Tuesday, August 11, 2009



August 10 2009

The Orange party is in for a season of bickering after a section of Rift Valley MPs on Monday reacted angrily to party leader Raila Odinga’s visit to their province.

Mr Odinga, who is also the Prime Minister, toured the province and addressed weekend functions which local MPs did not attend. Mr Odinga vowed that he would deal directly with the people since MPs had been threatening him. Many Rift Valley MPs oppose government plans, championed by the PM, to move families settled in the Mau Forest.

They have also complained that their province did not get its fair share of ministerial positions given to ODM. On Monday, some vocal MPs said Mr Odinga was “arrogant” and “a dictator” and that his handling of issues affecting the Rift Valley was “high-handed”.

Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto and his Cherangany counterpart Joshua Kutuny said they would not attend future meetings by the PM in the region. “It is just as good that the PM has declared publicly he does not need us. We are telling him now that he is very free in attempting to work directly with our people. We shall see how far he goes in that pursuit,’’ said Mr Kutuny.

Said Mr Ruto: “We have heard him loud and clear that he does not need us. We will ignore him.’’

Mau Forest

Mr Ruto, whose constituency the PM visited, claimed that Mr Odinga was angry that Rift Valley MPs met with President Kibaki over Mau Forest and national healing last Tuesday.

“It is no longer the question of Mau,’’ Mr Ruto said. “It is because we went to see the President and sorted out the contentious matter once and for all. He is angry with us because we no longer play ball with him.’’

Added Mr Kutuny: “The PM has always wanted us to view him as a small god, which we say cannot happen. He is a person who does not want to see other leaders build bridges with other people. Our move to make sure we work with leaders is what is frustrating him. He is also angry that we are building bridges with other leaders.’’

“He has become ODM itself. The party we formed which our people voted for, was for consultative leadership, respect for institutions and with no place for roadside decisions,” said Mr Ruto.

Vocal Ruto

They said following Mr Odinga’s proclamation on Sunday, Rift Valley MPs would also take the same position. “The PM has twice before, in Kisumu and Parliament, said he was not interested in working with us and he repeated that yesterday. We want to say that we also do not need him,’’ said Mr Ruto.Mr Ruto, a vocal though not widely influential former Cabinet minister, is one of Mr Odinga’s harshest critics. Mr Odinga has criticised him in the House for threatening to bring down the PM at a rally.

The PM reversed an earlier decision to establish a new district headquarters at Sigor. “My constituents met and resolved where the headquarters should be located. I was not a party to it since I had given them the mandate to make their choice,” Mr Ruto said.

But nominated MP Musa Sirma, who is loyal to Mr Odinga. “He only paraded one leader who called out to the others. The PM said he will work directly with the people. It is the people who demanded that he talks to them,’’ said the MP.

Mr Odinga said the government would talk directly talk to Mau settlers about eviction and compensation. Speaking at Sogoo High School near Maasai Mau on Sunday, Mr Odinga, however, ruled out compensation for settlers with more than 10 acres.

He assured the settlers that the evictions would be humane. “Settlers in Mau Forest voted for me in the last General Election and I am not a dog to eat my own puppies. You will be evicted in a humane way,” the PM promised.

Earlier, assistant minister Mr Charles Keter told worshippers at Sogoo Africa Gospel church that the stand of the Rift Valley MPs was that all settlers should be adequately compensated before being evicted. He however left the area before Mr Odinga arrived for the rally.

Local leaders John ole Sena and Julius Ng’etich told Mr Odinga that the Mau Taskforce did not go to the ground. They said the list recently tabled in Parliament exaggerated the acreage of the beneficiaries noting that residents had accurate data.

The PM told them to prepare a memorandum and hand it to the DC who would forward it to his office. During the visit, Mr Odinga held a closed door meeting with civic leaders from Bomet, Sotik, Chepalungu, Bureti, Konoin, Kericho, Belgut and Ainamoi districts at Moi Siongiroi Girls secondary school.

Four 2007 parliamentary election losers, Dr David Soo, Mr Alexander Kirui and Mr Johana Rotich, attended the meeting. The Mau issue topped the agenda, according to Bomet mayor Leonard Barsumei and Bomet county council chairman John Kalia.

Mr Barsumei said he told Mr Odinga that the people of Rift Valley voted for him but now perceived him as their “enemy’ because of the intended eviction.

Reported by Njeri Rugene, Julius Sigei and Geoffrey Rono