The planned naming of a spokesman for the Luhya community is expected to set the stage for fresh political re-alignments in western Kenya.
Residents from five counties in western Kenya are expected at the unveiling in Kakamega County’s Bukhungu Stadium on Saturday.
The initiative by trade unionist Francis Atwoli has elicited mixed reactions and sparked off intense speculation from leaders in western, which is considered a key swing vote region.
An endorsement as spokesman is likely to be a major boost to either Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi, Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula or Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.
Mr Atwoli said he had sent invitations to governors, senators and MPs who were supporting his initiative.
Mr Martin Andati, a political analyst, said the initiative by Mr Atwoli could boomerang arguing that it was meant to hoodwink the Luhya to vote as a bloc for a presidential candidate from another region.
“There will be a serious political backlash among the Luhya when it dawns on them that they were duped to rally behind one of their own and end up backing a presidential candidate from another region,” he said.
Mr Andati accused Mr Atwoli for rushing the idea without consulting other key politicians.
But Mr Kibisu Kabatesi, the ANC spokesman, dismissed the criticism saying those faulting Mr Atwoli’s initiative were being insincere.
“Mr Atwoli has for the last one year been talking to leaders from western on the issue of uniting the community to speak with one voice and rally behind one of their own in 2017,” he said.
He said the moment of reckoning for the Luhya Nation had come and politicians from the region should stop undermining the efforts being made By Mr Atwoli and ensure a spokesman was picked to bargain on behalf of the community.
Police have stepped up security ahead of the unveiling of the spokesman in Kakamega with additional officers deployed from neighbouring sub-counties.
“We are expecting a large turn out and we have put in place extra security measures,” said the County police chief Mr Tito Kilonzi.
The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss has remained unfazed by the criticism from Ford Kenya party and a group of the Luhya Elders Forum.
The trade unionist maintained that his campaign was meant to give political direction to the Luhya community by identifying a spokesperson who will serve as a unifying factor in the populous region.
“The spokesman will act as a negotiator for the community on issues political and economic issues affecting western region. We are tired of political brokers who have been using the numerical strength of the Luhya community for selfish interests,” said Mr Atwoli.
But Mr Wetang’ula, the Bungoma Senator and his Kakamega counterpart Boni Khalwale have rejected plans by the Cotu boss to name a spokesman for the community.
They have challenged Mr Atwoli to explain to residents of western region who gave him the mandate to name the spokesman, claiming it a ploy by the trade unionist to cause political divisions in the Luhya nation.
“If Mr Atwoli wants to name his spokesman, that is fine but he should not impose an individual on us,” said Mr Wetang’ula.
Some Jubilee politicians in Kakamega had earlier vowed to disrupt the meeting but Mr Atwoli warned them they would be met with the full force of the law.
Mr Atwoli asked Mr Wetang’ula not panic over the event. He said he had decided to spearhead the initiative to ensure the community was respected and had a spokesman to articulate their interests.
However, Luhya Elders Forum vice chairperson Burudi Nabwera said Mr Atwoli had no right to name a spokesman for the community.
“He (Atwoli) has not told us about the platform he is using to initiate such a delicate process and who gave him the mandate to do so,” he said.
Mr Nabwera said community spokesman in most parts of the world are not chosen but “emerge on their own through their leadership traits.”
“The history of the community speaks for itself. Leaders emerge. They are not chosen. The first leader to emerge from this community was Elijah Masinde,” he said.
But Mr Atwoli said Mr Nabwera, a former cabinet minister should explain to the Luhya community what development initiatives he had done when he served in the Kanu government.
“Mr Nabwera is one of the Luhya leaders who has let down the community since he failed to initiate any meaningful development projects when he served in an influential position as a cabinet minister,” said Mr Atwoli.
Cotu boss said those opposed to the unveiling of the spokesman for the community were fearing they would end up being politically irrelevant after the Luhya Nation had charted a new political direction.