The projects being initiated by the government in parts of Nyanza have split Western and Coast politicians.
Some MPs are accusing ODM leader Raila Odinga of using his handshake deal with President Uhuru Kenyatta to sideline the two regions. The MPs include allies of DP William Ruto and others from ODM.
Mr Odinga’s lieutenants in the two regions have however come to his defence, saying the entire country is gaining from the handshake.
Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali, his Matungu counterpart Justus Murunga, and former Kakamega senator Boni Khalwale last week accused Mr Odinga of using his influence to concentrate projects in his Nyanza backyard while ignoring the rest of western Kenya.
“Raila no longer values western where he claims to be the 13th grandson of Wanga King Nabongo Mumia,” Dr Khalwale said.
The three cited the planned revival of Kisumu port which will be commissioned by Mr Kenyatta this week. Other projects include the oil jetty and the standard gauge railway.
Also on course is the revival of Kicomi factory and the launch of a socio-economic zone in Kisumu.
MPs allied to Mr Ruto demanded that Mr Odinga uses his camaraderie with the President to revive Mumias Sugar Company.
Other projects the lawmakers want the government to fix include the expansion and upgrade of Kakamega Airstrip and the tarmacking of roads.
During an event in Matungu, Dr Khalwale said other regions are not getting anything from the handshake.
At the Coast, Kinango MP Benjamin Tayari (ODM) said the handshake has not helped the region. He added that Coast leaders should unite and push for the region’s agenda.
Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa also criticised the handshake, saying it has only divided the region. “I was among those who supported the handshake, but I discovered that it was not for unity. When I decided to back the DP, I was expelled from the party,” she said.
Kaloleni MP Paul Katana supported Ms Jumwa’s sentiments, saying the handshake had caused more political tension at the Coast and divided the political leadership.
“However, we have realised that as leaders, our unity of purpose must continue to be upheld even though we might have different political ambitions and affiliations,” he said.
He called on the leaders to forge ahead with unity and not to be distracted by party and political positions.
“Recently when the Transport minister made a pronouncement over the SGR cargo directive, we immediately came together and opposed it. The government withdrew its directive and that is what we need to see happening from the Coast leadership,” said Mr Katana.
The criticism however drew sharp reactions from Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi.
In an interview at his Mululu home in Vihiga County, Mr Mudavadi told Sunday Nation that there are no 'handshake projects' and what was going on was government work.
He said the rehabilitation of Kisumu port and the ongoing construction of the highway from Kisumu are being funded by public funds and a grant from World Bank and, therefore, should not be linked to the handshake.
Mr Mudavadi watered down the claims that western Kenya had been sidelined, saying the projects being referred to were initiated way before Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga started working together.
"Let me talk about what is erroneously being called ‘handshake projects’. I think sometimes we use terms in very strange ways,” he said.
"If you are talking about rehabilitation of the port of Kisumu, this is public expenditure programmed within the Ministry of Infrastructure and done through the Kenya Ports Authority," he added.
The port is due for official opening next week at a ceremony that will be graced by Heads of State from East Africa.
On Kisumu-Kakamega-Kitale highway, the Amani leader said its construction is being funded by World Bank and was signed during the period of the Grand Coalition Government, long before the handshake.
"How do you brand a World Bank project a handshake project?," he said.
ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna and national chairman John Mbadi told off Odinga critics and challenged them to seek Mr Ruto’s help in delivering projects to the region.
“They have been moving around claiming Ruto brings development. Why can’t they ask him to bring it to western? Raila is not in government but Ruto is,” Mr Sifuna said.
Revitalisation of the Kisumu port is among key economic projects that have been spearheaded by Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta following their handshake.
Budalang'i MP Raphael Wanjala said the Jubilee MPs should stop misleading residents of western region about the projects being initiated by the government in Nyanza, including the Kisumu port which, he said, will have a huge impact on the economy of western region.
He said the government also plans to modernise Port Victoria in Busia County as part of the efforts to revitalise the blue economy.
He said when the SGR is extended to Butere and Malaba in Kakamega and Busia counties respectively, it will open up the region’s economic potential.
“We have had huge infrastructural projects in western Kenya, including the ongoing construction of the dual carriage Kisumu-Kakamega-Webuye highway; and that is set to change the face of our region.
"It is unfair for our colleagues in Jubilee to heap blame on Mr Odinga and pretend that no development projects are being initiated by the government in the region,” said Mr Wanjala.
Shinyalu MP Justus Kizito said the Jubilee MPs have missed the point by heaping blame on Mr Odinga for the region’s economic woes.
“The Jubilee MPs should stop complaining since they failed to convince President Kenyatta and his deputy to initiate development in western region.
"They need to realise that Mr Odinga is not in government, but his handshake deal was all about building bridges to unite the different communities and promote peaceful coexistence in the country after the last divisive elections,” said Mr Kizito.
“Our colleagues in Jubilee have been busy traversing western, conducting fundraisers in churches and lobbying the Deputy President to influence construction of technical training colleges and medical training colleges in their constituencies. They are the ones to blame for the region’s development woes,” the MP said.
Kakamega Woman Representative Elsie Muhanda said a section of MPs from Kakamega had met Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and discussed implementation of key projects in the region, including roads.
“I have requested for a centre for victims of gender-based violence in Kakamega and, as leaders, we are waiting for a follow up meeting,” said Ms Muhanda.
Mr Mbadi said the DP’s allies were admitting that they have been rallying behind him for their own benefits.
“What they are saying is a clear confirmation they have purely been looking for handouts and have realised so when it is too late and want to use Raila as a scapegoat,” he said.
“Washiali is the Chief Whip of Jubilee government and they have been hosting Ruto many times. So, what has Ruto been doing in western Kenya? They have been claiming they follow Ruto because of development, so where is this development?” Mr Mbadi posed.
Reporting by Benson Amadala, Justus Ochieng, Shaban Makokha, Derick Luvega and Kazungu Baya.