The re-emergence of the Labour Party of Kenya is set to intensify competition in western Kenya for next year’s elections.
The hitherto dormant party of former assistant minister Julia Ojiambo, was relaunched on Wednesday night complete with a new set of officials led by Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba.
Mr Namwamba resigned as ODM secretary-general and quit the party two months ago.
He was named the new party leader with Prof Ojiambo retaining her chairmanship.
Veteran journalist David Makali was named the party’s new secretary-general.
By apportioning the top three most powerful positions in the party to Busia (Mr Namwamba and Prof Ojiambo) and Bungoma (Mr Makali), the party appears to be positioning itself for fierce political competition with Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress and Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford-Kenya which draw their core support from the region.
The new party will also square it out with Raila Odinga’s ODM which was hitherto the most dominant party in Busia and Kakamega.
Also in the race to woo voters in Western, is the newly-launched Jubilee Party which is being fronted by Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, Bungoma governor Ken Lusaka, former cabinet ministers Noah Wekesa and Musikari Kombo and a coterie of MPs from Bungoma and Kakamega counties.
In a thinly veiled warning to Mr Odinga, Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula, Mr Namwamba dismissed widely held views that the battle for the Luhya vote would be fought out between the three politicians, saying Labour Party was out to reclaim the region.
“Those who are claiming to have strongholds and territories in the country, I want to tell them that we are coming for those territories,” he said.
And referring to Mr Odinga, Mr Namwamba stated: “After I left, there are those who said I’m dead, but they forgot the Mexican saying which goes, you buried us thinking we were dead, but you forgot that we are seeds, we have germinated and will grow into something to contend with”.
“If you are still mourning that we left, then you are behaving like a jilted ex,” he added.
An aide to Mr Namwamba said the party would not field a presidential candidate but will back one “who shares a similar vision with them, certainly not Jubilee, not Cord”.
Mr Namwamba is said to have identified dozens of aspirants whom the party intends to back for various elective positions across the country. Mr Makali will be eyeing the Bungoma senate seat.
However, the two MPs who flanked Mr Namwamba when he first protested about lack of internal democracy in ODM, Funyula’s Paul Otuoma and Sirisia’s John Waluke were conspicuously missing from the function.
Mr Waluke attended the launch of the new Jubilee Party at Kasarani two months ago, while Dr Otuoma has kept a low profile.
He did not attend Mr Odinga’s two tours of Western province in the last two months even though he maintained he is still in ODM.