KISUMU: The race for Muhoroni parliamentary seat is once again boiling down to a two-horse race of bitter rivals – the incumbent James Onyango K’Oyoo and his predecessor Patrick Ayiecho Olweny.
The sugar and rice growing constituency has seen some of the fiercest political wars in the past 10 years between the two politicians who are also distant relatives.
K’Oyoo, a flamboyant businessman and an a tough orator, has previously lost to Prof Olweny twice and cried foul on both occasions. He finally floored Olweny in 2013 and wants to defend his seat.
Ayiecho, the Kisumu County ODM Chairman, on the other hand is tired of being in the cold and if fighting hard to get back the seat.
Although K’Oyoo’s campaign has been slowed down by the death of his mother – Ludia Oyoo, 88 – his politicos are not leaving anything to chance as they eye the ODM ticket in party primaries next month.
K’Oyoo’s camp is accusing Olweny of using his position as party branch chairman to interfere with the nomination logistics, an accusation the former assistant minister has denied.
The two sides are spending most of their energies wooing settlers in the constituency, who account for 45 per cent of the total votes in the area.
K’Oyoo faced Olweny in 2002, where the latter carried the day, and the same was repeated in 2007. However in 2013, K’Oyoo trounced Ayiecho who was running for a third term.
During the 2013 ODM party nomination, Olweny was declared the winner for the third time in a row against K’Oyoo, a move which angered the latter who then decamped to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), a ticket he used to beat Olweny with 36,000 votes against 12,000.
Olweny, a plant breeding and genetics expert, then partially abandoned politics and went back to teach at Maseno University.
After the 2013 General Election, PDP joined the Jubilee government but K’Oyoo stuck with the Opposition. He has since rejoined ODM and has been cleared for the forthcoming party primaries.
“I am sure of beating Olweny again. I believe out of the 12,000 votes he (Ayiecho) got, 10,000 went his way because of the party tag. But this time round, we are in a level playground,” said K’Oyoo.
Two years ago, Olweny resurfaced and was elected Kisumu County Chairman of ODM, where he has actively engaged in politics.
Even though ODM has indicated that party branch leadership seeking to contest elective seats need to relinquish their positions to avoid conflict of interest, Olweny is one of such leaders who has indicated that there is no conflict of interest at all.
“As a party county chairman, I have no role in the nominations and nobody should lie to the people that I may influence the primaries,” said Ayiecho.
K’Oyoo has, however, called for free and fair nominations, indicating that he will keenly be watching Olweny’s moves to ensure that there is a fair playground.
“The people of Muhoroni had rejected Olweny even when he was in the preferred party, and there are people who are lying to him that now that I am back to ODM, they will use the tricks they used in 2013 to give him the ticket,” said K’Oyoo.
Olweny has, however, indicated that he has been pushed by the desire to get back Muhoroni to “where he left it” as the incumbent has proved a big disappointment to residents.
Muhoroni Constituency is made up of four main clans – Sidho, Kabar, Kamagaga and Wang’aya – which mostly inhabit Miwani Division.
Both Olweny and K”oyoo come from Wang’aya clan, and also have shared relations in the other three clans.
This means focus must now turn to Muhoroni Division which is almost half of the constituency and is inhabited by settlers, covering Koru, Fort Tenan, Tamu and Chemelil.
Most of the settlers in the areas are victims of the Uhuru Floods which affected most parts of the larger Kano plains between 1960 and 1965, with most of them having their roots in Nyando, Miwani and parts of lower Nyakach.
The settlers’ area is also inhabited by sugar cane farmers and workers at the sugar belt which is home to four sugar millers – Miwani, Muhoroni, Chemelil and Kibos – as well as people who moved from other parts of the country to buy land for settlement due to the area’s friendly fauna and flora.
“I will be banking on my track record. I have promoted sugar cane farming and I have been in the forefront of fighting for farmers and workers at the sugar plantations and the millers,” said K’Oyoo.
Privatisation of the sugar millers has been a major debate in the constituency, given that the area economy is driven by sugar cane farming.
K’Oyoo has indicated that he has been keenly following the privatisation process, and has been pushing for a bigger stake for the locals once the shares are floated for sales.
In his remarks at public events, K’Oyoo has been discrediting his predecessor for doing little to change the lives of area residents, claiming that Ayiecho served his two terms in government – both the Narc government in 2002 and the grand coalition government in 2007 where he also served as assistant minister.
Ayiecho has, however, indicated that he will be facing the settlers as a candidate for the entire Muhoroni constituency residents, adding that K’Oyoo used propaganda euphoria to confuse the settlers to vote for him in 2013.
“I believe most of the people who voted him (K’Oyoo) have since discovered his propaganda and will not listen to him,” he said.
Olweny said he has managed to put up 23 secondary schools during his two terms as area MP, as well as health facilities and polytechnics.