September 21st 2017

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

President Kenyatta's Turkana foray yields little for Jubilee

When challenged by Governor Nanok to help address Turkana’s marginalization by withdrawing his opposition to a mining legislation that people here were clamouring for in anticipation of oil fortunes, the president retorted that he did not care about Turkana votes.

By Free Press Correspondentnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comFriday, 21 Jul 2017 10:56 EAT

Deputy William Ruto when we addressed residents of Turkana County early last week

After four years in which he never commissioned any government development project in Turkana County, President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the region last week and promised, as he did in 2013, to have all homes connected to electricity – in two weeks no less!

“Within two weeks all houses here in Kakuma will be connected to electricity through a diesel-powered generator. We will be switching on the Last Mile connection in Lokichar today,” he said at a high-powered Jubilee rally in Lodwar.

The president’s campaign visit last week was his first major one in the area since he became assumed power in April 2013. He had made two other visits to Turkana, the last one in March ending in a national scandal when he engaged in a verbal altercation with Governor Josephat Nanok.

When challenged by Governor Nanok to help address Turkana’s marginalization by withdrawing his opposition to a mining legislation that people here were clamouring for in anticipation of oil fortunes, the president retorted that he did not care about Turkana votes.

“Shida yangu si uongozi, ni kufanyia wakenya kazi. Kwani mkitunyima kura dunia itaisha? (My problem is not power, but to work for Kenyans. Do you folks think the world will come to an end if you don’t vote for me!” the president said in Lodwar. You can watch the video of the altercation here, and media commentary on the president’s conduct here and here.

Fast forward to July 10, and a transformed Uhuru is pulling all stops to get the Turkana vote that he not long took for granted. In the 2013 election, the president 30,235 votes from this county (30 percent) while NASA leader Raila Odinga got 68,402 (68 percent).

In the run-up to the August election, several allies of the President’s allies have decamped from Jubilee Party to ODM. Turkana Central John Lodepe, one of the region’s charismatic politicians, recently led dozens of MCAs and other Jubilee officials to ODM.

More than in 2013, ODM is also now more entrenched in the county, with Governor Nanok having delivered projects and cultivated allies throughout the region over the last four years. In contrast, Jubilee’s main assets John Munyes (who is challenging Nanok for the governorship) and Ekwe Ethuro (speaker of the senate) are reputed as being reclusive and unapproachable.

Until several months ago when Uhuru’s strongholds like Meru and Tharaka Nithi were intact, he could afford to dismiss the 30,000 votes he received here last time as inconsequential, but not any more.

The president is feeling the heat following a NASA onslaught that now targets all elective seats in the county, and its strategists know that it would take a miracle for Uhuru to get 10 percent of the overall votes this time around, hence the dread in Uhuru’s court evident in his rallies here last week.

Yet it is that very fright that Jubilee leaders now believe will hurt them above the president’s poor standing among the people. Local Jubilee officials have been overheard saying that the president’s promises are unrealistic and have sent the message that the government could have done much for Turkana but Uhuru chose not to, up till now when he is desperate for votes.

“One week is almost gone and we have never seen any effort towards achieving the target in the remaining week,” said a Jubilee Party campaigner who revealed that the party’s candidates were meeting renewed resistance from voters.

“The question is, ‘What does the President think of us, does he think people will be swayed by last minute projects? Even our supporters are beginning to trust Nanok’s (ODM governor) line that the Jubilee government takes Turkanas for granted.

Not lost on the Jubilee members’ mind is also the fact that Uhuru and Ruto took credit for county government projects in health and road improvement. Indeed, the president’s tour has left Nanok buoyed, according to one of the governor’s aides reached 

“All he has to do now is visit all the projects Uhuru mentioned in his rallies and tell the people that these were county government projects,” he said.

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