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
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