President Uhuru Kenyatta and his main challenger Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance have in the last few days toured each other’s perceived strongholds with varied results.
While President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto returned to Nasa’s perceived stronghold of Kakamega in search of votes, Mr Odinga concluded his two-day campaign tour of Tharaka Nithi and Meru.
That President Kenyatta’s visit was the second underlies the importance of the county in the August 8 elections. The region has a total of 746,877 registered voters.
Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto first visited Kakamega on June 8 after a tour of Gusiiland where they distributed bags of goodies and a total of Sh828 million for the 16,000 integrated IDPs who were kicked out of their land in Rift Valley in the 2007-2008 post-election violence.
On the other hand, Nasa’s forays into the upper eastern region came against the backdrop of reports that it had made inroads in Tigania and Igembe areas and the growing hostility Jubilee’s point man in the region, Meru senator Kiraitu Murungi, has been encountering during his campaigns.
Whereas Mr Odinga and co-principals in Nasa, including his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula, addressed fairly well attended rallies in Tharaka Nithi and parts of Meru, they came across some hostility at Mutuati trading centre when a gang of goons hurled stones at the crowd before they were repulsed by Nasa supporters. It was not immediately clear whether the incident was the work of hired goons or was due to Nasa’s unpopularity in the region.
On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader and Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki dismissed Nasa’s two-day campaign tour as inconsequential, saying the region remained a Jubilee zone.
“The President personally gave miraa farmers Sh2.2 billion to improve the sector and his support remains very strong,” he said, adding that it was Jubilee that saved the crop from being classified as a drug.
But Suna East MP Junet Mohammed says the Nasa wave in the upper eastern region was due to neglect and exclusion by Jubilee in the last four years.
In 2013, Mr Odinga received 32,447 votes compared to President Uhuru’s 384,290 while in Tharaka Nithi, Mr Odinga received 7,120 against Mr Kenyatta’s 128,397.
“The Nasa wave in Meru is a cry of hopelessness. Jubilee has killed the miraa industry besides denying the region its due share of national development,” says Mr Mohammed.
The Jubilee team’s tour of Kakamega was, like Mr Odinga’s tour of Meru, not devoid of hostile incidents.
The President skipped Matungu and Mumias, with his handlers saying it was due to time constraints but sources in the security sector maintaining that it was as a result of intelligence reports of anticipated hostility.
“The President will make as many trips as possible because he must get votes from Western Kenya if he has to successfully defend his seat. At the very least, he must secure at least 15 per cent of the vote to be safe,” says University of Nairobi lecturer Herman Manyora.
Bumula MP Boniface Otsiula (Jubilee) admits that the numbers on offer and the absence of a presidential candidate has opened up the region to competition.