Politics dominated speeches during the burial of Ikolomani MP Bernard Shinali’s son in Kakamega County on Friday, with supporters of Deputy President William Ruto clashing with those of opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Musalia Mudavadi over the handshake and 2022 succession.
Former Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa and Sirisia MP Dan Wanyama kicked off the debate when they accused Mr Odinga of channelling development projects to his native Nyanza.
“The Luhya nation is in a sorry state after all industries in western collapsed. We thought the ‘handshake’ was meant to unite Kenyans and spur development in all regions, but it is turning out to be a Nyanza affair. Let Raila be informed that western supported him and he should extend the benefits to this region,” Mr Echesa said.
But Budalangi MP Raphael Wanjala took him head on, accusing him of failing to use his position in the Cabinet to revive collapsed industries.
“Tell us what you did to revive the collapsed industries before you were abruptly sacked so that we can complete them.”
Sabatia MP Alfred Agoi joined the fray, accusing pro-Ruto MPs from the region of failing to use their proximity to the DP to address the collapse of industries in the region.
“We know that all sugar millers in the region have collapsed and youths are jobless. But if Mr Ruto can allocate Sh63 billion towards construction of a dam, why don’t you talk to him so that he allocates money to revive the industries?” Mr Agoi charged.
Mr Agoi and Mr Wanjala spoke after Dr Ruto had addressed the mourners attending the burial of Mr Chris Atema Masaka, a US Army officer, at Lirhembe Primary School in Ikolomani and left.
Mr Agoi said the region’s economy will only be revived once a member of the Luhya community ascends to power.
“It is because of the struggling economy in the region that we are drumming up support for Musalia Mudavadi to take over from Mr Kenyatta as the next president,” he added.
But his sentiments were dismissed by Malava MP Malulu Injendi who said a Luhya presidency remains a mere illusion.
“Musalia should instead join Ruto who is set to replace Mr Kenyatta in 2022 so that our community can form the next government,” said Mr Injendi.
Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali supported the call for Mr Mudavadi to work with the DP, saying the Luhya community is not ready to produce a president.
He said the community is divided and lacks the capacity to mount a serious presidential campaign. “When Luhyas wanted Mudavadi to become their flag-bearer in 2017, he chose to become Raila’s campaign manager. This does not give him authority to declare himself the leader of opposition after his boss signed a deal with President Uhuru Kenyatta,” said Mr Washiali.
Dr Ruto had told political leaders not to use the referendum debate to divide Kenyans.
"As the top leadership of this country, we have resolved to engage in politics that will bring Kenyans together and we want all leaders to tow the same line. Leadership should not be about making noise of tibbim or tialala but uniting people and initiating development projects," said the DP, referring to the ODM campaign slogan in 2017.
He said even with the debate on the Building Bridges or Punguza Mizigo initiatives, Kenyans should remain united and responsible in their decision-making.
He urged residents to embrace technical education, saying it is the technical skills Mr Masaka acquired from the Rift Valley Technical Institute that enabled him to be employed in the US Army as a diesel engine specialist.