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ODM chief storms Ruto backyard in vote hunt

By , People Daily Digital
Thursday, October 14th, 2021 00:00 | 3 mins read
ODM leader Raila Odinga (centre) with Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir (left) and Suna East lawmaker Junet Mohamed addresses the press in Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/PD/John Ochieng

Wycliff Kipsang

ODM leader Raila Odinga embarks on a tour of Deputy President William Ruto’s Rift Valley backyard this week as he seeks to reclaim a region that overwhelmingly voted for him in the disputed 2007 presidential election.

Raila will begin his tour in Turkana County today before heading to Eldoret tomorrow (Friday) where he will meet leaders from West Pokot, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Uasin Gishu and Nandi counties.

According to his itinerary, Raila will then proceed to Nakuru where he will meet groups from Kericho, Bomet and Nakuru counties.

“He will then head to Meru for another meeting with delegates from Meru, Embu and Tharaka Nithi then Ukambani, Mt Kenya West and a final meeting in Nairobi,” ODM’s Secretary for Devolution, Kipkorir arap Menjo told People Daily.

Raila’s visit to the region comes only days after he addressed the Kalenjin nation through the community’s five radio stations where he sought their support in the next General Election.

Abandoned

Analysts see Rift Valley, with more than 4.5 million registered voters as a major political battleground to many politicians seeking to ascend to the presidency in 2022.

“The former Prime Minister was a force to reckon with in Rift Valley in 2007. He, however, has an uphill task to restore this fanatical support after he fell out with the DP,” Eldoret based political commentator Philip Chebunet told People Daily.

Raila’s pointsmen in the region is Elgeyo-Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos and Menjo who will spearhead his campaigns in Elgeyo-Marakwet, Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Kericho and Bomet counties.

Others, who will accompany him in his tour of the vote-rich region, include Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina and MPs Memusi Kanchori (Kajiado Central), Moitalel ole Kenta (Narok North), Nominated Senator Judy Pareno and former Kajiado governor David Nkedianye.

Raila’s tour comes at a time when his former close allies have abandoned him and joined the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), which Ruto plans to use as his political vehicle in next year’s presidential election.

Notable among them is Nanok, who was the ODM vice chairman. 

Another hitherto Raila ally, who has shifted allegiance to the DP, is former Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto who was one of the Nasa principals in 2017. He has, however, maintained that he will not fold up his Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) party.

Political observers are also keen to see what role Baringo Senator Gideon Moi will play in the tour, coming barely two weeks after he was endorsed by his Kanu party to run for the presidency in the 2022 election.  

“Senator Moi and the DP have been fighting for the control of Rift Valley and should the Kanu leader accompany Raila, it will be like assisting the ODM boss rekindle his influence of the region,” said Leonard Kulei, a political strategist and commentator. 

The ODM boss has promised that his administration will grant subsidies to lower the cost of production for farmers if elected. Tolgos yesterday dismissed claims that Raila did nothing for the region while he was Prime Minister. 

“He did not fulfill his pledges then because he did not clinch the presidency. He will do all the next year when he will be elected president of Kenya,” said Tolgos.

Another thorny issue that Raila will have to face  is the Mau Forest issue where thousands of people were evicted while he was Prime Minister during President Mwai Kibaki’s tenure.

He has, however, defended himself on the same saying: “It was a Cabinet decision. I was just an implementer.

Ruto (DP) and his team used it to incite the Kalenjin community against me. Ours was just to conserve the environment and I was ready to pay the prize.” 

Raila has also come under fire from Ruto’s allies, who have accused him  of being behind the rift in Jubilee following his Handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta. Raila’s allies have, however, maintained that he is still the man to beat in Rift Valley.

“Raila, unlike his opponents has a clear development agenda for Rift Valley people. Others are just engaging in empty political rhetoric,” said Menjo.

Man to beat

Yesterday, Raila made a tour of Nairobi in the company of both ODM and Jubilee MPs where he announced his journey for the third and final liberation.

 Raila said the first liberation for Kenya was when the country gained independence, the second was when the new constitution was promulgated and the third will be reviving the economy of the nation.

 “We have started the third and final. We must improve the economy, ensure that we provide employment and fight diseases,” said Raila.

He told a rally at the Kamukunji grounds that his administration will empower the Small and Medium Enterprises, improve Jua Kali sector and ensure that the youths get loans to start businesses.

 He said under his administration, each poor household will be given Sh6,000 for upkeep in what he termed as social protection to the vulnerable groups of the society.  - Additional reporting by Rawlings Otieno