Several key issues for Western region leaders were brought to the fore during the consultative forum on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) that took place in Kakamega County on Saturday.
Among leaders who attended the mega meeting were Raila Odinga (Orange Democratic Movement), Musalia Mudavadi (Amani National Congress) and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula (Ford Kenya).
Also present was Council of Governors Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) and Francis Atwoli, Secretary-General of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions.
Mr Mudavadi, Vihiga Senator George Khaniri and Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi said the community has been marginalised and sidelined despite its huge potential for economic growth.
They asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to ensure professionals from the region are given an opportunity to serve in key positions in his administration.
Mr Mudavadi said that although Kenya is Uganda's largest trading partner by volume, communities from Western do not benefit.
“The benefits are felt in Nairobi but nothing trickles down to the region,” he said.
Senator Khaniri had a message for Mr Odinga. He asked him to inform the President that Western region leaders would like to meet him and discuss the matter of collapsed industries.
He noted that the collapse has hampered economic growth in the area.
The leaders want the government to urgently revive Mumias Sugar Company, which is currently under receivership, and the debt-ridden Nzoia Sugar Company.
“We would like the government to waive the ailing sugar millers' debts and bail out tea farmers," he said.
Mr Khaniri further noted that Western enjoyed a substantial number of appointments during retired President Daniel arap Moi’s administration and that of founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
His remarks echoed what several leaders said at the meeting at Bukhungu Stadium -- that the BBI is the only way for Luhyas to secure a top seat in the government after the next poll.
Mr Atwoli said he will ensure the community produces a top leader come the 2022 General Election.
The Cotu boss asked Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang'ula to dissolve their parties and forge an alliance to demonstrate their seriousness about the community's unity.
While praising Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang'ula for attending the meeting, CS Wamalwa said it proved critics of Luhya unity wrong.
Kanu Secretary-General Nick Salat said it was unfortunate that divisions among the region's leaders had created disadvantages in their quest for the presidency.
Governors Oparanya, Wilber Ottichilo (Vihiga), Patrick Wangamati (Bungoma), Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia) and Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia) said they fully support the BBI since the region will benefit from its recommendations.
The county chiefs proposed establishment of economic blocs to spur growth.
Mr Oparanya, chairman of the national sugar taskforce, said a report will be handed to President Kenyatta.
Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya is expected to tour the region and meet leaders for discussions on strengthening the sector.
Busia Senator Amos Wako, a member of the BBI Taskforce, said he was happy that Western leaders had finally agreed to shelve their political differences and embrace the report for the benefit of those they represent.
Siaya Senator James Orengo renewed calls for a referendum to be held in July to push for constitutional changes as captured in the BBI report.
Mr Orengo said any attempt to present the report to Parliament will scuttle the process.
“We want a referendum by July since the Gazette notice signed by President Kenyatta for extension of the term of the taskforce says the report should be handed in by June 30,” he said.
The governors at the rally said they will ensure their people have opportunities to discuss the report and give their views.
Among them were also James Ongwae (Kisii), John Nyagarama (Nyamira), Okoth Obado (Migori), Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay), Anyang' Nyong’o (Kisumu) and Cornel Rasanga (Siaya).
Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja said the BBI reflected the position of the ruling Jubilee Party.
"Those saying there should be no meetings because Kenyans have accepted the report are pushing a personal agenda. They should know Kenyans have accepted to unite irrespective of their parties and at all costs," he said.
Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru said her colleagues in the central region formed committees to popularise the report at the grassroots level.
“We have agreed to work together ... our position on the report is uniform. We are confident the BBI will address issues affecting women and determine how the country is run,” she said.
Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu said the BBI will give all communities opportunities to have a stake in the next government.
“If the BBI report is passed and the recommendations enacted into law, women and youth will be the biggest beneficiaries because it will take care of their interests,” she said.
Nominated MP Maina Kamanda had a warning for politicians in Jubilee's Tangatanga faction, who are allied to Deputy President William Ruto.
He said "those making noise in Central Kenya, while opposing the BBI, will forced to come pleading for President Kenyatta to forgive them”.
Mr Kamanda said leaders from the region will take a common position on the BBI when their consultative meeting is held.
He asked them to work together and focus on the report's implementation if they want a position in government.
Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny likened the BBI wave to a political tsunami that he said is sweeping across the whole country.