KHAL­WALE’S GAM­BLE IN KAKAMEGA

Kakamega’s gover­nor race will be de­ter­mined by Oparanya’s suc­cess or fail­ure. Elected on the ODM ticket, he has ar­guably been one of the few bright spots in the op­po­si­tion, over­com­ing po­lit­i­cal odds

The Star (Kenya) - - Voices -

Kakamega town was a ‘day ur­ban cen­tre’ a decade ago. It teemed with life dur­ing the day, but was a ghost town at night. Life then, in what used to be the cap­i­tal of West­ern Prov­ince, be­gan at sun­rise and the cur­tains came down at sun­set. The dusty streets had been cleared of hu­man­ity. Four years of de­vo­lu­tion have changed the face of the town. The eco­nomic and so­cial im­pact of de­vo­lu­tion is em­pir­i­cally ver­i­fi­able through rapid rise in in­vest­ments. This not with­stand­ing that Kakamega county is an op­po­si­tion strong­hold.

Al­though it still has a long way to go to match ma­jor ur­ban cen­tres, the town is on course to be­com­ing a case study of the trans­for­ma­tive im­pact of the de­cen­tral­i­sa­tion of power and dis­tri­bu­tion of na­tional re­sources. Its turn­around from a ‘day ur­ban cen­tre’ to a busy com­mer­cial hub presents a case for re­gions in the coun­try that were hith­erto viewed as pe­riph­eral eco­nom­i­cally, save for the votes to main­tain the sta­tus quo.

The el­e­va­tion of the West­ern Col­lege of Tech­nol­ogy to the Masinde Muliro Univer­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy has played a key role in ac­cel­er­at­ing growth in Kakamega. The county gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to ‘facelift’ the once ghost town have brought new life to the area that for a long time had the res­i­dence of a hand­ful of Asians and So­ma­lis (note For­eign Af­fairs CS Amina Mo­hamed was born and brought up in Kakamega).

The 2010 Con­sti­tu­tion trig­gered a mo­men­tum of growth and de­vel­op­ment through de­vo­lu­tion, which the county gov­ern­ment has sup­ported through in­fra­struc­ture and pru­dent util­i­sa­tion of re­sources. Like many other towns in the coun­try, Kakamega has at­tracted a num­ber of ma­jor banks. Recre­ation and en­ter­tain­ment com­pa­nies haven’t been left be­hind. Res­i­dents no longer have to go to Kisumu, Bun­goma, We­buye or El­doret on week­ends to have fun. Other than the high­ways, more than two-thirds of the ur­ban roads are paved or have been el­e­vated to all-weather sta­tus.

The county has pro­vided a busi­ness-friendly en­vi­ron­ment for po­ten­tial in­vestors. The rush for busi­ness is some­thing akin to the gold­mine rush or Ikolo­mani of the 1920s when white set­tlers pitched tent in the re­gion to mine the pre­cious min­eral.

Save for the sickly Kakamega County Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal, Gover­nor Wy­cliffe Oparanya’s per­for­mance places him among the top 10 county chiefs who have at­tempted to live up to the ex­pec­ta­tions of de­vo­lu­tion: Mak­ing the grass­roots the driv­ers of so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

The gover­nor race in 2017 will be de­ter­mined by suc­cess or fail­ure. Elected on the ODM ticket, the gover­nor has ar­guably been one of the few bright spots in the op­po­si­tion, over­com­ing the po­lit­i­cal odds to trans­form Kakamega into an in­vest­ments des­ti­na­tion.

That ex­plains in part why the county is slow to fall for Ju­bilee’s car­rots, de­spite MPs from the re­gion lin­ing up for hand­outs to leave the op­po­si­tion. The fight for the seat will be an op­po­si­tion af­fair.

Ford Kenya deputy party leader Boni Khal­wale plans to take on Oparanya, an ODM deputy leader. It is a risky gam­ble by Khal­wale. This will be a tus­sle be­tween con­sis­tency and in­con­sis­tency, re­spec­tively. Khal­wale is a po­lit­i­cal jour­ney­man.

He has changed par­ties many times since he was first elected to Par­lia­ment in 2002. The gover­nor crossed over from Narc to ODM in 2005, where he is rooted.

GOVER­NOR OPARANYA’S PER­FOR­MANCE PLACES HIM AMONG THE TOP 10 COUNTY CHIEFS WHO HAVE AT­TEMPTED TO LIVE UP TO THE EX­PEC­TA­TIONS OF DE­VO­LU­TION: MAK­ING GRASS­ROOTS THE DRIV­ERS OF SO­CIO-ECO­NOMIC DE­VEL­OP­MENT

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kenya

© PressReader. All rights reserved.