President Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto are expected in western Kenya just two days after the National Super Alliance (NASA) launched Raila Odinga’s presidential campaign in Kakamega town.
Mr Ruto is expected in Kakamega today before the President joins him tomorrow as the scramble for votes in the region intensifies.
Uhuru will begin with tours in Kisii and Nyamira counties, where he is expected to address 16 meetings, before heading to Kakamega.
Like Nyamira and Kisii, Kakamega and Bungoma, where Uhuru will conclude his week-long tour of the region on Sunday, are regarded as Opposition zones.
Uhuru and his Jubilee Party brigade have been working hard to make inroads in the region ahead of the August elections.
Several local leaders have defected to Jubilee while others, although they have their own parties, like Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba of the Labour Party of Kenya, are supporting Uhuru’s re-election.
Jubilee has identified Kisii and Nyamira as major battlegrounds even though the Opposition has insisted those are NASA zones.
A Jubilee insider said the party’s strategic team was working round the clock to ensure that they got at least 30 per cent of the total votes cast. Western region has about 1.9 million registered voters.
“We realised that with (Moses) Wetang’ula and (Musalia) Mudavadi in NASA, Luhya leaders have united. So we must ensure that we get as many votes as possible in areas where we have a huge following,” the source said.
During the 2013 elections, Opposition leader Raila Odinga got 755,525 votes in Western region against Uhuru’s 66,185.
Raila got 77,825 votes in Vihiga, 303,120 in Kakamega, 189,161 in Busia and 185,419 in Bungoma. Uhuru had 2,542 in Vihiga, 12,469 in Kakamega, 8,186 in Busia and 42,988 in Bungoma.
Ruto will start off the tour in Lumakanda, where he is expected to highlight Jubilee projects initiated in the area.
“The DP will be in Lumakanda to tell locals what Jubilee has done for them. Jubilee has built a teachers’ training college and a medical training college in Lugari constituency. He will also talk about the Last Mile Connectivity programme,” said Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali, Jubilee’s point man in the region.
Ruto will also visit Navakholo and Matungu constituencies.
The head of State will join his deputy on Wednesday, when they will visit Butali Sugar Company.
They will later meet local leaders at Kakamega State Lodge before leaving for Trans Nzoia County on Thursday.
“The President will not hold any rallies and has instead chosen to meet leaders to strategise how Jubilee will get more votes in Western,” Mr Washiali said. “The programme might change as he will be greeting people on his way from Butali to Kakamega town,” he added.
Uhuru last visited Western region in December, when he toured Bungoma, Kakamega and Busia counties to inspect and commission projects.
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He was scheduled to return in March but the tour was cancelled at the eleventh hour. State House explained that Uhuru postponed the trip to allow parties to conduct nominations.
His deputy’s last tour of the region was mid-last month, when he toured Kakamega and Bungoma counties. Ruto has been in the region almost every month this year, visiting all four counties.
Jubilee point men in Western say they have identified Sirisia, Webuye West, Mumias East, Matungu and Mt Elgon constituencies as areas where they command overwhelming support.
They have assured the President of a substantial number of votes from these constituencies.
Washiali is also upbeat that Jubilee will win at least six parliamentary seats in Kakamega county alone.
But NASA leaders, who addressed supporters during the launch of their presidential campaign at Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega on Saturday, told Jubilee to forget the region. They said Uhuru and his team would not get any support from the region that voted overwhelmingly for the Opposition in 2013.
Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka is Jubilee’s main man in the region. The Bungoma Jubilee strategic team is headed by Sirisia MP John Waluke.
Mr Waluke is being assisted by Bumula MP Boniface Otsiula, Webuye West lawmaker Dan Wanyama, Bungoma Woman Rep Reginalda Wanyonyi and former Mt Elgon MP Fred Kapondi, who is seeking to dethrone area MP John Serut. Others are Kimilili parliamentary aspirant Didmus Barasa and Tongaren Jubilee parliamentary aspirant John Chikati.
Washiali and his Matungu constituency counterpart David Were are in charge of Kakamega County.
In Busia County, Jubilee has Teso South MP Mary Emase and her Teso North counterpart Arthur Odera, who were elected on the ruling party’s tickets in 2013.
Navakholo MP Emmanuel Wangwe confirmed that the DP would launch a street lighting programme at Navakholo market.
“He will switch on street lights at Navakholo market. This is a great milestone for our young and upcoming town. The programme will help growth by attracting investors in the hospitality sector,” said Mr Wangwe.
“We have been in the dark but street lights will propel the town into becoming a 24-hour economy to benefit our people, reduce insecurity and open up opportunities.”
But Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, who is also the Orange Democratic Movement deputy party leader, termed Jubilee the enemy of the community and asked locals to reject its candidates.
“We say no to Jubilee. Jubilee does not have a chance in Kakamega or Western region at large,” he said.
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