All eyes on western as Ruto seeks to marshal support

Friday April 19 2019

William Ruto

Former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale (left) and Deputy President William Ruto converge at Township Primary School in Kakamega on April 14, 2019 for a harambee in aid of a church. Mr Ruto wants support to woo Western Kenya voters. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JUSTUS OCHIENG'
By JUSTUS OCHIENG'
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SHABAN MAKOKHA
By SHABAN MAKOKHA
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As the clock ticks towards 2022, all eyes are on Western Kenya, with Deputy President William Ruto leading the top presidential contenders working extra time to get a grip on the vote-rich region.

Mr Ruto has visited the western region more than five times in the past month. In addition, he has a team including sacked Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa, former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale and National Assembly Chief Whip Benjamin Washiali leading his campaigns.

But Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and Ford-Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula are also eying the region to catapult them to the presidency in 2022.

ODM leader Raila Odinga, who has enjoyed massive support from the region in the last decade, also has a strong team on the ground seeking to consolidate votes although he has not declared whether he will run

SPOKESPERSON

Mr Odinga, who entered into a peace agreement with President Uhuru Kenyatta, has maintained that they are still keen on the success of the Building Bridges Initiative, and that engaging in 2022 polls is premature.

Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli has promised to lead western region in identifying credible leaders for the 2022 elections.

"Elders from the region will come up with a list of leaders to be voted in 2022. We don't want the crop of leaders relying on handouts from other quarters for survival," Mr Atwoli said.

In 2016, Mr Atwoli installed Mr Mudavadi as the region's spokesman, with Mr Oparanya as his deputy, after a survey he had commissioned identified the two as the most popular.

Mr Atwoli said the elders will draw up a list that leaves out unprincipled leaders.

FORMIDABLE

But Mr Khalwale has said that the surest way for the region to be in the next government is through supporting Mr Ruto.

He argued that the current Luhya aspirants lack the courage to fight for the seat and must support the DP if they hope to revive their political careers.

“He said the community’s cooperation with Nyanza in the past had borne no fruit, so it should change its strategy and work with its Rift Valley neighbour by supporting the deputy president this time around," he said.