High hopes in Uhuru Nyanza tour
As Raila Odinga spearheads elaborate plans to receive the President in Kisumu and Bondo this week following March 9 handshake, region is bubbling with great expectations with leaders and residents sharing wish list
Joblessness, compensation of post-election violence victims and the revival of sugar factories top Kisumu residents and leaders' wishlist as President Uhuru Kenyatta visits the region for the first time after his handshake with Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga.
The President is expected to visit the lakeside city on December 13 to preside over the launch of Universal Health Coverage pilot phase.
Locals expect him to address many issues, including the eradication of water hyacinth, fish imports from china and insecurity.
Kisumu Deputy Governor Mathews Owili said the launch of the scheme in the four pilot counties — Nyeri, Isiolo, Machakos and Kisumu — would be in the lakeside city.
Also in long list of requests is the completion of roads and the improvement of Kisumu International Airport.
Government and county officials on Wednesday toured Kisumu to identify suitable venues for the event and to ensure everything is in order ahead of the visit.
The handshake saw Mr Kenyatta go easy on opposition leaders and the fruits have been evident, one of them being appointments to plum positions in parastatals.
Mr Odinga was also made the African Union High representative for Infrastructure Development, while Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka is a special peace envoy.
Other opposition leaders who benefited are National Super Alliance chief executive Norman Magaya and ODM secretariat official David Osiany, who were made Kenya Film Classification and Chemelil Sugar board members respectively.
The bond between Mr Odinga and Mr Kenyatta will be made stronger as the President is said to be planning to visit the former's home in Bondo.
On Friday, Mr Odinga asked Kisumu residents to welcome Mr Kenyatta.
Nyanza regional police boss Leonard Katana said his office is yet to get official communication from State House on the President's tour.
Kisumu County Police Commander Job Boronjo said government officials are not taking chances and would ensure security is tight.
"We still have not received official communication. I am reading all these in newspapers. However, we are prepared for the visit," Mr Boronjo said.
Despite the uncertainty, politicians and opinion leaders are excited and making demands already.
Luo Council of elders chairman Ker Opiyo Otondi said residents are looking forward to seeing the fruits of the handshake.
He, however, remained mum on the demands the elders have for Mr Kenyatta.
“We want the President to reaffirm the handshake at the grass roots and the joint path he has chosen to walk with Mr Odinga. After that, every other thing will fall in place,” Mr Otondi said.
Muhoroni MP Onyango K'oyoo wants the revival of sugar factories to be prioritised.
“Millers should be revived. The two leaders should come to Chemelil and Muhoroni and revive the factories as that will have long lasting benefits on the region and locals,” the lawmaker said.
He added that it is important for Mr Odinga and Mr Kenyatta to ensure they finish the unity drive in the country started by their fathers.
“We are hopeful the sugar debts will be written off just like what happened to tea and coffee,” the Muhoroni MP said.
Nyando MP Jared Okello said the President should direct the government to clear the debts it owes the millers.
“Farmers should be given what belongs to them. The factories should have modern machines," Mr Okello said.
Rights activists Audi Ogada said Mr Kenyatta's visit would ensure Kisumu is no longer viewed as a place that is hostile to other political parties.
“We would like to hear from the President what he intends to do about police brutality that has been the order of the day during elections,” he said.
“It would be better if he meets victims of post-election violence. We will be sure of his commitment to justice and compensation if he does so.”
The activist also asked Mr Kenyatta to address the issue of youth unemployment in Kisumu.
Millers should be revived. The two leaders should come to Chemelil and Muhoroni and revive the factories as that will have long lasting benefits on the region and locals. We are hopeful the debts will be written off” Onyango K’oyoo