The recent sacking of Rashid Echesa as cabinet secretary for Sports has created confusion in Western Kenya as Luhya politicians fight to remain relevant in the run-up to 2022.
Seen in some quarters as an affront to the community’s dignity, political leaders are now grappling with divided loyalties as the clock fast ticks towards Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession.
With the famous handshake between the president and Raila Odinga drastically altering the political equation across the country, three opposing camps have now emerged, one supporting the Uhuru-Raila camaraderie; another one hopping to William Ruto’s bandwagon, with the third group solidly rooting for ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi.
In the wake of Echesa’s dismissal, Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali, a staunch Ruto ally, came out strongly to voice the community’s concern over Echesa’s sacking and warned that Luhyas would reconsider their support for Jubilee.
Those tagging along Washiali’s school of thought include Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, Sirisia’s John Waluke and Dan Wanyama of Bungoma West; all fervent supporters of the DP. The MPs have stuck to their demands that the government comes clean on Echesa’s ejection from the cabinet.
Malava MP Moses Injendi and his Navakholo counterpart Emmanuel Wangwe, both elected on the Jubilee platform are other ardent supporters of the DP from the Western region.
Even with the much touted ANC-Ford-Kenya merger just but a still at birth, Mudavadi commands significant loyalty from MPs elected on his party ticket.
In Kakamega county, Ayub Savula of Lugari, Titus Khamala, Lurambi, Tindi Mwale, Butere and Christopher Aseka have remained steadfast behind ANC party boss, who is expected to compete in the presidential race in 2022.
Mudavadi’s Vihiga county has Alfred Agoi, Sabatia, Ernest Ogesi, Vihiga and Omboko Milemba as his foot soldiers. It is not known where Hamisi MP Charles Gimose’s loyalty lies. But many say that he is one of those enjoying Ruto handouts. The MP had Vihiga MCAs visit the DP at his rural home at Sugoi and Nairobi Karen residence.
Elected on a Ford Kenya ticket, Gimose looks to have assumed an anonymous leaning as is Alfred Sambu, the Webuye East MP in Bungoma county, who, despite his reelection on ANC, has remained noncommittal on national politics.
Luanda’s Chris Omulele of ODM is Raila’s avid supporter. Like all ODM MPs in the region, Omulele has stuck with Baba and is supportive of the famous handshake that is now rocking the UhuRuto boat. Omulele decision to stick with Raila has seen his opponent Khalid Njiraini defect to ODM and of late is reaching out to Ruto. Another diehard Raila supporter is nominated ANC MP Geoffrey Osotsi.
Other ODM MPs in the region who are understood to be firmly behind the Uhuru-Raila rapport include Johnson Naicca, Mumias West, Kizito Mugali, Shinyalu, Geoffrey Omuse, Teso South, Geoffrey Odanga, Matayos, Joseph Oyula, Butula, Wilberforce Oundo, Funyula and Raphael Wanjala, Budalang’i. Though elected on an ANC ticket, Sakwa Bunyasi, Nambale sides with Raila’s handshake crew as is vocal Kakamega senator Cleophas Malala, an unapologetic Raila supporter.
With Ford-Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula at an all-time low since his fallout with Raila, his party luminaries in the region have been sending mixed signals on where their loyalties lie, at least for now.
The dissolution in 2017 of New Ford Kenya of Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa and later Kenneth Lusaka occasioned a vacuum in Bungoma and Trans Nzoia.
Whereas Wamalwa is angling for a political comeback in 2022 – most probably as Trans Nzoia governor – Lusaka is an ardent supporter of the DP. If anything, he mildly aspires to be picked as Ruto’s running mate.
To many, the Echesa hullabaloo may just be a sheer smokescreen, after all. Long on the campaign trail to date, Ruto’s loyalists in the region have never hesitated to make their intentions known.
Led by former Kakamega senator Bonnie Khalwale, the politicians have seized every moment available to view the renewed war on corruption from the lens of anti-Ruto machinations designed to block him from succeeding Uhuru.
It now emerges that like in his Rift Valley backyard, proponents of the DP’s 2022 power play are overly contemptuous of the newfound Uhuru-Raila amity to the point of belittling the president’s commitment to the war on graft, a key plank of the Building Bridges Initiative spearheaded by Uhuru and Raila.
Alert to Uhuru’s imminent exit from the political scene, pro-Ruto politicians in the region seem to be reading from the same script with their counterparts from the Rift, Ruto’s back yard. It all boils down to their man’s disdain for the ODM leader, who equally treats his erstwhile ally with cynicism on matters of corruption.
In the wake of the ongoing Raila-Ruto spat on the one hand and the president’s muted silence on the other, the DP’s supporters have clearly assumed the role of his attack dogs.
A common denominator here is the chilling of relations between Uhuru and Ruto allies who blame Raila for their boss’s troubles. So emboldened are the pro-Ruto MPs that they have lately been throwing jabs at the president left, right and centre, even daring him to back Raila in the 2022 if he so desires.
Despite the publicity bravado for Mudavadi and ANC party, there is a false image of calmness and organisation. The party is in deep leadership problems following the unorthodox attempts to remove nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi from the secretary general position and replacement with publisher Barrack Muluka.
Muluka is facing resistance not only from general party members but also from majority of MPs, MCAs and branch officials.
Some MPs we spoke to and who requested anonymity for fear of intimidation from Mudavadi and his cronies wondered why Mudavadi chose Barrack Muluka of all the members of the party.
The MPs also questioned the motive behind unending efforts aimed at intimidating the nominated MP Osotsi. They vowed to stick with Osotsi.
This came after the MPs and a number of MCAs learned of a secret meeting organised by the party leader Mudavadi and Muluka to formulate a disciplinary committee that was supposed to start plans of removing Osotsi from the party hence revoking his nomination as an MP.
The secret meeting was aimed at initiating a disciplinary action on Osotsi and Petronila Were. The disciplinary action is premised on the so-called Auditor General management letter that also indirectly indicts other party officials. In fact, the letter can be used by any Kenyan to question the validity and compliance of the party.
Bunyore elders raised the issue of victimisation of Osotsi before the council meeting of Luhya Council of Elders held last Saturday held in Kitale at the home of Burudi Nabwera. A Maragoli elder, a Mr Ludava was directed to raise elders’ concern with Mudavadi.
This ongoing leadership crisis has reached high crisis levels endangering the existence of the party established to foster peace, tranquility and coexistence among Kenyans. The party adopted the Luhyas community rallying call of Mulembe which means Amani in Swahili. However, just three years since its formation the party has internal feuds which will soon explode badly and hurt the 2022 presidential ambitions of Mudavadi.
Surprisingly, when a number of MCAs questioned his performance as the SG, Muluka blamed Mudavadi for not financing party programmes, not even bearing in mind that Osotsi managed the party fairly well with no resources.
It has also emerged that ANC party has two factions with Osotsi controlling majority of legitimate officials across the country while Mudavadi’s team has officials not recognised by the registrar.
ANC also got a major blow after Kipruto Kirwa resigned from ANC recently after he learned that he was not a registered party official besides being lied to that he was the deputy party leader.