National Super Alliance (NASA) presidential candidate Raila Odinga has promised to protect settlers occupying land in the Mau forest complex should he win the August 8 elections.
In his bid to woo voters in Kuresoi South and North constituencies, Nakuru County, Raila dismissed as “pure propaganda” claims by his rivals that he planned to evict the settlers from the forest if he takes over power from the Jubilee administration.
“I will never want to punish Rift Valley residents. That has never been my intention and will not be,” he said while addressing residents of Kiptagich bordering Mau forest.
He reiterated that the Mau forest evictions were used against him when he was Prime Minister.
The Opposition leader, who was in the company of Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) leader Isaac Ruto, who is also a NASA co-principal, said eviction of the settlers was a collective Government decision aimed at conserving the environment and was not his personal agenda.
“Even some of those in Government today were part of the Cabinet decision and never opposed it,” he said.
He accused President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration of neglecting evictees, saying they were still living in IDPs camps.
On July 25, while on a tour of the constituency, Deputy President William Ruto accused the NASA flag bearer of instigating the Mau Forest evictions.
The DP, who toured Tinet and Rongai, rode on the emotive Mau Forest issue to ask residents to turn up in large numbers on August 8 and vote for the Jubilee Party.
At the Keringet trading centre yesterday, a section of the crowd heckled Raila as he tried to explain why the Mau evictions were carried out.
Governor Ruto said Raila meant well for the Kalenjin and that NASA would ensure resources would be distributed equitably.
Kuresoi South MP Zakayo Cheruiyot, who was also present, said Mau evictions would no longer be an issue and urged residents to back Raila’s presidential bid.
“We now understand the Mau evictions were a collective Government decision and also know that Raila means well for the Kalenjin community,” he said.
To cover the vast county, NASA co-principals Musalia Mudavadi, Governor Ruto and Raila split into two groups to traverse the 11 constituencies to plead with voters to vote for them next Tuesday.
Raila’s running mate and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka was not present as he was said to be campaigning in North Eastern Kenya.
And speaking at Afraha Stadium later, Raila beat an about-turn and defended the Kenyan military, describing it as a professional outfit that needed to be respected.
In the wake of election rigging claims that he raised a few days ago and even provided documents to support his claims, Raila said he had respect for KDF men and women but he was against their involvement in installing an “unwanted” regime.
Addressing his last campaign rally in the region before the election, Raila said he had nothing against the KDF but would not sit back and watch them being misused in rigging the elections.
He maintained the documents he used to link the military with Jubilee rigging claims were authentic.
KDF spokesman Joseph Owuoth confirmed authenticity of documents presented by NASA on operation Dumisha Utulivu by the military.
However, he said they were quoted out of context and the military was apolitical and professional.
Raila said tyranny of numbers would not favour the Jubilee coalition this time around.
Cost of living
He said the majority of Kenyans were fed up with the Jubilee administration because of the high cost of living, corruption and poor governance.
NASA co-principal Moses Wetang’ula condemned the attack at the rural home of Deputy President William Ruto but dismissed claims that NASA leaders were targeting the DP for assassination.
[Stephen Mkawale and Kennedy Gachuhi]