Luhya vote in succession battle

With the recent exit of Musikari Nazi Kombo-led Ford-K from the Party of National Unity (PNU), a plot has been hatched to clip the political wings of the populous Luhya community ahead of the 2012 general elections.

Weekly Citizen has established that powerful forces surrounding president Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga fear that if the Luhya are united, they can determine who becomes the next president.

It is on this ground that they are out to divide the community and make sure KADDU boss Cyrus Jirongo does not get the slot of Official Oppositinon Leader in parliament. Raila is depending on Musalia Mudavadi in the region while Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetangula is Kibaki's blue-eyed boy in area political circles. It is emerging Wetangula is to become Kalonzo Musyoka's running mate with Uhuru Kenyatta the prime minister. Here, the Bukusu vote, it is assumed, will go to Kalonzo.

The revelations have come amid growing anxiety that the region lacks a forum of local leaders unlike other areas where parliamentary groups exist. Central and Coast provinces, for example, have their parliamentary groups.

It is against this backdrop that powerful forces outside the region are preying on the Luhya community, which has been providing the swing vote in presidential elections since 1992.
Sources privy to State House goings-on have it that President Kibaki's handlers are keen to propel Wetangula, who is also the Sirisia MP, to higher ground as new political alignments take shape.

The sources confided that Wetangula was given the powerful Foreign Affairs ministry to be an impediment to the growing ODM popularity in Western Province. Wetangula is a Ford-K MP in the PNU conglomerate and is now well placed to replace Kombo in Bungoma politics after the Webuye voters rejected Kombo during the last general elections.

Kombo, the Ford-K boss, was nominated to Parliament at President Kibaki's behest since the former Local Government minister's vigorous campaigns in the district that is dominated by the Bukusu sub-tribe of the Luhya community earned substantive votes that secured Kibaki's surprise win in Western Province.

State House operatives are said to be keen on safeguarding the Bukusu vote at all costs by employing Wetangula especially after Kombo led Ford-K out of PNU recently. While going public over the move, Kombo was categorical that the party will start taking its independent stand on national issues.

The Sirisia MP, who is a lawyer by profession first set foot in Parliament after the 1997 general elections when he dislodged John Munyasia.

During the campaigns for the general elections, there was a Narc euphoria lashing round the region with the late vice president Michael Kijana Wamalwa at the helm. That is when both civic and Parliamentary aspirants with Wamalwa's blessings had a sure way of sailing through.

Wetangula had earlier contested the 1997 general elections on a Kanu ticket but failed miserably since Bungoma was the bedrock of opposition politics under the stewardship Wamalwa.

Though the late vice president who was also a Bukusu represented Saboti constituency in Trans Nzoia district, the community's vote has a lot of influence on Cherengany and Kwanza constituencies in Rift Valley.

Dr Noah Wekesa of Kwanza, a Kabras, depends on the Bukusu vote to sail through parliamentary elections in the metropolitan constituency. His appointment to the cabinet was largely begged on the fact that he not only represents the wider interests or the Luhya community but he is also a Ford-K diehard, a part that is associated with the Bukusu.

Wetangula is also known to be a schemer. This was established during the last general elections when word had it that the Sirisia MP had a role to play in the Kombo-Mukhisa Kituyi popularity contest that presided over the duo's failure to recapture their respective seats. Kituyi suffered a major defeat at the hands of John Eseli in Kimilili while Kombo lost to Afred Sambu.

Now that Kombo and Kituyi have lost influence in Bukusuland, Wetangula remains the only influential politician from the region.

An insider in the Bungoma politics said that since the demise of Wamalwa, Wetangula has been angling for the Ford-K leadership to propel him become the Bukusu pointman.

The insider added that the Foreign Affairs minister has also focused on national politics and that Wetangula is President Kibaki's spanner boy in Western Province.

Today, Wetangula remains a potential threat to the ODM establishment in the region. This manifested last week when he appealed to the Luhya community to unite for the sake of development. The MP, while addressing mourners during the burial of his uncle Francis Wabuke Wanyonyi in Sirare location, Nalondo division in Sirisia constituency, the MP challenged his colleagues to read the signs of the times and rise up to the occasion since the area voters were fed up of playing second fiddle to politicians from other regions.

Conspicuously absent form the burial ceremony were MPs from the larger Kakamega district.

On the same day, Mudavadi was reported to have been attended a ceremony at Chatamilu Primary School in his Sabatia constituency where he presided over a function following the renovation of the school. During the function, Mudavadi downplayed claims that Grand Regency sale saga threatened the survival of the coalition government adding that it was one of the challenges facing the country.

Since the formation of the grand coalition, MPs from Western Province are yet to have a get-together to acquaint. An aide to one of the leading politicians from the region confided that the MPs do not even know each other.

The source told Weekly citizen that the MPs have never had a chance to familiarize themselves with the workings of government and parliament.

Jirongo's vision of Luhya unity has been resisted by those who wish to see the community perpetually divided.

According to insiders, former vice president, Wamalwa was just about to forge the community's unity but after his demise, it remains a tall order to bring together the 1.7 Luhya sub-tribes for the sake of fighting for a common course.

Another bombshell hit the community when Ford-Kenya leadership took a new twist as Soita Shitanda took a retreat from the party to launch New Ford-Kenya.

In last year's elections, ODM had a field day and brought to an end the careers of senior politicians such as Moody Awori, Dr Newton Kulundu, Kituyi, Wafula Wamunyinyi, Raphael Wanjala, Daniel Khamasi, Dr Wamalwa Kibunguchi and Kombo.

Local political analysts have bounded alarm bells that the region is gradually being relegated to the periphery in national politics as political realignments take shape.

Aware of the move to divide the Luhya community, various leaders want Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) secretary general Francis Atwoli to spearhead unity meetings among MPs and other leaders including religious ones.

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