Nyanza warms up to UhuRaila handshake

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to Nyanza next week is designed to heal the wounds inflicted by last year’s divisive election and cement ...

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga with President Uhuru Kenyatta at a past function / FILE
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to Nyanza next week is designed to heal the wounds inflicted by last year’s divisive election and cement his unity deal with ODM leader Raila Odinga.
The visit symbolically coincides with the first anniversary of the hotly contested, and vigorously disputed, August 8, 2017, General Election. It will also be five months since their March 9 handshake.
Although the two have shared platforms occasionally, the visit will be the first political outing together since their handshake.
Uhuru last visited Kisumu on July 12 last year when he launched the construction of the Sh15 billion Kenya Breweries plant.
Uhuru will preside over the launch of the Kisumu county Universal Health Care on Thursday, August 9. It will be the first of ten counties where UHC is being rolled out on a pilot basis under the Big Four Agenda.
Under the scheme, the public will have access to the NHIF Supa Cover insurance for comprehensive integrated health services.
The surprise truce between the two leaders silenced the political protests in the region spurred by Raila’s boycott of the repeat Presidential elections on October 26.
Nyanza leaders have welcomed Uhuru’s inaugural visit to Kisumu, Raila’s political turf, and have been preparing ground for what is expected to be a triumphant return for the region’s top politician.
State House spokesperson Kanze Dena told the Star on Friday that she was not in a position to give details of the president’s itinerary which is expected to include several activities involving the youth and elderly.
Since the handshake, the region has benefited from plum state jobs with some former politicians associated with both Nasa and Jubilee being appointed.
Expectations are high that the unity pact crafted on the personal commitments of the two to bury decades-old rivalry and brinkmanship between the Kenyatta and Odinga families — and their respective communities —will yield development goodies.
Top of the wish list, according to area leaders who spoke to the Star, is the revival of many collapsed factories and stalled projects. They include four sugar mills on their deathbed and the Kisumu Cotton Mills (Kicomi) among others.
“In fact, the President should also tour other regions to listen to the plight of Kenyans. It is what the country needs in building the bridges for the well-being of citizens and fostering development,” said Uriri MP Mark Nyamita.
“As leaders from this region, we are eagerly waiting to engage him on our development priorities which can change the lives of our people,” he said.
Muhoroni MP Onyango K’Oyoo said Uhuru should prioritise reviving collapsed industries in the region, namely Chemelil, Miwani, Muhoroni and Sony.
“The livelihood of millions of Kenyans from the Nyanza and Western regions depend directly or indirectly on the sugar sector,” Koyoo said.
His constituency is home to two of the stalled sugar mills — Chemelil and Miwani — that owe cane farmers huge debts.
Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga urged the region to rally behind the two leaders for the benefi t of the country.
“Visiting the region is a symbol that the country is headed the right direction of unity,” she said.
Wanga also asked Uhuru to explain his road map for the collapsed sugar industries and cotton ginnery as well as new factories for job creation.
Nyando MP Jared Okelo said the handshake had brought stability to the country and the visit will firm up the deal.
“It has solidifi ed the relationship between Uhuru and Raila that is crucial for the implementation of the Big Four Agenda which requires support in and out of parliament,” he said.
Okello read a new marriage pact between Central and Nyanza in the next week’s visit.
“It is true Siaya, Migori and Homa Bay counties did not participate in the repeat election as it had a predetermined outcome,” Okello said.
“But after the handshake, anything to do with the election was buried.”
The lawmaker said the government is now focusing on building bridges aimed at redressing past injustices and problems affecting the country.
 Nyanza, he said, plays a key role in liberation and shaping the politics of the country.
Kisumu county assembly speaker Onyango Oloo said Kenyans must appreciate the rationale behind the handshake and building bridges initiative.
The handshake, he said, is neithera Luo-Kikuyu alliance nor Uhuru –Raila partnership but a concept that is bigger than the two individuals and their communities.
“This is an idea that is defining Kenya going forward in terms of development, politics and economics,” he said.
Onyango, who was the secretary general of Uhuru’s TNA party before his acrimonious exit months before the last election asked Kenyans to embrace the handshake to ensure the country’s development is not skewed in favour of one region.
“The Luo communities must not expect to be favored. Neither should the Kikuyu or Kalenjin because their son or daughter is a principal in building bridges initiative,” Oloo said.
Top government officials have been preparing the ground for the visit and launching projects over the last three weeks.
Public Service, Youth and Gender CS Margaret Kobia visited the Nyanza counties of Kisumu, Siaya and Homa Bay last week to present cheques from the ministry’s affirmative funds. She was in Kisumu Town East (Kisumu), Kasipul Kabondo (Homa Bay) and Gem (Siaya).
Youths CAS Rachael Shebesh was also in Nyando Constituency in Kisumu county last month where she promised the government will deploy NYS machinery to repair 200 kilometers of roads destroyed by floods.
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria was applauded when he stopped over in Kisumu two weeks ago, which was unimaginable before the March 9 truce.

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Today in Kenya: Nyanza warms up to UhuRaila handshake
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