Rift widen between Luhya leaders over planned BBI forum

The proposed event has exposed fault lines likely to inform the 2022 formations in the region.

In Summary
  • Deep-seated fears over 2022 election scheming mar debate on reforms.
  • Two groups of leaders hold separate press conferences, one in support and the other against the meeting.
Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya during the burial of Mama Ruth Oyiera in Khwisero on Saturday
BBI DEBATE: Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya during the burial of Mama Ruth Oyiera in Khwisero on Saturday

The planned Western meeting in Kakamega next week continues to split the region’s leadership as different groupings take militant stands.

The event has exposed fault lines likely to inform new formations ahead of the 2022 election. The region has been under the NASA umbrella but is now pulling in different directions as 2022 approaches.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and Cotu boss Francis Atwoli announced the meeting on December 26. Leaders are expected to converge at Bukhungu Stadium.

Critics — mostly allied to ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula and DP William Ruto — have, however, dismissed it as an ODM affair meant to serve former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s interest. They claim Raila plans to use the meeting to reinvent himself and his party after a dismal performance in the region in the 2017 General Election.

On Wednesday, 12 MPs from Jubilee, ANC and Ford-K denounced the meeting. They included Sakwa Bunyasi (Nambale), John Waluke (Sirisia), Eseli Simiyu (Tongaren), Ben Washiali (Mumias East), Malulu Injendi (Malava) and Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo).

Others were Justus Murunga (Matungu), Alfred Agoi (Sabatia), Petronilla Were (nominated senator), Beatrice Adagala (Vihiga woman representative) and Christopher Seka (Khwisero).

The Western Elders’ Council, chaired by former Cabinet Minister Philip Masinde, also distanced itself from the meeting. Mudavadi also said they will keep off the meeting, claiming its agenda was suspect.

On the other hand, another group, mainly those elected on the ODM ticket and allied to Raila and Oparanya, say the forum is for the benefit of the region. On Thursday, the politicians, led by Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala, pledged their support for the meeting.

All governors from the region have also backed the meeting. They are Oparanya (ODM), Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma, Ford-K), Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia, ODM) and Wilbur Ottichilo (Vihiga, ODM). Also in support are Trans Nzoia Governor Patrick Khaemba (Ford Kenya) and Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa.

Critics told to keep off

For his part, Atwoli insists the meeting has nothing to do with Luhya unity but the BB. He says those opposed to it should keep off instead of criticising the event.

“Those who feel uncomfortable with the meeting should simply stay in their houses and watch on television or even switch them off. The event will be beamed live by all the major TV stations,” he said.

Political analyst Martin Oloo said there was nothing wrong with people meeting to take a common position on the BBI report.

“We don’t know who is telling the truth between the two sides. The issues here are whether Raila is still relevant in Western or not, whether Oparanya is hiding behind Raila to advance his 2022 agenda or whether it’s against ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi. There is no Luhya agenda here but individual ones,” he said.   

Political scientist Robert Watangwa shared similar sentiments, dismissing Mudavadi and Wetang’ula as leaders with no plans.

“The meeting is a fruitful one. It will definitely have a great bearing on the 2022 election. Why are Mudavadi and Wetang’ula scared that Atwoli can install Oparanya? They cannot just oppose the meeting because Atwoli hosted Raila, yet they cannot organise anything on their own,” he said.

However, former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale said the meeting was planned by Atwoli so he can anoint Oparanya as a Luhya spokesman to give Raila a foothold in Western after Mudavadi refused to play ball this time round.

“We want to warn Atwoli that whereas in the first instance he succeeded to lie to our community that he had powers to anoint a leader which he did when he named Mudavadi as community spokesman, we know that he now wants to anoint Oparanya to keep on giving Raila a foothold in the community he has shortchanged for decades,” Khalwale said.

On December 31, 2016, Atwoli installed Mudavadi as the Luhya spokesman. Mudavadi later formed NASA that housed his ANC joined hands with ODM, Wiper, Ford Kenya and Chama Cha Mashinani, with Raila as its flagbearer for the 2017 polls. But after Raila’s swearing-in as the peoples’ president, Atwoli denounced Mudavadi as a coward after he skipped the event.

Last week, Busia Senator Amos Wako, a member of the BBI taskforce, cautioned against the planned rally saying the approach would cause more divisions, to the disadvantage of the unity envisaged in the BBI report. The term of the taskforce chaired by Yusuf Haji has been extended and it is to begin the second phase of its work.



• December 31, 2016

Cotu boss Francis Atwoli names ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi the Luhya spokesman after a survey that placed Oparanya second and Wetang'ula third. Mudavadi then forms NASA that brings together ANC, Wiper, Ford Kenya, ODM and Chama Cha Mashinani ahead of the 2017 polls. 

• February 2018

After Raila's swearing-in as the peoples' president, Atwoli denounces Mudavadi as a coward after he skipped the event.

• December 26, 2019

Atwoli hosts ODM leader Raila Odinga, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala, Kakamega Woman MP Elsie Muhanda and Western elders' council chairman Philip Masinde and other MPs and declares a meeting to discuss the BBI report.

• December 31, 2019.

Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang'ula dismisses the meeting as an ODM affair and says Atwoli has no authority to convene a Luhya meeting. 

• January 8, 2020.

Governors Oparanya, Wangamati (Bungoma), Ottichilo (Vihiga), Ojaamong (Busia), Khaemba (Trans Nzoia) and Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa meet to plan the Bukhungu meeting.

• January 8, 2020

Twelve MPs from Western denounce the Bukhungu meeting. 

• January 9, 2020

A group of politicians support forum.


(Edited by F'Orieny)