The Jubilee Party and opposition’s National Super Alliance have held more rallies in five regions than in any other part of the country, convinced the areas could hold the key to a victory in the August 8 General Election.
The Coast, former Western province, Narok and Kajiado counties, Kisii and Baringo have emerged as the areas where the election could be lost or won if the frequency with which both political sides have held rallies there is anything to go by.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his main challenger Raila Odinga have both visited western Kenya six and five times respectively in just one month, signifying how crucial the voting bloc could be to both sides.
In the month of June alone, Mr Odinga has followed in President Kenyatta’s footsteps, visiting each of the region’s five counties, hoping to consolidate the base that has over time been unable to unite behind the elusive Luhya unity.
President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto have cumulatively campaigned in the Coast three times from the end of May, seeking to get a slice of votes in an area that overwhelming cast its lot with Mr Odinga in 2013.
Narok and Kajiado counties have also become a play ground for the vote seeking machines, with Jubilee visiting the former five times and the latter twice.
Jubilee and Nasa have similarly visited Nyamira and Kisii counties twice and thrice respectively. The two rivals have campaigned twice in Baringo County.
On Wednesday, Jubilee Party vice-chairman David Murathe said the President and his deputy have been targeting areas that were opposition strongholds in 2013 but have since showed signs of warming up to the government.
He named the areas as western Kenya, Coast and Kisii counties.
“It is the potential for harvesting votes, particularly in former hostile areas, which we can now convert into swing areas.
You can see what we are doing in western Kenya, Coast and Kisii areas,” he said on the telephone.
Regarding Narok County, he said the party had eliminated the obstacle which cost them votes in the last elections.
“Narok is now okay because our challenge last time was splitting votes between TNA and URP. Now we are one party,” he said.
Nasa’s national campaign committee executive director Kibisu Kabatesi explained that the number of rallies in a region were determined by information received from campaign team coordinators across the country.
“We draw the campaign schedule based on the analysis we have made based on information from our team on the ground,” he said.
The Nairobi office, he explained, operates on a 24-hour basis and always communicates with the regional leaders.
Before the principals attend a rally in any place, they meet with area leaders to fine-tune the relevant message for the voters.
In his vote hunting forays in western Kenya, President Kenyatta visited Bungoma on June 11, Busia (June 14), Kakamega (June 17), and Vihiga on June 23, while Mr Odinga toured the same counties on June 23, 25 and 24 respectively.
“In 2013, you slipped from our fingers and voted for the other side. This time in 2017, we will not let you vote differently from us. We are not going to let you stay in the cold,” Deputy President William Ruto has consistently told western voters.
In 2013, Mr Odinga garnered 755,525 votes from the region followed by Mr Mudavadi with 353,864, both accounting for 92.6 per cent of the 1,197,632 valid votes cast. Mr Kenyatta got 66,185.
President Kenyatta is clearly looking for critical top-up support, while Mr Odinga hopes to completely lock him out of the 1.9 million votes.
Since then, Jubilee has been using the reopening of Webuye’s Pan paper, now operating under the name Rai Paper and the rejuvenation of the sugar industry to reach out to the electorate.
Besides visiting the region on many occasions, Jubilee has been banking on the support of Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka, Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali and more recently Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba.
The arch-rivals are also in a bruising battle for the Maasai vote, particularly in Narok and Kajiado counties.
In 2013, President Kenyatta won in Kajiado County by a slim margin (138,851 against Mr Odinga’s 117,856), but lost to Mr Odinga in Narok (109,413 against 118, 623), despite his Jubilee coalition winning the governor, senator and all MPs seats in the vast, wealthy county.
In Baringo, a traditional Jubilee zone that voted 138, 488 for Mr Kenyatta against Mr Odinga’s 14,824, the ODM leader has been making inroads touring the area on May 25 and yesterday, when he campaigned in Kabarnet and Eldama Ravine.
The Jubilee duo pitched tent in the area on Sunday and declared it a Jubilee zone with the endorsement of Senator Gideon Moi, a man at loggerheads with DP Ruto.
At the Coast, Mr Ruto has been to the region twice since the start of the official campaign period.
Mr Odinga and his Nasa team have been there twice, the latest being last weekend when the opposition flagbearer was briefly taken ill after a hectic day of campaigning.
President Kenyatta was in the region during the launch of the standard gauge railway on June 1, which was preceded by a two-day stay.
In 2013, there were 1,171,240 voters in the six counties that make up the coast region.
That number has since grown to 1,713,151, an increase of more than half a million voters.
In 2013, the region leaned heavily towards Mr Odinga, with the exception of Lamu, where he had a slim advantage over President Kenyatta.
Mr Odinga had 69.77 per cent of the vote in Mombasa, 80.74 per cent in Kwale, 83.74 per cent in Kilifi, 61.41 per cent in Tana River, 51.98 per cent in Lamu and 81.56 per cent in Taita-Taveta.
President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto headed to the coast on a working tour after winning the election in what would become an annual routine at the end of each year.
Their frequent visits to the region have resulted in several run-ins with Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho, a staunch Nasa supporter and insider.
In the Gusii region, which has in the past mostly voted for Mr Odinga, President Kenyatta has dangled political carrots to the voters, recently dishing out Sh800 million to resettle the integrated internally displaced people after the 2007/08 post-election violence.
The President made a two-day tour of Kisii and Nyamira Counties on June 7, while Mr Odinga has visited the region thrice.
In the 2013 elections, Mr Odinga got 236,831 votes in Kisii, while President Kenyatta garnered 95,596 of the 412,945 votes cast. In Nyamira, Uhuru got 54,071 as Raila harvested 121,590 votes.
Kisii County currently has the highest number of voters in Nyanza, standing at 546,580 followed by Kisumu County at 539,210, Homa Bay 476,875, Siaya 457,953, Migori 388,633 and Nyamira 278,853
The former Nyanza region now has six counties — Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori, Kisii and Nyamira — which have a combined 2,688,104 voters up from 1,942,138 in 2013.
Reported by John Ngirachu, Patrick Lang’at and Samwel Owino