HANDSHAKE BENEFITS?

Some ODM strongholds more equal than others

We see Kisumu thriving, whereas in Kilifi, we have nothing at this point. Raila hasn't helped.

In Summary

• Ever since the March 9 handshake, the idea was that the country has been united

• Raila promised there would be benefits to his supporters, that he was doing it for his country and for his supporters, not just for himself. 

ODM leader Raila Odinga in Mtwapa, Kilifi county, on January 24, 2017.
ODM leader Raila Odinga in Mtwapa, Kilifi county, on January 24, 2017.
Image: FILE

One of my editors at the Star told me quite a few years ago that there is value in flipping through newspapers, even if I cannot read all the articles and I do not have much time.

So, I always try and flip through at least two newspapers every day. It gives me an idea of what is happening in the country.

On Wednesday, August 26, two headlines of very prominent articles in the Business Daily made me sit up.

One was about the Coast headlined, ‘Why farmers fell cashew nut trees for charcoal’. The other was from the other side of the country, the shores of Lake Victoria with the headline ‘Revamped Kisumu Port records a 62 per cent rise in cargo'.

Now, you might think these are just two standard business stories, but they are not. The one about cashew nuts relates to the collapse of the most valuable cash crop we have ever grown at the Coast. A cash crop that allowed small-scale farmers to educate their children, buy their uniforms, pay their school fees, buy them books and support them all the way to university, if they were clever enough to qualify for a degree.

Ever since the collapse in cashew nut production, Kilifi has been a county full of beggars because the only valuable crop that grows there is cashew nuts.

Without that, the farmers in Kilifi are doomed to subsistence farming. So that is what that headline really means — that poverty is continuing in the Coast.

And when you look at the other headline, you see the fruits of the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga. Kisumu Port has been revamped.

The revamped Kisumu Port is now fulfilling what should really be its natural role as the trade hub for all of East Africa, using lake transport, which is very cheap for bulk goods.

So what I am saying is ever since the famous March 9, 2018, handshake between Raila and President Kenyatta, the idea was the country has been united, a country that had been very, very badly split into two by the 2017 elections.

 

And also as a party leader, Raila promised there would be benefits to his supporters, that he was doing it for his country and for his supporters, not just for himself. What do we see now? We see Kisumu thriving, whereas in Kilifi — although there is talk of future plans for other cashew nut factories — we have nothing at this point.

This is painful for us at the Coast because for at least three elections, through thick and thin, the region has stood by Raila.

When people talk about Raila’s strongholds, they refer specifically to the Coast, Nyanza, certain parts of Western Kenya, Kisii county, certain parts of Nairobi, and maybe one or two places in North Eastern.

And so I ask: Why is the Nyanza stronghold more important than the Coast stronghold? And if we are important, what is Raila going to do for us? He is running out of time.

Now, and on a personal note, I do not believe he will do anything. He waited too late.

And this brings me to what I have argued in the past: The Coast only will start benefiting  when it forms its own really strong and independent party — a national one because by law, all parties have to be national and reflect the face of the nation — with its stronghold in the Coast, .

Just as other parties such as Wiper, for example, is known to be a national party, but has its stronghold in the Lower Eastern Ukambani. That is the idea when there is such a party.

We can then form a coalition or a political pact with Raila or Uhuru or Deputy President Ruto or Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka or ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi because we will not be enough to ascend to power on our own. But if we join with other parties that have strongholds elsewhere, we will be part of a winning coalition.

And as part of our winning coalition, we will then be able to see the benefits of being in government and the fruits of political power.