President Uhuru Kenyatta is heading to opposition Leader Raila Odinga’s backyard of Nyanza this weekend. Although officially he will be attending the burial of Dalmas Otieno’s daughter, Ephline Otieno, in Rongo, sources close to the President have told the Star he will appeal to the region’s people to work with the government.
“This is not just a funeral. The President will not speak politics at the funeral, but we are telling ODM that we have supporters in that region of Nyanza who are working with the government,” said a State House official. Deputy President William Ruto is also expected to attend the funeral in South Nyanza.
It is unclear whether Raila and local ODM leaders will also attend the burial (Dalmas is Rongo MP on an ODM ticket). People close to the former Prime Minister told the Star yesterday that he had not scheduled to attend the funeral: “We are not sure about the funeral in Rongo, but we will certainly attend another funeral, in Migori, on Sunday”.
This will be Uhuru’s first visit to Migori county as head of state and the second to Nyanza. He visited Kisumu and Nyando soon after he was sworn in, to bury former KNUT chairman David Okuta.
“We do not expect the President to visit Nyanza only during funerals. As the President of the Republic, Uhuru needs to visit all parts of Kenya and ensure that his government is delivering on the promises he made,” said Suna East MP Junet Muhammed.
Dalmas has been working closely with the Government, after he announced that he will leave ODM earlier this year. The Rongo MP is in the process of forming his own party that will challenge Raila and his ODM in the region. He has also announced he will vie for the Presidency on his new party.
Some of his critics have accused Dalmas of being used to fight Raila. The two have previously been on opposite sides for years on end.
Since his announcement, the former Cabinet minister has been appointed special envoy to South Sudan by President Uhuru.
Dalmas decided to quit ODM after he was reportedly refused the chance to stand for the position of Secretary General during the party polls that aborted at the end of February.
Yesterday Raila’s supporters, led by Otieno Kajwang’, said the President was free to visit any part of the country, including Nyanza.
“There is nothing wrong with him attending a funeral in Rongo. However, the people of Nyanza would like to know what Uhuru’s government has done for them in the last one year,” said Kajwang.
Speaking to the Star yesterday, Josiah Arende, the chairman of the committee organizing Ephline’s funeral (she passed on at the Karen Hospital on May 27) said preparations were in top gear.
“We invited the Head of State and his deputy, which was done through Dalmas, and we are prepared to welcome them,” Arende said.
Arende said “all leaders are invited”, but could not confirm if Raila and other ODM leaders will attend. “We are drawing up a complete list and will be in a position to confirm them later,” he said.