Sunday, July 3, 2011
Kosgey move weakens ODM grip on Rift Valley
BY VITALIS KIMUTAI
ODM chairman Henry Kosgey’s backing of rebel party MPs led by suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto could complicate matters for Prime Minister Raila Odinga in Rift Valley.
The move has caused a huge dent in Raila’s hold in the vote-rich province whose residents supported him in the last elections.
Kosgey has been a key backer and strategist of the PM in the region and nationally.
The Tinderet MP is considered a huge prize by the Ruto camp and the United Democratic Movement (UDM), which the rebel MPs have publicly associated with.
"I am with Ruto and my colleagues from the region and we shall move together forward politically to the end. We cannot afford to be divided," Kosgey said.
He said the Kalenjin community had moved to UDM from ODM as they seek a new political path.
"We voted for ODM in the last elections but they did not take care of our interests. The move to ODM by the community was more of a gravitational pull than anything else," Kosgey said.
He added, "Those thinking that I would take a different political path from that of my people are mistaken. We shall soldier on as a team."
Kosgey spoke during three rallies in Mosop constituency attended by Cabinet minister Joseph Nyagah, Assistant ministers Asman Kamama and Aden Duale, and Ruto.
MPs David Koech (Mosop), Joshua Kutuny (Cheranganyi), Elijah Lagat (Emgwen) and former MP Mark Too attended the rallies at Sangalo, Koisolik and Kabiyet trading centres.
Two weeks ago, Raila visited Uasin Gishu County where Ruto’s constituency falls and received a warm reception. MPs Chachu Ganya, Lucas Chepkitony and Nicholus Gumbo in separate interviews said the move by Kosgey would affect ODM grassroots support.
"Let us wait until after the grassroots election has been completed then we can make out a proper interpretation of the impact of Kosgey’s move," Chepkitony said.
Chepkitony, however, added the bid by elders to reconcile Raila and Ruto would not be affected by the new developments. Gumbo said Kosgey’s decision was personal and ought to be respected, as it must have been well thought out.
United front"We respect Kosgey’s decision even if we do not agree with it. It would have been much better if we approached the election as a united front in the party," Gumbo said.
He added: "He is a seasoned politician and a big name in Kenyan politics. The timing of his statement is unfortunate and ODM relations with Rift Valley people depend on what we do between now and the next General Election."
Gumbo said the party leadership did not need any more enemies and that there was need to reach out to disgruntled leaders and extend an olive branch. "We should, as a party, leave room for reconciliation and manoeuvre to bring back the rebels. We need to consolidate our support in Rift Valley," Gumbo said.
He said it was still possible to reconcile Ruto and Raila.
Ganya claimed a number of bigwigs in ODM were waiting for an opportune time to ditch the party.
"It is only a matter of time before a number of key Cabinet ministers and their assistants join Ruto’s camp. Some are only interested in protecting their positions for now," Ganya claimed. Bomet ODM branch organising secretary Sirma Kiprotich said the Tinderet MP’s declaration was a blow to the party.
"By virtue of his position in the party and national politics, Kosgey’s exit from Raila’s camp is regrettable. But we will move fast to bridge the gap and regain support of the people," Kiprotich said.
Mr Titus Bitok, a Moi University law lecturer said Kosgey has to hang around with the rebel MPs to be relevant in the region’s politics.
Bitok said Raila would have to find a way of laying a grip on youthful politicians in Rift Valley.
"Raila should know he can not go back to where he was in 2007 as things have shifted in relation with voters in the region. But voters in Rift Valley are in a fluid base and obedience. You can not hold them in one corner – they are largely in Kanu, UDM and ODM," Bitok said.
Nominated MP Musa Sirma claimed the ODM chairman had lost direction politically as his latest act was out of desperation.
"Kosgey has to hang on Ruto’s coat tails to survive in Nandi politics. He has realised he does not enjoy support outside Tinderet at a time he has interest in the senator’s seat," Sirma said.
Sigor MP Wilson Litole said he respected Kosgey’s decision, which he termed personal. "Kosgey’s move to join the rebels in ODM will result in the need for a shift of strategy by the PM. He needs to connect with the voters on the ground directly," he said.
MPs who attended the Mosop rallies tasked Kosgey to convince Agriculture minister Sally Kosgei to reconsider her recent decision to back the Raila camp.
Posted by ME at 3:03 AM