Anxiety in Kuria as final BBI report is awaited

Anxiety in Kuria as final BBI report is awaited

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With the end of the month of June drawing closer when the Building Bridges Initiative taskforce is expected to hand over its report to Uhuru Kenyatta, an unusual excitement is sweeping across the Kuria community anticipating that the report would recommend for a Kuria county. Heightened anxiety is seen among the rank and file of the community with talk that the BBI team had been convinced that a Kuria county was important to replace Nairobi. The BBI preliminary report had indicated that Nairobi county could be placed under the national government. Early this year, a section of the community travelled to Nairobi to present their memorandum to the BBI committee sitting at the Laico Regency Hotel. In a memorandum read by the Kuria East MP Marwa Kitayama, and his Kuria West counterpart, Mathias Robi, the community made a passionate appeal for their own county, citing discrimination, and unfair resource distribution in Migori county as among the reasons why they wanted their own county. Before devolution, Kuria was a municipal council which combined both Kuria West and Kuria East constituencies.

Discussions in market places in Kuria, WhatsApp groups and other social media forums are awash with praise to Uhuru and Raila Odinga over the anticipated Kuria county. Elitist groups, professional associations and top politicians in the area seem to be all convinced that the report would recommend for the creation of a Kuria county which they say would be a game-changer in the socio-economic and political emancipation of the community. A snapshot of the Kuria East legislator’s comments on social media reveal a complete change of heart towards the ODM party leader. Kitayama is a first-time MP and has been a close associate of William Ruto. He was elected on a Jubilee party ticket in 2017. “Am a servant of the people of Kuria who elected me to parliament. And as it appears Kuria people have decided to work with baba. Who am I, to say no when they are my employers.

In fact, a Kuria county will be a game-changer that would trigger our political realignments in future,” one of his comments read. Equally, the Kuria West MP, Mathias Robi in one television interview recently indicated a softened heart towards the ODM party leader.“We as a community will have no problem with Raila, if he and Uhuru give us our own county. All we want is development for our people and that can only be achieved through having our own county”. Robi is a second-term MP and a Ruto diehard. He was first elected on a URP ticket. Retired politicians in the community who have had a hardliner stand against the ODM party leader are seemingly warming up to him. Former Kehancha municipal council mayor Nyahiri Muhindi had this to say in one of the press conferences: “Sisi hatuna shida na Raila Odinga, kitu tunataka ni atupe kaunti yetu. Maendeleo yetu yamekufa. Jiji letu la Kehancha limekuwa mahame”. A Jubilee party MCA, Augustine Mwera, argued: “We are confident the president will give us our county.

Wilfred Machage

I was next to him during campaigns at Kegonga when he said that when an opportunity arises, he will give us a county. This is now that opportune moment”. Political observers in Kuria also seem to be agreement that the ODM leader could for the first time defeat all other presidential candidates in the 2022 election if he played his cards right with BBI recommendations.“In 2013 and 2017, we rejected him because he has been watching as we are being mauled like beef at the Migori county. What stops us from voting for him 100pc if he gives us our own county? After all, he is our neighbour and the closest of all the other presidential candidates”. An argument in the Kuria professional association group reads. There has been tribal tension in Migori county after every general election due to perceived ideological and political differences haboured by the Kuria and Luo communities. Kuria makes up 35pc of the Migori county population and is viewed as a “spoiler” vote in the ODM dominated Nyanza region. In the August 2017 presidential election, Uhuru garnered 41,951 (65pc) votes against Raila Odinga’s 21,202 (34pc) votes.

In the repeat presidential elections held in October 2017, and boycotted by the ODM leader, Uhuru got 13,156 votes against Raila 180 votes. Kurias turned out to vote in the repeat poll boycotted by Luos in what was viewed as a rebellion against Raila over the distribution of the county’s political seats in the general elections. A position of senator that had been held by Wilfred Machage between 2013 and 2017 had been won by the late broadcast journalist Ben Oluoch, while the seat of woman representative previously held by Dennittah Ghati was won by Pamela Odhiambo. Only Nelson Mwita retained his seat of the deputy governor, a position largely viewed as the preserve of the governor’s choice. Kuria is the only region in ODM dominated South Nyanza region with two Jubilee MPs. In the 2010 referendum which ushered in the new constitution, the community voted against it on grounds that they were denied their own county.