Raila, Ruto stage onslaught on Mudavadi’s Western turf
The battle for the Western Kenya vote has intensified with three presidential candidates competing for a piece of the pie in the region.
Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi are locked in a fierce contest for the more than two million votes.
While Ruto and Raila are out to make inroads in the region, Mudavadi is keen to protect his home turf.
The contest turned nasty last weekend when Ruto’s convoy was pelted with stones as he campaigned in Busia County.
Earlier, he addressed rallies at Khayega and Malinya markets in Kakamega County, both of which were characterised by chaotic scenes.
Another chaotic situation played out at Musoli market in Ikolomani when Ruto handed over Sh1 million to former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale to distribute to local traders. The would-be beneficiaries protested that the money was unlikely to reach them.
Ruto and Raila have been making forays in Kakamega, Vihiga, Busia, Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties, which are predominantly inhabited by the Luhya community.
Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and his Busia counterpart Sospeter Ojaamong are Raila’s key point men in the region.
But Mudavadi is fighting to lock out rivals, even as he seeks support in other parts of the country.
After Ruto left Khayega on Saturday, Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malalah toured the area on Sunday and dismissed the campaigns of Mudavadi’s rivals in the region.
“Do not listen to outsiders and the sellouts from our community. Mudavadi is the next President of the Republic of Kenya and he is the only person who can unite the country. So you must register in large numbers and stick behind him,” said Malalah.
ANC aspirant Fred Ikana said Western Kenya would vote for Mudavadi as a bloc.
“Our people are not divided at all. This is just a narrative that was created by outsiders. Let us wait for next year and we shall prove them wrong by voting for Mudavadi to the last person,” said the businessman who is eyeing the Shinyalu parliamentary seat.
Ruto’s allies in the region, however, have vowed to ensure he garners substantial votes in Kakamega County and other parts of Western Kenya.
“Our campaign is hinged on economic empowerment and unity. That is why we are empowering the masses,” said Hamisi Litundunya, a UDA point man in Kakamega.
Raila’s supporters believe he will retain his past support of the Luhya community, which is critical in his quest to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta in next year’s election.
Oparanya said Raila was on the cusp of clinching the presidency and the Luhya should back him to ensure they are part of the next government.
“He has been our friend all this while and we will work hard to make sure he is the fifth President,” he said yesterday.
But in a recent interview with People Daily, Mudavadi reiterated that his 2022 presidential bid is unstoppable.
He also dismissed rumours that pressure was being exerted on him to back Raila for the top seat.
Mudavadi termed the reports as propaganda.
“I am very focused on where I want to go. I am focused on seeking the presidency of this country. And if there is anything that will warrant a conversation, I will not shy away from telling Kenyans that I am in a conversation. But I want to tell Kenyans what many are dealing with now are mere rumours than anything else,” he said.
Mudavadi maintained that he is not going to play second fiddle to anyone in next year’s presidential race.
“I am looking at nothing less than being on the ballot. That is my target. I am offering myself to the people of Kenya so that I can serve them as their president,” said Mudavadi.
“I am preparing fully for the presidential race. Our infrastructure is in place and that is why you will see us moving from time to time. I am holding out to the best of my ability and I believe I will offer myself respectively to the Kenyan people,” added Mudavadi.