Ruto, Raila flex muscles in duel for Nyanza numbers

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Opposition leader Raila Odinga. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s ODM have intensified their grassroots mobilisation in Nyanza as the battle for numbers intensifies.

The battle has escalated in the wake of a member recruitment drive sanctioned by UDA targeting vote-rich sub-counties in Migori, Homa Bay and Kisii counties.

Top opposition figures have responded with intense visits to Nyanza counties where they have declared ODM as the party of choice in the region. Luo Nyanza has 2,160,439 voters.

Raila on Wednesday cracked the whip on party rebels in a process that saw five MPs expelled and three others fined over their association with the Kenya Kwanza government.

But his former allies have sustained their offensive on ODM’s traditional strongholds. The new focus is Nyatike and Kuria sub-counties in Migori where former lawmaker Omondi Anyanga and his team have been enlisting UDA members since the start of the year.

ODM chairman John Mbadi and Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi are also leading a fight to challenge the emerging UDA wave in the lakeside region as the focus shifts to the 2027 General Election.

“We are not leaving anything to chance. By the end of the year, our projection is that we will have enlisted 120,000 new UDA members in Migori. No one has the interest of Nyanza like President Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua,” Anyanga told The Standard.

Of Migori’s eight constituencies, Nyatike commands most of the county’s 469,019 registered voters. Other constituencies are Rongo, Awendo, Suna East, Suna West, Uriri, Kuria East and Kuria West. UDA is also eyeing a slice of Kisii and Nyamira counties.

Mbadi and Wandayi have laughed off forays by the ruling party, likening the move to shadow-boxing. “Those who are running around here marketing UDA don’t represent anybody. They have gone to UDA on their own,” Wandayi said.

But Anyanga warned: “We will fight to the last man in popularising President Ruto’s party. We have a clear plan and the tide is fast changing. We will not bow to politics of yesteryears where a party would oppose the government for the sake of it.”

Anyanga who who chairs the Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority board, fell out with Raila and recently defected to UDA. ODM has dismissed his quest as inconsequential.

In Homa Bay, former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and the chairman of Lake Victoria South Water Works Development Agency Odoyo are also leading UDA’s drive to register new members. 

In Siaya County, ICT and Digital Economy CS Eliud Owalo is mobilising Nyanza residents to work with the Kenya Kwanza government.

But Mbadi said ODM’s dominance in the region was not in doubt. “Nyanza region is an ODM zone and those thinking otherwise are dreaming,” the ODM chairman declared.

Political observers say the battle for numbers will be intense the moment Raila declares his intention to vie for the presidency in 2027. “For now, the war might not be pronounced. Let’s wait and see when Raila makes his intention known,” said Homa Bay-based political analyst Paul Okinyi.

Ruto and Gachagua on a recent visit to Migori and Homa Bay told Nyanza residents to work with the government as it would not discriminate against them on account of how they voted last year. 



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