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IS UHURU WASTING HIS TIME?

Are political antics, vitriol replacing projects in Nyanza?

'Because there's more political squabbling behind the scenes doesn't mean there's no development'

In Summary

• Lakeside region leaders have been criticised for lacking any agenda to present to the President, putting 2022 squabbles front and centre. 

• ODM lawmakers from the region say projects are being implemented and there's development work behind the scenes.

 

President Uhuru Kenyatta unveils the UHC logo during the launch of the pilot programme in Kisumu on December 13, 2018
President Uhuru Kenyatta unveils the UHC logo during the launch of the pilot programme in Kisumu on December 13, 2018
Image: PSCU

Nyanza leaders are fighting accusations that they waste President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visits to the region in endless politicking instead of seeking development projects.

In recent weeks, the lakeside region leaders have been criticised for allegedly lacking an agenda to present the President, other than tiresome grandstanding and mudslinging. 

Compared with other leaders from the region, who demand development projects in their areas during presidential visits, leaders from Nyanza are accused of wasting the opportunity and obsessing instead on 22. the electorate is offended.

When the President recently visited Kisumu, during the burial of Dorca Owino, the mother of Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o, this was the agenda: referendum politics, 2022 succession, slinging mud at Deputy President William Ruto and, of course, corruption. Of developent, not a word.

Firing the first salvo, ODM chairman and Suba South MP John Mbadi urged Uhuru to ensure that he leaves in his place someone who will persist in fighting corruption.

Mbadi asked Uhuru to pray with him so that his successor will slay the dragon of corruption.

Then Senate Minority leader and Siaya Senator James Orengo urged the President to reign in on the Jubilee troops around DP Ruto and make them stop early 2022 campaigns.

Kisumu Residents Voice Association chairman Audi Ogada — a strong critic of endless campaigning during Uhuru’s visit —urged leaders instead to "shake the handshake tree so that the region can benefit from state goodies."

He said endless disruptive and pointless politics must end and appealed to local leaders to ensure that the region, which has been marginalised by the past regimes, catches up with the rest of the country in development.

“It (presidential visits) should provide a platform for our leaders to raise key issues that affect our people. Reviving collapsed industries and income-generating activities must be priorities when the President visits the region,” Audi told the Star.

He said, "Youth unemployment is a serious time bomb in the region and must be raised by all our leaders. Victims of post-election violence since Independence, police brutality, extrajudicial killings, compensation of victims are some of the other fundamental issues that should be raised.”

But speaking to the Star, a number of ODM lawmakers from the region denounced their critics, saying pleading for development projects at rallies and funerals is an old-school mindset.

They also said multi-billion projects are underway in the area since Uhuru's visit last year.

MPs Mbadi, Jared Okelo (Nyando), Opondo Kaluma (Homa Bay Town) and Ong’ondo Were (Kasipul) said they were opposed to the non-issue antics people were witnessing during rallies. They are pushing for projects behind the scenes in boardroom meetings and through memorandums addressing most of the region's pressing issues

“Our critics have not taken the time to engage their minds on what we have been doing. The President has visited our region once for purposes of development," Mbadi said. "We utilised this opportunity effectively and even had a State House meeting. We sent a memorandum and the President even assigned Interior CS Fred Matiang’i  to deal with us,” Mbadi said.

He pointed out that elected leaders from the area continue to meet Matiang’i and more is in the pipeline that will turn around the lakeside economy.

Our critics have not taken the time to engage their minds on what we have been doing. The President has visited our region once for purposes of development," Mbadi said. "We utilised this opportunity effectively and even had a State House meeting. We sent a memorandum and the President even assigned Interior CS Fred Matiang’i  to deal with us
Suba South MP John Mbadi

On Tuesday, MPs from Nyanza met Matiang’i and other CSs to get updates of the implementation status of the various projects.

“Since the President came to Kisumu, are you not seeing the Kisumu Port being worked on, courtesy of our efforts? There is Koru-Mamboleo Road, the Ring Road is in the pipeline, there is Kabunde Airstrip, where Sh128 million is allocated to pay off the landowner to create room for expansion. We now have Sh4 billion allocated to the blue economy and many more projects,” the Suba South lawmaker said.

Okelo and Kaluma said development is planned in Parliament during the budget-making process. They said it was a misguided notion that leaders must ask the President for projects in rallies.

“We don't ask for favours in public rallies. We meet the President privately to discuss our needs. For instance, we met him at State House Kisumu last December for four hours. Once you make a request and it is adopted, you wait for full implementation before asking for more,” the Nyando MP said.

“Development is planned in Parliament when making the budget. The talk that when Uhuru Kenyatta comes to Luo Nyanza and other places you should be asking him for development is misplaced. There is no development the President gives, and development is planned and is budgeted for by Parliament,” Kaluma said.

Kasipul lawmaker Ong’ondo Were was more blunt, telling off critics that their politicking during the President's visits does not mean nothing is cooking behind the scenes.

"We have political positions, which you cannot deny an MP. There is a lot that is going on. You need not make noise during political rallies for projects to be done. These are things that are done in closed-door meetings and boardrooms,” he said.

He cited the Ahero-Isebania and Oyugis-Rangwe roads as some of the major roads running through his constituency, identified for improvement as a result of their engagements with the head of state.