President Uhuru Kenyatta
Jubilee is preparing a major political assault on the densely populated Gusii swing-vote region to shore up its support ahead of the August General Election.
Party mandarins have drafted what they consider an irresistible strategy to reverse perceived gains of the National Super Alliance (NASA), whose key luminaries have made numerous visits to the region that holds 800,000 votes.
The document, part of which was seen by The Standard on Sunday, has listed key ongoing and completed projects worth billions of shillings that the Jubilee administration hopes to use as testimony of its determination to develop the area.
They range from billions of shillings spent on key roads and hospitals, according to the document some of whose contents are borrowed from the President’s Delivery Unit.
As part of the strategy, a high-profile trip by President Uhuru Kenyatta is slated for this month in a move that may signal the start of a scramble for a region seen as a major vote-hunting arena.
The President has kept his supporters in the region guessing after failing to visit the area during his countrywide whirlwind tour for the mass voter registration drive.
The area’s two counties – Kisii and Nyamira – have been classified as swing vote regions, a tag NASA has discounted on claims that the region is “heavily tilted” in their favour.
The alliance’s confidence is hinged on history, given the area voted heavily in favour of the Opposition in the 2013 elections.
Then, Jubilee only managed 54,071 (29.5 per cent) of the presidential votes in Nyamira. In Kisii, Uhuru obtained 95,596 (27.4 per cent) leaving CORD’s Raila Odinga to take the lion’s share of 236,831 (67.9 per cent) and 121,590 (66.3 per cent) respectively in the two counties.
Soon after the elections, however, the region started gravitating towards Jubilee until last year when the gains were retarded after a section of leaders came up with a highly unpopular local alliance called Obomo (Unity) meant to unite the two counties.
But many residents read mischief and gave the alliance a cold shoulder as it excluded some key leaders from the region.
So bad was the situation that some of those fronting for the unity crusade, including Kisii Senator Chris Obure and former Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) Chairman Charles Nyachae, were compelled to make a hasty retreat to find a new strategy to sell the Jubilee agenda in the region.
Only recently, Mr Obure adopted a new grassroots approach by visiting villages in the area to explain the Jubilee message with a good measure of success. During his visit, President Kenyatta is expected to ask for a bigger support in the August elections, with the promise that he will pump even more resources to the area.
A document detailing the key Jubilee projects in Kisii and Nyamira shows that billions of shillings have been pumped into roads, education, water, and health.
It lists the ongoing Sh2.2 billion road in Kitutu Chache, which is expected to open the area for business and transportation of agricultural products, among other key roads in the two regions (see some projects in table)
The document lists the Sh460 million spent on purchasing of equipment for Kisii Level Five Hospital’s theatre, renal, ICU and imaging and radiography.
“These have impacted positively as there are no referrals to hospitals outside the county,” the document says. A further Sh380 million has been spent on purchasing medical equipment at Gucha Level 4 while Sh430 million has been spent for the same facilities in Nyamira.
It also lists the expansion of the Suneka airstrip at a cost of Sh52 million. Works at the facility are said to be 90 per cent complete. Once done, the airstrip’s new terminal will hold 200,000 passengers annually.
“The airstrip will open the area for business,” says the document.
Although there is no clear campaign manager for Jubilee in the area, analysts say President Kenyatta is accepted in the area and can mount a good personal campaign rather than depend on the grassroots team, which is smarting from a failed Obomo crusade.
The only untainted people in the area are professionals, including Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Social Security and Services Principal Secretary Susan Mochache. The two have earned respect for their work nationally.