Uhuru and Ruto take coded message to Raila’s base
Kisumu, Kenya: President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto toured two regions that hugely voted for Mr Raila Odinga’s coalition last year in what is likely to be seen as a symbolic political embrace.
In what could be a sign of their keenness to courting the predominantly Luo and Luhya political enclaves, or even an extension of the hand of friendship and reassurance after one year in office, the two leaders were keen to send the message they would serve all areas equally and with fairness.
The President headed to the function in Nambale in Western from a tour of Kisumu in Nyanza.
The tour is symbolic as it is in the two regions that the Jubilee leaders garnered the fewest votes in the last elections.
In Western, the Coalition for Democracy and Reforms’ (CORD) presidential candidate secured a total of 755, 525 votes against Uhuru’s 66, 185.
And in Nyanza, Raila garnered 1.5 million while Uhuru got 181, 961. And as Uhuru and Ruto mark the first year on Wednesday since their inauguration, they attended a thanksgiving church ceremony at Nambale where they rallied the region to work with the Jubilee Government.
President Uhuru chose his maiden visit to Busia County since his inauguration to announce numerous goodies for the region as he exhorted residents to back his administration.
Uhuru who was invited to the interdenominational prayer meeting took the chance to call upon Western leaders – Raila, and United Democratic Front’s Musalia Mudavadi – to work with his Government despite the region’s overwhelming support for CORD in the March 4, 2013 polls.
“Today I want to say let’s work together. We are committed to ensuring that we change the face of this country and the lives of people in this country,” said Uhuru who was accompanied by Ruto and more than 30 MPs, senators and members of county assemblies.
“I know Western did not vote overwhelming for Jubilee but even the few votes you gave us took us to State House. We want to serve all Kenyans irrespective of whether they voted for us or not,” Ruto said.
End of friendship
Speaking during a fundraiser in aid of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, West Kenya Union Conference in Kisumu, Ruto asked the leaders to put aside their political differences and focus on development. “The time for politics is gone. Let us now focus on development,” he said.
“Those who failed in the last General Election should now wait for another time,” said Ruto. “Zamani tulikuwa marafiki sana na watu wa Kisumu (we were previously very good friends with the people of Kisumu),” joked Ruto amidst applause from the congregation.
But the visit to Western and the Jubilee leader’s promises elicited mixed reactions from politicians from the region, with some demanding to see what the national Government has done in the past one year.
The President promised goodies including the revival of ailing industries such as Panpaper Mills and sub sectors like the sugar industry, roads and electricity, among others.
“We will not allow cheap sugar imports into the country. We are making plans to re-open Panpaper. The people in this country know what they want as they are not interested in ‘noises’ from politicians,” he said.
However, a section of leaders interviewed said Uhuru has made similar promises but nothing has happened. The leaders including senators and MPs from the region now want the President to match his promises with actions. Kakamega Senator Dr Bonny Khalwale dismissed Uhuru’s visit, saying he only visits Western to ask for support but has never come for development.
“The President first came for a thanksgiving church service in Mumias. He later was at Mudavadi’s home for prayers and now this visit to Nambale. When will he come to discuss development?” Khalwale asked.
Funyula MP Paul Otuoma said the opposition MPs in the region will not offer the Jubilee Government blanket support but will back projects that are beneficial to the people.
“We cannot be wooed into supporting them without questioning some of the things we feel they have not adequately addressed,” said Otuoma.
He cited increasing cases of insecurity in the country, untamed corruption and the increasing public wage bill as some of the issues that the opposition will continue asking the Government to address. “We are happy with the prayers but we need development,” declared Lugari MP Ayub Savula.
Mudavadi did not attend the meeting but responded thus: “It is good that he (Uhuru) came to attend prayers in Western and I hope it will help in broadening participation of Western in the future of the country. I could have said more but because this was a church function, we don’t want to read much into it,” the UDF leader added.
However, Uhuru’s host, Nambale MP John Bunyasi welcomed the Jubilee leader’s visit saying any engagement with the President was welcome.
He commended leaders from the region who have accepted the verdict that Kenyans made in electing him President and were now ready to work with him to serve the electorate.