Issues and personalities to watch: Nyanza

Perhaps more than anyone else in Nyanza, the one person that will have the greatest influence on the elections will be Raila Odinga. Sixty per cent of the voters in the province are found in Luo Nyanza which has for the last 10 years been fiercely behind the ODM-K de facto leader's political adventures.

Although he is expected to run in his traditional Lang'ata constituency in Nairobi, people, especially aspirants of political office in Luo Nyanza, will be closely watching his steps to avoid crossing his path.

In the past, people who have opposed Raila in the province have paid dearly for the mistake. Apart from Raphael Tuju whose Rarieda seat is as good as gone, other daredevils are James Orengo, the razor sharp human rights lawyer and champion of democracy. Orengo lost his Ugenya parliamentary seat in the last elections to Stephen Ondiek, the archbishop of the mystical Legio Maria church when out of the blues he declared that he was running for the presidency on an SDP ticket. Two months before his declaration, he had congratulated Raila at Uhuru Park for defecting from Kanu with erstwhile loyal members including Kalonzo Musyoka, George Saitoti, Moody Awori and Fred Gumo. Orengo is currently a leading supporter of the ODM-K led calls for minimum reforms.

Shem Ochuodho, another renowned independent, lost his Rangwe seat for publicly opposing Raila's policy of cooperation with Kanu when the former ruling party was running down the economy. Today, Ochuodho's name is more synonymous with advances in ICT but he is completely irrelevant in Nyanza politics. Anyang' Nyong'o, the secretary general of ODM-K, saved his neck in the last elections by jumping into the LDP bandwagon.

As was indicated by the recent demonstration in Kisii over remarks that Railka made against the Minister for Roads and Public Works, Simeon Nyachae, the Kisii vote will go where the MP for Nayribari Chache casts his. As in Luo Nyanza, it will be suicidal to cross the path of the Nyaribari Chache MP in Kisii.

In Luo Nyanza, the CDF will be a great determinant of who sails to the tenth parliament. Incidentally, most NGOs, including human rights organizations, have camped in Nyanza to educate the residents on prudent management of funds. Unfortunately, most of the 25 MPs have performed poorly in the fund's management. It was because of the performance of MPs that most of them lost in the LDP grassroots elections. Some of them even conceded that they went against the constituents in utilizing the funds.

The controversy surrounding the Yala swamp will rear its head at the elections and how the aspirants handle it will determine how they perform in the polls. Since the US-based Dominion Group came into the scene in Yala Swamp, politicians have oscillated between supporting the community in opposing the work by Dominion Group and supporting the company's work.

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