The boundary row between Nandi and Kisumu counties took a new twist on Monday after the name of former Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga cropped up.
Leaders from Nandi County said that the dispute between the two counties started when the late Jaramogi was Vice President to founding president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
The leaders led by former Nandi County Council Chairman Charles Tanui claimed that Jaramogi petitioned the first president to allow members of the Luo community who lived in Kisumu to move and settle at hilly places in Nandi during heavy rains to avoid being swept away floods.
They said that Kenyatta accepted the request and hundreds of people from Nyanza sugar belt were allowed to occupy land in Nandi near the boundary on temporary basis.
“When Jaramogi was dropped as Vice President, our counterparts from Kisumu County continued to stay in the land inside Nandi County until the death of Mzee Kenyatta in 1978,” said Mr Tanui.
The Nandi County leaders have supported plans by area Governor Stephen Sang for the boundary issue to be looked into afresh.
Led by Governor Sang, the leaders have set their sight on large swathes of land in the two constituencies of Muhoroni and Kisumu East they claim was taken from them during the construction of the Uganda Railway by the British.
The British evicted the Nandi from the areas because of their militant opposition to the railway project, they claim.
Mr Sang chaired a meeting of Nandi leaders three months ago ahead of a visit to the county by the National Land Commission (NLC).
The meeting, at Nandi Bears Club, came up with a declaration to seek the return of the contested areas. These were identified as Miwani, Kibos, Kibigori, Kopere, Chemelil, Fort Tenan and Muhoroni towns.
This has not gone down well with leaders from Kisumu County who are reading politics in the claim by Nandi leaders and say while there is no realistic chance of them achieving their objectives, the potential for violence and loss of lives and property was huge.
The agitation has caused tension along the border of the two counties, slowing down investment in agriculture and microfinance sectors. The two counties stand to lose heavily in terms of revenue generation because of fears of insecurity unless the matter is quickly resolved.
In the event of the agitation succeeding, Kisumu county would lose sugar companies, large tracts of fertile land and thousands of its residents.
According to Kisumu Ward Reps, the agitation could also threaten the Lake Region Economic Bloc in which the two counties are members. The bloc was formed recently to push for the economic interests of 14 counties in western Kenya.
At the bloc’s second summit meeting in Busia two weeks ago, Governor Sang’ and his Kisumu counterpart Anyang Nyong’o shook hands in a bid to quell disquiet.
On Wednesday last week, the Kisumu County Assembly passed a motion seeking to compel the electoral body and the National Land Commission to tour Kisumu and clear the air on the boundaries between the two counties.
The motion moved by Nominated MCA Caren Muga wants the state agencies to state clearly where the boundaries are to quell the rising tension on the border.
Mrs Muga said the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga was meant to foster peace but Governor Sang’s land campaign will derail the objective.
Nandi County is demanding that the entire land on the Eastern part where Uganda/Kisumu Railway pass returned to the Nandi community using legal process.
“Due to the difference between Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi, the founding President kept off from visiting Kisumu until he died in 1978 and since the boundary row hasn’t been solved,” said Mr Tanui on Monday.
But according to Nandi County Assembly speaker Joshua Kiptoo the decision by the National government in 2015 to privatise the Sugar companies in the Country is the main source of conflict between two Counties.
Mr Kiptoo claimed that the two counties want to have control more resources since the region is rich in horticulture and for sugar and sisal crop production.
“The Nandi County Assembly want peaceful relationship between both Nandi and Kisumu Counties and the two regions should not fight over common boundary,” said Mr Kiptoo.
The speaker proposed that leaders and elders from Nandi and Luo communities to meet urgently and reach an amicable solution over the issue and not allow politics to frustrate the peace since two counties are cosmopolitan.
“The National Land Commission and IEBC should find a lasting solution on historical land injustices. Political leaders should desist from incitements,” said Mr Kiptoo.
IEBC has the mandate to change only political boundaries within the counties every 10 years. A review is due before the 2022 elections and this could also explain the agitation by Nandi County.