty from our country," he said.
He said the government has finalised the procurement process for the construction of a gold refinery in Ikolomani, which will address the challenges faced by artisanal miners in the district.
The president's four-day tour of the Western Region appeared to have paid dividends after several MPs from the region pledged to work with and support his government in the future.
The MPs who pledged support for President Ruto's government include Bernard Shinali (Ikolomani), Johnson Naicca (Mumias West), Christopher Aseka (Khwisero), Peter Nabulindo (Matungu), Titus Khamala (Lurambi) and Clement Siloya (Sabatia).
Others are Malulu Injendi (Malava), Dan Wanyama (Webuye West), Charles Gimose (Hamisi), Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo), Innocent Mugabe (Likuyani), Nabii Nabwera (Lugari), John Waluke and Omboko Milemba (Emuhaya).
In the last elections, 10 out of 13 MPs from Kakamega were elected on ODM tickets, with only two coming from Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi's ANC and DAP-K parties.
"We appreciate that you are working towards reviving the Mumias Sugar Company, which is the beacon of the Western region's economy. We will support you and your mambo matatu against those who are destroying our factories," said Mr Naicca.
Mr Nabwera, a close ally of Mr Odinga, said President Ruto's visit to the region signaled the beginning of a new era.
"You have started a lot of development projects, including road projects that had stalled for a very long time in my constituency. I assure you that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We will walk together," said Mr Nabwera.
Mr Shinali, who is also the Kakamega County MP caucus chairman, lauded President Ruto for delivering his promises.
"We come from different political parties, but you did not consider our political differences and decided to work with each of us. We appreciate you and we will work with you and reward you in the coming days. As MPs from this region, we have decided to go with you to the end," said Mr Shinali.
Governors Fernandes Barasa (Kakamega) and Wilbur Ottichilo (Vihiga) praised the President for initiating projects that they said would transform the region.
"The establishment of the School of Government in Vihiga is a game changer for the entire Lake Region Economic Bloc. I assure you that we will support you in the future," said Mr Ottichilo.
Mr Barasa urged the President to stick to his development agenda.
He said all governors in the region have decided to work with Ruto's administration despite coming from different political backgrounds.
"We were impressed when you announced that you would support the revival and renewal of the management of Mumias Sugar Company. We are happy that the nucleus farm will now benefit local farmers through annual bonuses from the miller," he said.
Speaker of the National Assembly Moses Wetang'ula said the coming together of MPs and other leaders from Western would galvanise the region to vote as a bloc in future.
"Our unity will help this region grow in terms of development and industrial revival," Wetang'ula said.
But UDA Secretary General Cleophas Malala urged opposition MPs who pledged to support the president to make good their pledges.
"In the run up to the 2022 elections, many of you said you would support Ruto, only to jump ship at the last minute. We don't want you to say you are behind the President but when the time comes for action, we find you missing," he said.
Three MPs - Tindi Mwale aka Jeshi la Baba of Butere, Peter Salasya (Mumias East) and Elsie Muhanda (Woman Representative) - skipped the President's tour of the region.
President Ruto began his tour of the region on January 21, 2024 when he attended an interdenominational prayer service at Machakusi Primary School in Busia County before returning 10 days later for a four-day tour with a basket of goodies for various constituencies.