Uhuruto woo elusive Western Kenya in hunt for votes

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President Uhuru Kenyatta during the reopening of Rai Paper mills in Webuye, Bungoma county
President Uhuru Kenyatta during the reopening of Rai Paper mills in Webuye, Bungoma county

BUNGOMA COUNTY. After the deputy president William Ruto made numerous visits in the counties under the former Western Province in a move to woo the region to support the Jubilee government, the president himself eventually toured the tour for two days to support his deputy in emphasizing the Jubilee gospel through government projects.

The two leaders accompanied by several cabinet secretaries and area leaders including Bungoma governor Ken Lusaka, members of the national assembly leaning on the Jubilee side and a host of members of the county assemblies launched some projects and opened others during the tour of three counties of the region.

The journey started in Chepyuk area in Kopsiro division of Mt Elgon constituency where occupants of the Chepyuk settlement scheme were issued title deeds for the first time in the area that has faced clashes over land issues.

By virtue that the communities living in Mt. Elgon especially the Sabaots value land more than anything else, the Uhuruto government was strategic that by touching on matters land and handing the residents title deeds would be a plus to their voters kitty come 2017 as a bigger percentage of the beneficiaries of the title deeds would owe their allegiance to the Jubilee administration.

Despite the fact that majority Kalenjins including Sabaots have for quite some time been loyal to deputy president William Ruto and initially to retired president Daniel Arap Moi, the region lost direction in 2013 after they voted for John Serut who was an independent candidate, leaving out the former MP Fred Kapondi who vied on Ruto’s URP.

Therefore the move by the Jubilee administration to issue title deeds to the residents of Mt. Elgon is one way of luring them back to the Jubilee government and also justifying that it is high time their member of national assembly John Serut moved to the Jubilee side to bring more development projects to his people of Mt. Elgon.

However, Serut who has been a fence-sitter, had not indicated where he wants to cast his vote in next year’s polls whereby he sometimes supported Raila Odinga or Moses Wetangula and sometimes criticizes them but this time round he hinted before the president and his deputy in Webuye that he was ready to work with Jubilee government for the sake of the people he represents.

 

Panpaper changed to Raipaper Webuye

After dealing with the land issue in Mt. Elgon, the president and his team flew to Webuye where they presided over the long-awaited opening of Pan paper factory but under a new name, Rai Paper Mills.

The reopening of the factory by president Uhuru Kenyatta saw one line of the multibillion factory start operating by producing paper whereby the head of state hinted that 500 youths will now be able to get jobs in the factory during this first phase of opening.

“Today we have just opened one line of this factory of Panpaper that shall see 500 youths get jobs and through that we shall be reviving this town of Webuye and am grateful to all those who made this possible,” said Kenyatta as he addressed a huge crowd at Panpaper Stadium shortly after reopening the factory.

He added that another line shall be opened in June next year to create over 350 employment opportunities to more youths.

Panpaper factory had been closed for over ten years and in the recent past it has been a center of politics by local politicians and the national government especially after it was sold to the Rai Group in May this year.

Its reopening now is a litmus test to the people of Bungoma county especially Webuye town who were desperately waiting for its reopening for them to get jobs and businesses hence time will tell if the move shall see them switch their allegiance to the Jubilee side ahead of next year’s elections.

Since the factory was sold for Kshs 900 million, many questions have been raised by local leaders ranging from Senator Moses Wetangula of Bungoma county and other leaders who feel the amount was not enough to buy such a factory that has more assets and resources believed to belong to the people of Bungoma county.

Many politicians from the region have linked the buying of the factory to the Kenyatta family which they claim does a lot of businesses with the Rai Group of companies.

Among the questions still being raised by a section of leaders is why the president and his deputy together with a big team from the government both at national and county should be brought in to reopen a factory that is now under the hands of a private investor who is at liberty to do anything on the land without being given notices and deadlines.

The president insisted that as much as the factory is now under the private investor, it is instrumental in jumpstarting the economy of Webuye town and the entire Bungoma County.

 

Launched roads in Bungoma, Busia and Kakamega

In their concerted efforts to turn around the economy of the region through development projects and eventually reap politically in the general elections, the president and his deputy launched other infrastructural projects in the region.

They commissioned the Kapsokwony-Kopsiro-Namwela road in Mt. Elgon to be tarmacked, The Navakholo-Shanda road and the Ibokolo-Indangalasia-Malaha road in Kakamega county.

In Busia the president launched the tarmacking of the Malaba-Busia road at Adungosi and the Malaba-Moding road among other projects that the head of state said his government is slated to launch and implement in the region.

While addressing a crowd at Mumias DEB primary school Kenyatta rubbished those critics who say that his government is tribal but insisted that he and his deputy are committed to improve the economy of every Kenyan through improving on infrastructure, having many Kenyans connected to electricity, reviving of factories and also improving the health facilities across the country regardless of tribal or political affiliations of the targeted people.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy president William Ruto handing out title deeds in Chepyuk
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy president William Ruto handing out title deeds in Chepyuk

“This country does not belong to Luhyas, this country does not belong to Kikuyus and neither does this country belong to Luos among other tribes but this country belongs to Kenyans and that is why we as Jubilee government we are determined to ensure that the life of every Kenyan improves through the many development projects that we are implementing in different parts,” he said.

On his part the deputy president Ruto urged the residents of the Western region to support the Jubilee government and the Jubilee party in next year’s elections saying that in 2013 the region voted for the opposition but hinted that this time round the region should be part of the government that Jubilee part shall form when they win the elections in August 2017.

“You know in 2013 you left us alone but we hustled and managed to form the government but this time we are not going to give you room to leave us again we shall be with you bumper-to-bumper ensuring that every step and corner you make we are with you until we form the government together.

 

No more funds for sugar factories

In a surprising turn of events, the president and his deputy refused to give any promise to pump more money in the revival of the Mumias and Nzoia sugar factories that the government had earlier helped, but instead they talked tough, calling for accountability of the money that the factories had earlier received.

While in Webuye the president had been asked by Sirisia MP Major John Waluke to add more money to Nzoia Sugar Company to cater for its revival but when he came to speak he said the Nzoia leadership and management should first account for the Kshs 400 million that was earlier given by the government before thinking of any additional funds.

He said that the government cannot continue pumping money in the factory without knowing how the first money was spent and said that if it was misappropriated in any way then the responsible persons should be prosecuted immediately.

“They must tell us how the money that we gave the factory in the first incident was spent before we can think of adding them more and if some people pocketed it then they must go in jail and eat beans there,” Kenyatta said.

Speaking in Mumias the deputy president who responded to calls by Mumias East MP Benjamin Washaili and area youth leader Rashid Mohammed for the government to add funds to Mumias Sugar Company he said in what was seen as referring to Raila Odinga of ODM saying that politicians who owe the factory millions of money should first refund the money before anything else can be thought of in terms of adding money to the factory.

“We cannot start thinking of adding money to Mumias Sugar factory when we know very well there are prominent politicians who took money from the factory and have not refunded. Let the politicians refund the money first then we start from there because I wonder how a senior person like me cannot go for a loan in a bank but comes to collect money from a factory and leads to the woos of farmers who are now complaining of DRs,” said Ruto.

Among other politicians who accompanied the president in his two-day tour were Bungoma governor who is also the leader of the Jubilee campaign team in the former Western Province, Mps Ben Washiali, John Waluke of Sirisia, David Wafula Lazaro of Saboti, Dan Wanyama Webuye West, Alfred Sambu of WEbuye East, John Serut of Mt. Elgon,Reginalda Wanyonyi of Bungoma county,Bernard Shinali of Ikolomani, Bonface Otsyula of Bumula among others.