September 21st 2017

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

In mammoth Eldoret rally, NASA struggles to find Kalenjin message

The leaders emphasised challenges of the North Rift region, which include high agricultural input prices and corruption in the distribution of fertilisers, importation of wheat and poor prices for cereal farmers, promising to deal "decisively" with the issues once they come to power.

By Free Press Correspondentnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comSaturday, 25 Feb 2017 18:10 EAT

Mr Odinga addressing the rally today.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his NASA compatriots Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula held a mammoth rally in the heartland of Deputy President William Ruto's Kalenjin support base, with messages that denigrated the DP's performance in government and appealed to the region's farmers.

The leaders highlighted challenges of the North Rift region which include high unemployment in the urban areas, high agricultural input prices and corruption in the distribution of fertilisers, illegal importation of wheat and poor prices for cereal farmers, promising to deal "decisively" with the issues once they come to power. 

The well-attended rally saw a huge turnout by local opposition activists in a region that voted solidly for the Jubilee government in 2013. However, despite the rally's billing as the start of the Kalenjin community's grand return to Mr Odinga's camp, having supported the former prime minister in 2013, the coalition did not as yet present a unified plan to bring the community into the coalition.

They emphasized the fact that the Rift Valley has been the traditional bread basket of Kenya but the region's production was falling, putting the whole country on the edge in food security. To address these challenges, the leaders announced that the NASA government would dedicate at least 10 percent of the national budget for agriculture and allocate enough money to the National Cereals Board to purchase cereals from farmers at acceptable prices.

"We will deal firmly with corruption which is the biggest problem for agriculture in Kenya. Imported wheat have flooded the market. We will adopt a policy of our farms and our farmers first. We will ensure New KCC is returned to farmers to stabilize milk prices. We will tackle the problem of land subdivision to ensure economical farming," the leaders' said in a 7-point plan to rebuild the region's agricultural capacities.

Mr Odinga acccused the Jubilee government of intentionally purchasing counterfeit fertiliser that destroyed maize crop in the region. “Wananunua fertiliser bandia, inachoma mahindi. Sisi kama NASA tutahakikisha wakulima watacheka, wakulima watapata haki yao. (The government knowingly buys cheap counterfeit fertiliser that destroys the farmers' crop. As NASA, we will ensure that farmers will smile, we will give them their right),” said the ODM leader.

The ODM leader also accused Jubilee leaders of not ensuring farmers benefitted from their produce. “By the time we (the grand coalition government) were leaving office, a bag of maize was selling at Sh3,200, and now it is going for Sh3,000,” he said, seemingly oblivious to the fact that high maize prices were detrimental to the economy as a whole, even if a few farmers may benefit. At Sh3,000 per bag, Kenya's maize prices are still the highest in the region.

The other top leaders also had a heavy dose of anti-Ruto messaging, with Mr Musyoka challenging the shoot-to-kill order the DP gave to the police yesterday. “There is no law that allows the deputy president to give such an order,” he said.

Mr Wetangula said the government was implementing wrong priorities, insisting that it should have fed starving Kenyans instead of allocating funds to provide laptops for class one pupils in the digital literacy programme.

Preparations for the August elections have only began, and the NASA coalition itself has not announced its presidential flag-bearer, but its lack of a broad-based message that links the North Rift to NASA's national struggles against impunity, ethnicity and bad governance. 

"It was a good rally that saw the coalition's potential to reach Kalenjin voters anew, but the 7-point plans was uninspired," a political analyst from Eldoret who attended the rally.

Before his journey to Eldoret, Mr Odinga addressed two audiences in the South Rift region, condoling with mourners at the funeral of late Philip Kipkorir arap Sigei at Litein, Bomet County.

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