Raila visit to Migori fails to contain mistrust between the Kuria and Luo
The visit by ODM leader Raila Odinga to Migori County failed to contain the growing mistrust between two key tribes now threatening to eat into one of his crucial voting blocs in the region next year.
Mr Odinga met Kuria elders at the home of his mother-in-law at Stella in Uriri sub-county on Tuesday, but he remained non–committal on the demands by the group.
The elders had hoped to be told which county seats would be reserved for the Kuria, a minority community, through a negotiated power-sharing arrangement for 2017 General Election.
A similar agreement was drafted ahead of the 2013 polls leading to key posts going to Kuria. They got the Senator, Deputy Governor and Women Representative positions following Mr Odinga’s intervention in a bid to secure his presidential votes. The Luo got the governorship.
But the move became unpopular after the elections, with the Luo feeling short-changed by their neighbours because both Mr Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta nearly got equal number of votes from the Kuria. On Tuesday, Mr Odinga lectured the elders and their leaders on the need to remain steadfast in ODM instead of asking for favours.
“Support the Orange party and the goodies will follow… it will even be better if we form the government because your sons and daughters will get an opportunity to be picked to serve in various positions,” he said.
Mr Odinga reminded them that during his tenure as prime minister he influenced the appointment of outgoing IEBC Vice –Chairperson Lilian Mahiri-Zaja to represent Nyanza in the electoral body. Ms Mahiri-Zaja is Kuria.
“I mean well for you people… Cord is going to form the next government and I want you to be part of it,” asserted the opposition leader, who was accompanied by his wife, Ida.
His wife had set the ball rolling when she asked the elders to be honest in their support for Mr Odinga.
“Before you place many demands, can you honestly say you are supporting him? Let us not cheat each other… I know when a Mkuria says ‘yes’ it’s ‘yes’ and if he says ‘no’ it’s a big ‘no’,” said Mrs Odinga.
She further questioned what the community had done with the positions of women rep, deputy governor and senator that were allocated to them in the last polls. All the Kuria elected leaders including Senator Wilfred Machage and MPs Mathias Robi (Kuria West, URP) and Shadrack Manga (Kuria East, Kanu) skipped the meeting apart from the MCAs.
Dr Machage, who was elected on the ODM ticket, later said he had not been invited to the meeting.
“I did not know about it… the party leadership did not invite me,” he said.
But the absence of the senator did not escape the attention of Mr Odinga.
“Let him go… we have many qualified people who are ready to take his position. We only want to deal with people who are steadfast in ODM,” he said.
Dr Machage has lately been lukewarm and has skipped nearly all the public functions attended by Mr Odinga.
The elders disowned Dr Machage, saying he was imposed on them during the last elections.
“We never elected him… it’s you who pleaded with us to accept him as our senator,” Mzee John Chacha from Kuria West told Mr Odinga. But the fiery senator fired back saying Mr Odinga risked losing the Kuria vote if he kicked him out of the party.
“Raila should be careful on who he relies on for information, otherwise he will lose the Kuria vote,” he said.
Dr Machage demanded an explanation from the former prime minister saying he had never hinted at leaving the party.
“I only complained of the Kuria people being mistreated,” he said.
The lawmaker had earlier told ODM leadership to stop taking for a ride support from the community.
He said although he was still in the Orange party “I am not married to it”.
“We have many options as Kuria community and our votes are in high demand. We need respect and recognition from our Luo brothers so that we co-exist. We voted for ODM in the last elections but nobody appreciates that. Instead, I am heckled whenever I address meetings in Luoland… we are not going to be taken for a ride,” Dr Machage told the Nation by phone.
The power–sharing arrangement hitch between the two tribes living in the county portends a potential political conflict ahead of the next year’s elections, if not handled carefully.
The dominant Luo feel that all the seats should be filled competitively, a move the Kuria are rejecting due to their weak voting power.