Uhuru and Ruto tours Coast after Raila’s visit
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, Mr William Ruto, arrive at the Coast on Thursday, a day after the departure of Cord leader Raila Odinga, highlighting the rivalry playing out in key vote baskets.
Mr Odinga arrived in Mombasa early this week to campaign for a referendum on several issues cited during the Saba Saba rally by the Opposition at Uhuru Park.
The Cord leader rallied local leaders and played up issues dear to the region, particularly land conflicts and security. The President’s Coast tour comes soon after his visit to western Kenya. It is an indication of his efforts to woo populous but uncommitted regions well ahead of the next election.
The stir caused by the Cord campaign for a national referendum on key issues seems to have added a sense of urgency to the electioneering mode.
Cord leader Raila Odinga addresses a rally at Tononoka grounds in Mombasa on June 15. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | FILE
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In western Kenya, President Kenyatta delivered a basketful of goodies, launched road projects and promised to complete those that had stalled.
On the Coast tour starting in Taita Taveta County, the President is scheduled to set in motion the construction of a road linking the area to Tanzania.
The President and Mr Ruto will then head to Kwale, a county whose leaders have in the past accused the government of excluding it from development. North Eastern is next on the President’s schedule.
DEVELOPMENT AS A WEAPON
Even though State House denied that the presidential tours were political, political scientist Peter Kagwanja argued that the Jubilee administration had chosen development as a weapon to respond to Cord’s pressure.
“He (President Kenyatta) is juxtaposing politics of difference with politics of development especially in areas that stand out as vulnerable to Cord’s latest political rhetoric. He is trying to show Kenyans in those areas that the challenges facing the country are more than politics,” Prof Kagwanja told the Daily Nation.
By visiting western Kenya, Taita Taveta, Kwale and with North Eastern on the cards, the Jubilee leaders were seeking to solve some of the challenges that have been raised by Cord in their demand for a referendum.
Among the issues that Cord wants addressed are insecurity, government appointments, land and high cost of living.
On Monday last week, Cord leader Raila Odinga led a rally at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, where he demanded a referendum to find solutions to the challenges facing the country. Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto have dismissed the calls for a referendum, saying they will focus on development.
“In western, he addressed the issue of exclusion from government and lack of development; in Taita Taveta, he will deal with the issue of land; in Kwale he will face the challenge of radicalisation and exclusion while in North Eastern he will deal with the Somali question,” said Prof Kagwanja.
UHURU SET FOR GARISSA
However, State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu said the President was carrying out his mandate by visiting parts of the country. He confirmed that Mr Kenyatta will be in Garissa next week.
“The President’s mandate takes him everywhere in the country to meet his people. It is normal for him to visit all parts of the country in pursuit of delivery of the promises he pledged. Kenyans should expect to see him soon wherever they are,” he said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
State Media Relations Director Munyori Buku said President Kenyatta and his deputy would not engage in empty politics.
“They do not have the luxury of politicking because they have the task of fulfilling the mandate they were given by Kenyans in 2013. That mandate includes developing all parts of the country in line with the key objectives of Vision 2030,” said Mr Buku. “When they were elected, they ceased being Jubilee leaders. If they get support in those areas, that can only be a dividend.”
Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki said Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto owed Kenyans development regardless of the politics spearheaded by Cord.
“The President is aware, even without the incitement of Cord, of the desperation of Kenyans who are facing high cost of living, insecurity, poverty gaps and lack of jobs. But he is aware that these challenges cannot be addressed by politicking,” he said.
In western Kenya last week, where he launched the construction of Navakholo-Bungoma, Turbo-Sikhendu, Kakamega-Kisumu roads and expedited the completion of the Sigalagala-Butere Road, Mr Kenyatta asked residents to reconcile their political differences.
On Wednesday, Lugari MP Ayub Savula said leaders from the region would work with the government if the projects that the President promised would be implemented. He said already, Sh60 million for the Sigalagala-Butere road had been released.