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Citizen Weekly

Sunday 17 May 2015

Which way Luhya politics 2017?

The configuration in Luhya politics is bound to intensify in the coming months with the emergence of various formations all geared towards consolidating the community vote into one basket. There is, however, no clarity to which use the vote will be put to. Leading the pack in campaigning for voter registration is a close associate of Amani leader Musalia Mudavadi and Lugari MP Ayub Savula, but whose pronouncements confuse more than clarifies.
Savula assumes by registering six million voters, the community can present a presidential candidate who can negotiate support from other communities. “With six million, why can’t others support us”, he recently asked without indicating which candidate the community will front. Quietly though, other MPs have put elaborate plans at the grassroots for ID registration. This is a pointer to a grand strategy that is yet to be unveiled although observers notice interesting coincidences.
First, is the growing popularity of newly registered Amani National Congress party in the region and announcement by Mudavadi that ANC is his ticket for 2017. When making the announcement during a meeting with MCAs from former provinces of Rift Valley, Nyanza and Western, Mudavadi said ANC is a unifying force for the community and called on political parties with roots in the region to affiliate with ANC. “For too long, we’ve rented our votes to others. It’s time we got a return on our investment,” he said alluding to the perennial problem of Luhya’s “topping up” votes to other candidates.
Tellingly, he distanced himself from association with both Jubilee and Cord. “The choice for Kenyans in 2017 elections will be between stability with Amani on one hand and on the other, the chaos of incompetence by Jubilee or hypocrisy by Cord,” he sternly cautioned. The speed with which ANC is being marketed shows urgency in capturing the moment the community is most disillusioned with Jubilee government and in Cord coalition.
Jubilee is seen as exclusive club of two communities that discriminate against the Luhya in government jobs. Cord is seen as sidelining the Luhya in the party despite a decade of voting for its leader Raila. The disenchantment with ODM is seen in Governor Wycliffe Oparanya stating that he is not certain which party he will vie on in 2017 since the fight will be between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. Oparanya has gone as far as saying the Luhya should wait until 2022 to via again for the presidency. He is seen as rooting for a possibility that embittered Luhya will vote for Raila and an alleged ODM plot to eliminate Mudavadi from the mix.
A more purposeful Western Parliamentary Caucus has sprouted amidst this uncertainly with the official purpose of lobbying the national government to allocate more resources to the region. The caucus of National Assembly MPs has excluded senators and governors and even political party leaders. However, that is where the coincident ends.
Sources within the WPC reveal that underlying the cross-party MPs unity is a search for political relevance post-2017 elections. The twin purpose is to rally around a Luhya candidate in 2017 or force a running mate position. “Our first priority is to field a candidate with national appeal. Our second is providing a running mate. Even if we don’t win the presidency, this option will give us numbers for post-election negotiations. Either way, we must be in government after 2017. We cannot wander in political wilderness for ever,” said an MP.
The MP revealed that the use of the word “Western” was deliberate to distance the region from political association with Nyanza. “Our colleagues from Nyanza have an incredible appetite to annex us to Nyanza. This has been a process of appropriating our destiny to theirs at our own expense. Time has come to assert our identity,” he said. “This is a caucus serving our collective interests. We have economic interests for the region,” added Nambale MP and WPC chairman Sakwa Bunyasi.
The drive for independence has seen governors moot Western Economic Union at the devolution conference in Kisumu. A governor revealed the union’s blueprint was a hoax by ODM and it surprised many governors. He said that after Raila spoke about the idea at the Busia county investment conference, “some busybodies under Kisii Governor James Ongwae photo-copied the blueprint to hoodwink us.  We knew Raila made the usual political statement to link our fate to his. We were hesitant but out of respect, we flanked the president when he supposedly launched the blueprint”.
Though guarded on the matters political agenda by WPC, disgraced Pac former chairman and ODM nominal secretary general Ababu Namwamba was more forthright while speaking to the press. “Luhyas should not look at WPC with suspicion. They should look at it as a seed that can grow to something bigger,” he said. But some have expressed discomfort with the attempt by Namwamba to portray himself as the de-facto leader of the caucus.
“We know his streak for opportunism. When in trouble, he becomes one of us. When he thinks he’s safe, he’s a Raila poodle. He probably has told Raila WPC is his brainchild to consolidate ODM support. The 34-member WPC that is dominated by Amani and ODM MPs minus Senator Moses Wetangula’s troops is also a pointer to those who would be immediate casualties in the battle for regional influence. Barring future re-alignment, the stakes are against Raila, Wetang’ula and Ruto in favour of Mudavadi and Uhuru.
One, given the disillusionment with ODM by most MPs and voters, Raila would be struggling for critical support especially after the animosity towards Ababu by his Nyanza allies. Disgruntlement is further worsened by the divisive trio of Wetang’ula and Bonnie Khalwale. Raila sell-by date is seen as expired. Two, the fact Ford Kenya MPs have boycotted WPC under Wetang’ula orders revealed isolation with little goodwill among MPs. Post-election grumbling by Luhya ODM leaders about Wetang’ula usurping their place at the Raila table persists amidst accusations of arrogance with his sidekick Khalwale.
Ababu with no love lost for him, is playing a prominent role in WPC increasing Wetang’ula’s isolation. In fact, Raila and Wetang’ula fate is linked to accusations that the two have recruited Khalwale to discredit leaders across the region. Worse Wetang’ula has lost the small clout he held after the Supreme Court barred him from future elections. Observers say grumbling on mistreatment in Cord and call to re-unify his Ford Kenya and New Ford Kenya are makeovers towards plans to ditch Cord for Jubilee. 
Three, William Ruto is to endear himself to the community through MPs. To lure first-time MPs, Ruto has spent money and time for two years and now emerges with nothing. Instructively, MPs speaking in Luhya dialect told a recent harambee meeting in Ikolomani constituency at which Ruto presided that they needed Ruto’s “money that belongs to us” though their loyalty lay elsewhere. Seen as the anti-Luhya in the presidency, Ruto is not exactly admired for his seeming animosity towards Mudavadi. But Ruto suffered unbearable damage after his partner Uhuru gave Luhya notables jobs. To injure Ruto more, State House ensured that the credit was not shared as usual in the announcement that read “The President has appointed .…”

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