The battle lines for the control of the vast Luhya vote have been defined as political realignments and supremacy wars among the political elite intensify ahead of the 2022 general election. Two major political blocs have emerged, with one led by Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli that fronts Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya, Devolution Cabinet secretary Eugene Wamalwa as the Luhya political kingpins, while another is fronted by Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula. Luhyas have also joined the fray by forming political lobby groups supporting the two political blocs. The latest developments have opened a supremacy war between those who want to see a paradigm shift in the way Luhya politics is conducted and those who want to maintain the status quo.
The shifting political alliances among Luhya politicians started at a Nairobi Westlands hotel Annesis when 27 MPs from the region met and came up with a raft of resolutions among them that they will not be merely peddling parties. Key among their resolutions was the endorsement of Oparanya and Wamalwa to spearhead the initiative. For a long time, word has it as your favourite Weekly Citizen has been reporting, Oparanya is set to be installed as Luhya elder by Atwoli forces. The meeting, which was said to have the blessings of Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga also discussed imminent changes in the leadership at the national assembly, the revival of stalled projects, the challenges in the sugar and maize sectors and appointment of the members of the community to the government.
While the lawmakers tasked Oparanya to provide political leadership, they prevailed upon the CS to ensure the interests of the community in government are secured. Mudavadi and Wetangula’s supporters roundly condemned the MPs meeting saying it was a ploy to isolate the ANC and Ford Kenya leaders from the 2022 succession race. And even before the storm raised by the MPs meeting could settle, a follow-up meeting was held at Atwoli’s Kajiado home that came up with other resolutions that are likely to shape the way the Luhya approach the 2022 general election. The congregation at Ildamat home of the Cotu secretary general where all Western leaders present resolved to create a team led by Oparanya to spearhead negotiations with Uhuru and Raila on the future of the House of Mulembe as regards the 2022 elections, is an initiative born out of frustrations and the ghosts of the past where the Luhya the second largest tribe in Kenya are politically ignored owing to disorganization of their leaders.
What many may not know is that the organizers of the meeting decided to move after several attempts to bring Mudavadi and Wetangula on board were frustrated by the two. The two argue Atwoli is pushing for outside forces to take control of the community. However, Atwoli has openly stated to push for community agenda by uniting its leaders who are disunited despite the common Luhya man being together. The other compelling factor was the mixed signals sent by Mudavadi after he was seen busy entertaining Tanga Tanga rebel MPs who for the entire week have been camping at his offices and taking pictures with him. That more than anything else sent a clear political message that Mudavadi’s ANC is already wrapped in discussion with deputy president William Ruto, a factor that makes it absolutely difficult for Uhuru and Raila to work together with Mudavadi as initially thought that the ANC leader was going to be the compromise candidate.
Mudavadi has denied this. According to inside sources at the centre of the political engineering who talked to this reporter, the decision to bring Oparanya and Wamalwa assisted by Atwoli on board is derived from the fact that all the efforts by Uhuru and Raila to bring Mudavadi to their camp have hit a snag after he insisted that he was going for nothing less than the presidency. The Kajiado meeting is therefore seen as a counterplot to Mudavadi as the new development brought together nearly 40 MPs, governors and senators. Apart from Oparanya, governors present were Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma), Wilbur Otichillo (Vihiga), Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia) with Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia) sending apologies. Maragoli MPs on ANC ticket Alfred Agoi, Ernest Kagesi, women rep Beatrice Adagala skipped the Atwoli Kajiado function. Omboko Milemba (Emuhaya) and Chris Omulele (Luanda) attended. Senate speaker Kenneth Lusaka and former minister Cyrus Jirongo were present. Nominated MP Geoffrey Osotsi, Caleb Amisi (Saboti), George Aladwa (Makadara), Bishop Titus Khamala (Lurambi) Wafula Wamunyinyi (Kanduyi), Simiyu Esieli (Tongaren) among others who honoured the Atwoli function.
Chris Wamalwa (Kiminini) Bungoma women rep Catherine Wambilyanga and Ben Washiali kept off. Coming after Kakamega Tanga Tanga MPs namely Emmanuel Wangwe, Malulu Injendi and Bernard Shinali deserting Ruto for Oparanya camp, the political heat in Western may still be at early stages but one cannot ignore the fact that while Uhuru and Raila are controlling things, they will try to ringfence the presidency. While Mudavadi would be the automatic choice for most Luhya voters, and by extension, Kenyans for president has a penchant of making costly blunders at the last minute. In 2002 where everybody thought that Mudavadi was the man to beat, he retreated and joined Uhuru Kenyatta and Moi against the Narc machine that vanquished him until 2007 when he rejoined Raila Odinga and got appointed deputy prime minister.
Similarly, he made another mistake again in 2013 when he was made to think that Kibaki wanted Mudavadi to succeed him. In a clever ploy to hoodwink him into the game, the then Ikolomani MP Bonnie Khalwale and the late Soita Shitanda were quickly tasked to convince Mudavadi that the state machinery was supporting his cause. It turned out to be disastrous for him. The current talk of ANC going into bed with Ruto is the most profound political deal again that anyone can make but according to insiders, Ruto is the cause he has been adamant to join Atwoli camp but which will ultimately determine who next president becomes. The meeting which was termed as a critical rejoinder by the Mulembe nation to fill in the faultlines in western Kenya also saw several leaders coroneted as the spokespersons for the larger Luhya community. Governor Oparanya, Devolution CS Wamalwa, and Atwoli, were proposed for the spokespersons role. Kakamega Senator Cleopas Malala and his counterpart from the National Assembly, Navakholo MP, Wangwe are to lobby for the community’s positions in the parliamentary realignments.
The leaders also tasked with the responsibility of negotiating with the government for development and other communities, in forming a new and transformative Kenya that is all-inclusive. Similarly, the leaders outlined a list of projects that they hope they will benefit from Uhuru Kenyatta’s government. They include agricultural and infrastructural developments in the region. The heightened political activities have put Atwoli, Oparanya and Wamalwa together with Mudavadi and Wetang’ula on a collision course setting the stage for a titanic political war that is likely to have major political casualties and repercussions. Mudavadi and Wetang’ula are astute politicians of long experience. The meeting which was attended by several governors, 34 MPs, and six senators also resolved to support the Building Bridges Initiative agenda by Uhuru and Raila. It is believed that Uhuru and Raila are keen on having the BBI report that proposes the establishment of the position of Prime Minister and two deputy prime ministers is implemented ahead of the 2022 General Election.