By Beauttah Omanga
Prime Minister Raila Odinga returned to Rift Valley at the weekend in what appears a new approach to rebuild his support by engaging directly with the voters.
In the two homecoming rallies he attended for Cabinet ministers Musa Sirma and Julius Murgor in Eldama-Ravine and Kapenguria, Raila took a message of reconciliation and avoided hitting hard at his nemesis, Eldoret North MP William Ruto. It emerged after the two rallies that Raila supporters had one message: that for the PM to comfortably win the next presidential race, he still needed the Kalenjin vote.
"I have never abandoned you. Forget that propaganda. Your political future is in ODM and I can guarantee you proper accommodation if we together form the next government," said Raila. He said he has always wanted to work with the community and appreciated their support in the 2007 elections, saying he rewarded the region with six Cabinet slots, the highest given to any region by his side of the coalition.
Those who accompanied Raila made reconciliation speeches with Cabinet Minister Dalmas Otieno standing out.
"The Luos and Kalenjins have a long standing political partnership that must be nurtured and taken to another level. Way back in 1965, the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was sent by the Kanu team then headed by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta to woo the Kalenjin back to Kanu," he said. "Jaramogi visited (former President) Moi but Mzee Moi told him to talk to the Kalenjin elders first. A meeting of the elders and Jaramogi was organised at Kabarnet by Moi. Jaramogi met the elders who after listening to his plea that their future was assured in Kanu, told him to go back and report to Mzee Kenyatta that through their instructions and blessings Moi was to join Kanu the following day. Come that day Moi rejoined Kanu."
The Public Services Minister said again in 1998, when President Kibaki's DP and other parties were out to cause problems in Parliament, Raila, then the LDP leader, joined Moi hence stabilising his Government which was under threat.
"From the two historical incidents, the Luos have always wanted to be on the same side, politically, with the Kalenjins. You made ODM what it is today and we don't want to lose you to unknown entities. It is possible to discuss any differences that might be there and we move forward together," pleaded Otieno. Regional Development Minister Fred Gumo and Assistant Minister James Gesami said the ODM leadership recognised the Kalenjin support and that it will amount to committing a political suicide were the community to be led out of a party they had helped build.
"ODM is what it is today because of the Kalenjin vote. Why do you want to leave it for a new house given the high cost of building materials to make it close to what you are abandoning. Let's stay in the ODM house, initiate repairs from inside and make it better," pleaded Dr Gesami, the West Mugirango MP. Mr Gumo challenged those opposed to Raila to make known his crimes to justify their reasons of abandoning him.
Sirma, recently appointed to the Cabinet to replace UDM's Hellen Sambili, declared his political mandate was to help the people of Rift Valley know the "truth and lies being perpetuated by leaders". Raila had with him a huge team of politicians from the region, former Molo MP Njenga Mungai and Kanu's yesteryear strongman Hosea Kiplagat.
Also in attendance was ODM Executive Director Janet Ongera who said the party was gearing up for a real Raila-for-President campaign across the country.
"The reception the PM has been accorded in Rift Valley is indeed very encouraging contrary to assumptions that the region is gone," said Ms Ongera. Assistant Minister Magerer Langat, who was a master of ceremonies in Eldama Ravine, said the war to restore the Raila support in Rift Valley had just begun and that they will not be cowed.
ODM secretariat official Joseph Misoi warned the community against the risks of going alone into the next elections, saying those community leaders who were wooing them out of ODM were selfish. He said the Kalenjin were now 'directionless' politically. He added that "We need to settle down politically and focus on future through a national party."
Sotik MP Joyce Laboso said there was a wrong impression being created that all the Kalenjin politicians allied to Raila were rejoicing over the trial of suspects from the community at The Hague. "We are with those brothers. However, politically we are with the PM and we have no regrets for that," said Laboso. Assistant Minister Beatrice Kones cautioned the PM against giving in to pressure to overlook Musalia Mudavadi as his running mate in 2012.
"We have faith in Musalia as your deputy and reports that you are contemplating replacing him with somebody from elsewhere is unacceptable. If at all you will entertain such a thought, then give it to Rift Valley. Give it to me. I am also qualified," said the MP.
An elders' representative told the PM to focus on rebuilding his base at the grassroots and stop thinking on winning back the MPs. "We are with the people at the grassroots, they like you and they want you as their president. Just come to the ground and you will get the support you are looking for," said a Mr Tuwei.
Misoi advised the community to "sober up and stop being misled by selfish leaders". At the end of the rallies Raila left Rift Valley Province re-energised given the support he got from the elders who, once again, installed him as a Kalenjin elder.Last Edited: Tue 20th September 2011 at 10:11:26 AM