Odinga and his team have consistently accused the president of killing democracy by poaching opposition leaders using state resources.
On Saturday, August 19, a host of leaders from the larger Western region held talks with the President at State House.
According to Cleophas Malala, the Secretary General of the United Democratic Alliance Party, the agenda of the meeting was strengthening UDA party’s grass root support in western region.
In addition, Malala stated that the closed-door meeting at State House was also a forum to receive leaders who had defected from Odinga’s Azimio wing.
“The agenda of the meeting was strengthening UDA party’s grassroot support in western region with defection of members from Azimio into UDA led by former Bungoma Governor, Hon. Wycliffe Wangamati, Amb. Ken Vitisia (Vihiga) and Hon. Isaac Andabwa (Lugari) also getting actualised,” stated the ruling party spokesperson.
Wangamati playing safe
Wangamati was a one-term governor, having lost the seat to Bungoma’s pioneer governor and former Speaker of the Senate Ken Lusaka in 2022.
Meanwhile, in the run up to the 2022 polls, Wangamati joined the Azimio camp through DAP-Kenya, decamping from FORD Kenya, which Lusaka used to reclaim the seat.
“The people of Bungoma have spoken and we respect that decision. I want to congratulate Kenneth Lusaka on his election as the Governor of Bungoma County.
I want to thank every citizen of Bungoma who thought and believed in my vision for Bungoma and all those who supported my campaigns for re-election and voted for me,” Wangamati conceded in August 2022.
However, with Lusaka serving his second and final term, pundits see Wangamati’s shift of allegiance as a tactical move to position himself ahead of the 2027 elections.
Similarly, should Lusaka and Wetangula throw their weight behind Wangamati, then he is likely to have a smooth sail back to the governorship.
Ruto Game plan
What’s more, President Ruto trained his eyes on Western Kenya and Nyanza regions immediately after the polls, as he sought to solidify his support base.
Ruto, who hit the campaign trail immediately after taking over power, raided Odinga’s backyard of Luo Nyanza and hived off dozens of politicians.
Consequently, some of the Azimio leaders from the region supporting Ruto include Gideon Ochanda of Bondo, Caroli Omondi – Suba North, Elisha Odhiambo – Gem, and Senior Counsel Prof Tom Ojienda – Senator of Kisumu.
Youthful politician and former comedian Phelix Odiwuor, popularly known as Jalang’o who is Lang’ata Member of Parliament also declared his support for the government of Ruto.
According to Malala, Bishop Titus Khamala, an ODM Member of Parliament representing Lurambi constituency, was also part of the delegation that met Ruto on Saturday. Khamala, a former ANC member has been warming up to Ruto for months now.
Politics of development
After the meeting, Mary Emase, MP Teso South said it was all about development and bolstering the UDA party.
“We met the President William Samoei Ruto at State House Nairobi on the agenda of strengthening the UDA party in western and more importantly the development of our region.
Also taking this opportunity to thank the newly recruited leaders and extend invitations to everyone else yet to board. This is the party to be!” Emase said.
Moreover, Secretary General of the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) Seth Panyako who in May 2023 resigned from his position as UDA vice chair was also at State House.
“I talked to the President at 7 pm and it seemed that I could not continue with my role given my opposition to the housing fund and the high cost of living. I want to announce that I have resigned from my position at UDA,” he stated then.
He added, “I have decided to stick with Kenyans because, during the campaigns, we used to say kazi ni kazi, pesa mfukoni. Now they are saying, Kazi ni kazi, pesa kwa serikali.”