Deputy President William Ruto arrived in Migori and Homa Bay counties, where he is expected to commission development projects.
It will be the first time the Deputy President will be officially visiting Luo Nyanza since last year’s General Election that resulted in prolonged and bloody protests in the region.
Nyanza, where Mr Ruto is expected to pitch tent for two days, is the home turf and political bedrock of his erstwhile political nemesis and Opposition leader Raila Odinga.
In the past, Ruto had given Luo Nyanza a wide berth, only frequenting neigbouring Kisii and Nyamira counties, and the two Kuria constituencies in Migori.
While the visit has been billed as one where he will commission several ongoing projects, observers see it as part of the DP’s charm offensive to woo the vote-rich region as he marshals support for his 2022 presidential bid.
It comes just three days after President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila joined Ruto for lunch at his Karen home, and hours after Raila left the country for the United Kingdom.
While it was unclear whether the Friday lunch was planned, it was the first time Ruto was hosting both Raila and Uhuru since the March 9 handshake.
It also came at a time the DP’s handlers were mulling over what kind of reception he would get in the Opposition stronghold, given his rocky relations with ODM leaders.
Ruto hosted the leaders after attending the requiem mass of former Maendeleo ya Wanawake chair Jane Kiano at ACK St Francis, Karen.
Just hours before his trip to Nyanza, Ruto was in Kakamega, where he spoke of forming an inclusive government if elected President.
“I will ensure all regions benefit from the national cake, irrespective of political affiliations. We have moved from tribal politics to development-based politics. Let us only compete on ideologies and not hatred since divisive politics will destroy the country,” Ruto said at Malava Primary School during an interdenominational service to raise funds for 14 churches.
More than Sh20 million was raised.
The DP said he was ready to work with all leaders if he became president. “I’m responsible to develop all regions the way we are currently doing as the Jubilee administration.”
According to Ruto, despite the fact that western Kenya only gave Jubilee five per cent of total votes cast in the 2017 polls, the party gave senior positions to Luhya leaders.
“The position of the chief whip, three Cabinet secretary slots and Speaker’s post. We overlooked the fact that you supported our political competitors and ensured there was regional balancing. In 2022, I will work for all Kenyans.”
The DP urged Luhya leaders interest in the presidency to join hands and work together.
“I want to form the government with you people (Mulembe nation). I am urging the Luhya political leaders to stop guesswork like was the case in 2013 and 2017, but join the winning team. Let us not remain in the cold this time round.”
Ruto said cane farmers would start receiving Sh2.6 billion from Wednesday after a task-force chaired by Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri finished compiling a list of genuine debtors.
He said the money would be transferred straight to the farmers’ bank accounts.
Ruto also urged Kakamega, Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Bungoma and Busia counties to grow other cash crops that mature faster to improve the economy of the region.
In Homa Bay, Ruto is expected to commission Kanyadhiang’-Pala-Kadel road, which is being tarmacked.
According to former Karachuonyo MP James Rege, Ruto will also speak on rural electrification projects. “Ruto will also talk on plans of the Jubilee administration to spur development in Homa Bay. We are happy that Kenya is headed in the right direction and this tour will help unite our people,” said Mr Rege.
Karachuonyo MP Adipo Okuome urged the DP to intervene in the completion of a Sh6 billion irrigation project in Homa Bay.
Mr Okuome expressed concern that despite being started in 2009, the Kimira Oluch Smallholder Irrigation Project had stalled due to lack of funds.
Migori County Commissioner Joseph Rotich said Ruto would be in Nyabisawa to launch the Kehancha-Migori-Mihuru Bay road before commissioning street lights at Masara centre in Suna West.
He will then proceed to Mihuru Bay, where he is expected to launch a Last Mile electricity connection project.
But even as Ruto visits, there have been murmurs from key allies of Raila.
National Assembly Minority Leader and ODM chairman John Mbadi read politics in the visit and took offense at the way leaders were invited.
“I am aware that the DP will be in Karachuonyo today. But I will not attend because as a third term MP from this region, I think if Ruto wanted us to attend, his office could have officially invited us,” Mr Mbadi said.
He dismissed the development agenda being promoted by Ruto, claiming it was a scheme to marshal support for his 2022 presidential bid.
“The DP has no development vote in his office. I am certain his visit is purely politics. He is using this to market himself. I won’t attend because I don’t support his bid for presidency.”
Ruto is expected to be hosted by Migori Governor Okoth Obado today in morning before heading to Homa Bay in the afternoon.
Suna East MP Junet Mohammed said he had not been invited to Ruto’s meeting in Migori. “I have no information about such an event. How do you attend a meeting you have not been invited to?
Rangwe MP Lillian Gogo said she could not attend the meetings because her party leader was not aware of the DP’s visit.
Kasipul MP Ong’ondo Were said he would not be attending the DP’s function.
Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga said she had received an invite from County Commissioner Irungu Macharia to attend the DP’s meeting.
Wanga, however, said she would not attend as she was in the US.