DP William Ruto speaks to residents of Sirisia town in Bungoma county during a Jubilee rally (Photo: DPPS)
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto have stepped up the battle for the Western vote in a bid to upstage Opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s candidature.
Wednesday, Mr Ruto took Jubilee campaigns to Bungoma County where he declared that the Western region, where Raila garnered more votes than Uhuru in 2013, was no longer an Opposition stronghold.
“It is laughable to hear NASA claim this is their stronghold. It used to be but that’s not the situation at the moment. They should forget Western for good because this is now Jubilee stronghold as a result of the development we have accomplished,” said Ruto, buoyed by scores of defections by Opposition leaders who are defending their seats on Jubilee Party’s tickets.
The DP spoke hours before Uhuru, who had concluded a two-day tour of Kisii and Nyamira counties, other regions considered crucial to the re-election of Jubilee, joined him in Kakamega County for a series of rallies.
Western’s four counties of Bungoma, Kakamega, Busia and Vihiga have at least two million registered voters, which have formed a key bloc for the Opposition.
But with recent political alignments, Jubilee is working to eat into that advantage. Some strategists say the ruling coalition is eyeing 30 to 40 per cent of the region’s vote, which if topped up with anticipated gains at the Coast and Gusii regions, would be enough to avoid a presidential run-off vote.
Kanu aspirants tell off their Jubilee rivals
Kanu aspirants tell off their Jubilee rivals
In 2013, Uhuru got less than 100,000 votes while Raila secured over 700,000 but overall Uhuru won 50.07% of the national presidential vote, narrowly avoiding a run-off.
And addressing locals in Malava market of Kakamega County, President Kenyatta appealed to residents to vote for him, saying the region has benefited a great deal during his first term in office.
“I did not come here for insults but to ask for your votes. I apologise for coming late but I had to come to talk to you,” said the President, who landed at Tande Primary School shortly after 6pm.
Uhuru dismissed the Opposition for claiming the Jubilee administration only benefited people from his backyard and that of his deputy.
“In the four years have been in office, I have brought a lot of development in Western. Over 250km of roads have been tarmacked or are still under construction. I have injected billions of shillings into the revival of the sugar sector and also revived Pan Paper,” he said.
Uhuru also addressed locals at Kambi ya Mwanza and Lubao markets before meeting area leaders at the Kakamega State Lodge.
Ruto said they had consolidated Jubilee support in the region and united all candidates who failed in the nominations to support the winners.
“Our team in Western region is strong and I am optimistic it will deliver votes to President Uhuru Kenyatta. I am sure our numbers this time round will increase compared to 2013. I ask you to walk together with us in this journey,” said Ruto.
In Gusii, the President promised that beginning next year, every new mothers would be given health insurance so that together with the newborn children they can access free medication for the first one year.
“We keep our promises. We told you we will give you clean exams and we did. Now we are promising we will give you free secondary education,” Uhuru said.
In Bungoma, Ruto said the Jubilee administration had implemented infrastructural projects in the region, which had given them an upper hand over their rivals.
“Opposition leaders were at one time in power but did not bother to develop the area,” he explained.
He was accompanied by Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka and MPs Ababu Namwamba (Budalang’i), John Waluke (Sirisia), Reginalda Wanyonyi (Bungoma), Dan Wanyama (Webuye West), Lazaro Wafula (Saboti) and former Mt Elgon MP Fred Kapondi.
The DP began his tour in Cheptais, Mt Elgon, where he promised to open up the road network to ensure agricultural produce reach the markets on time.
He later proceeded to Mayuba Stadium in Sirisia constituency and Muliro Gardens in Webuye East, as he expressed optimism that the Jubilee team in the region would deliver a majority seats in the forthcoming elections.
Ruto further stated they would base their campaigns on their development record.
He further hit at NASA for always finding fault in every Government project, citing Pan Paper mill, which is now operational.
“They see nothing good in whatever we do for our people. They are all about propaganda but we are all about action,” he said.