The acrimonious departure from the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) by its leaders Secretary General Ababu Namwamba and Vice Chairman Paul Otuoma all from Busia County has squarely brought the battle field for political supremacy in Western Kenya between the Cord and Jubilee coalitions to the county.
These developments are happening when the county is already reeling from high political temperatures following similarly sharp and acrimonious fallouts between the County Governor Sospeter Ojaamong also of ODM and the county’s political giants led by Senator Amos Wako (ODM), Namwamba, Dr.Otuoma, former cabinet minister Fred Gumo, the sitting legislators from his own Teso community, Arthur Odera (Teso North), Mary Emase (Teso South) among others.
In effect Ojaamong’ has been effectively politically isolated as he battles for his own political survival against an onslaught from financially very powerful personalities led by the immediate former National Irrigations Board (NIB) Chief Executive Eng. Dan Barasa, Agricultural Finance Corporation Chief Executive Lucas Meso, his competitor at the last general elections Eng. Sidai and Dr.Otuoma who has also declared interest.
All these personalities are determined to have a new leadership at the helm of the Busia county government after the general elections because of what they consider bad and failed leadership from Ojaamong’ and his team – particularly in the delivery of development projects and services to members of the public.
The departure of Dr.Otuoma and Namwamba from ODM has been looming since last year and it was only a question of time before it actually exploded and there is no question that the Jubilee coalition’s power play is high in these political developments that are taking place in the county which has been previously considered predominantly an ODM zone.
Indeed out of the county’s seven constituencies, four are represented by legislators who were elected on ODM tickets at the last general elections, that is Matayos, Butula, Funyula and Budalangi the latter represented by Dr.Otuoma and Namwamba respectively not forgetting Senator Wako and the Women Representative Florence Mutua.
The Jubilee coalition is also represented in Teso North by Arthur Odera of United Republican Party (URP), Teso South by Mary Emase and Amani coalition in Nambale by John Sakwa Bunyasi.
This time round the stakes are much higher considering the high political temperatures that are being generated as early as now and ODM is not going to accept defeat without a fierce battle to retain the county.
The most critical factor in the emerging political imbroglio is the highly sensitive strategic positioning of Busia County on the Kenya – Uganda border for which the jubilee coalition is very un-comfortable with that it is in the hands of the opposition including Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.
The very close relationship between Jubilee’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni are open secrets to the extent that Ruto is on record to have been in Eastern Uganda publicly campaigning for Museveni when he was on the campaign trail in that region in preparation for that country’s general elections early this year.
The County also happens to be virtually hosting the economic lifelines for both exports and imports of Uganda, especially petroleum products that is through the Mombasa – Kampala Railway line, the Lake Victoria, the Mombasa – Nairobi – Eldoret – Malaba – Tororo to Kampala highway and the Mombasa – Nairobi – Kisumu – Busia to Kampala highway.
That is where the Museveni factor comes in through the Jubilee principals, however on the ground apart from the two URP legislators in place there are clear forces that the Jubilee coalition has set a deadly determination to crush the apparent ODM domination of the county politics and entrench its own personalities, but whether it will be through The National Alliance (TNA) or URP arms of the coalition remains to be seen.
However, this does not mean that Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress (ANC) should be ignored – already having at least one legislator on the ground the former deputy premier is also fighting to consolidate his influence throughout the entire former western province of which Busia is just part of the other four counties.
That is why although dismissing Dr.Otuoma and Namwamba’s departure from ODM, that party’s leader Raila Odinga was quick to ensure that he planned rushing to the ground to protect his party’s interests – that was immediately after the resignations of the duo from their national party posts, but apparently still retaining their memberships.
The most critical question here is how is he going to manage bringing the ODM house in Busia County in order when it is already in dis-array? Senator Wako who literally financed the ODM campaigns in Busia during the last general elections including that of Ojaamong’ has since fallen out with the governor and though still in ODM he has set the machinery in motion to get rid of Ojaamong’ from office come the next general elections.
Dr.Otuoma and Namwamba even before departing from ODM have been on the governor’s neck with deadly tenacity to dethrone him from that seat accusing him of entrenching tribalism. The county which is populated mostly by four Luhyia sub-tribes and the Teso community whose card he is accused of playing against the Luhyias now that they are out of ODM, it should come as no surprise when they go out with all canons blazing for Ojaamong’s political throat.
Besides that he (the governor) is also being accused of importing voters from the Teso community in Uganda to register as voters in Kenya to boost Teso numbers voting for him at the next general elections including playing dirty that the Luhyia communities from the County have ganged up against their Teso counterparts to isolate them from leadership positions in the county after next year’s general elections.
It is also common knowledge that Odinga is a very close political ally of the Busia governor and although Otuoma had declared interest to dethrone him, the ODM party ticket was a thorny issue since the move could have been made during party nominations, but with the emerging scenario Ojaamong’ may be assured of that ticket but facing trouble from the opposition.
The opposition against the governor with its financial might led by Eng. Barasa currently appears not to be decided from which political party to launch its deadly onslaught to dethrone him since Jubilee’s TNA and URP are very difficult political parties to sell within the county- however there is strong jostling among the politicians from the region to consolidate the Western Kenya vote for bargaining power.
It is from this background that the entry of the Jubilee coalition in Busia politics is taking centre stage with un-confirmed reports that the coalition will be financing its own candidate to particularly oust Ojaamong’ because of its interests in the strategic positioning of the county at the Kenya – Uganda border.
The question of Museveni’s hand being involved albeit secretly cannot be ruled out considering the fact that his relationship with Raila is not the best therefore having his point man (Raila’s) as the boss of the border county is completely un-acceptable.
This brings in the question which political party Dr.Otuoma and Namwamba may land in now that they are out of ODM? There indeed has been speculation that they may be trooping to the Labour Party of Kenya (LPK) which is owned by a veteran politician from Busia County Prof. Julia Ojiambo who vied for the county’s Women Rep job at the last elections and lost to little known Mrs. Mutua.
That could appear to be the most immediate option but the party is little known in the county which may require the mighty political giants.That’s why the looming political battles for political supremacy in the county will squarely fall on the three coalitions of Amani it being the home ground of its leader Mudavadi, Cord to safeguard its survival and the Jubilee coalition to make its entry in the region where it was virtually completely eclipsed out at the last general elections.
This could also explain why Gumo who had declared his retirement from politics is suddenly back in action and calling shots. Though formerly of Westlands in ODM, his roots are entrenched in Busia County from the same Budalangi constituency as Namwamba
President Uhuru Kenyatta has since after taking power been on official tours of the county several times and it is already being reported that despite the heightened political temperatures in the area he is expected to tour the county any time in the course of this month to solicit for political support.
During the forthcoming visit the President is expect to answer some very hard questions concerning the mess West Kenya Sugar Company has wrought in the county including that of Mumias Sugar. The sugarcane poaching crisis, the collapse of Webuye’s Panpaper Mills that are the region’s economic backbone yet it is in the public domain that he (Kenyatta) has close business ties with the Rai group that owns West Kenya and Raiply Ltd based in Eldoret that presided over Panper’s collapse.
The Deputy President has not been left out of the county’s roiling political imbroglio with equally many tours of credit due to him not only in the two constituencies where his political party (URP) has representation but also the others which are represented by elected ODM legislators to make Jubilee’s mark on the ground.
It is also an open secret that Namwamba enjoys a close relationship with the Deputy President but it remains to be seen whether URP will be his choice destination to battle it out at the next general elections and that is perhaps why at one time he was being accused by his detractors in ODM of being a Jubilee mole in ODM.