The burial ceremony of former Nyaribari Masaba MP Hezron Manduku on Friday last week was turned into a political contest among Gusii leaders. A major political realignment has since been taking shape in Kisii with local leaders strongly vouching for the presidential candidature of Interior and National Coordination minister Fred Matiang’i.
The funeral of Manduku turned out to be a hot political platform where the area leaders gave radical speeches in support of the Building Briddges Initiative, the handshake between Uhutru Kenyattta and Raila Odinga with the entry of Matiang’i in the political arena taking centrestage.
Led by Kisii governor James Ongwae and his Nyamira counterpart John Nyagarama, the Gusii leaders in unison sounded a warning to any leader who makes a mistake of disrespecting the Interior CS. The leaders said that Matiang’i is a great blessing to the people of Gusii and that he has put the region in the national map leading to realisation of many development milestones in Gusii.
“Any attempt to abuse or disrespect our senior brother in government is suicidal and any elected Kisii leader opposed to Matiang’i will be rejected at the ballot box come 2022,” said Kitutu Chache North MP Jimmy Angwenyi.
His sentiments were echoed by other leaders including governors Ongwae and Nyagarama, senators Sam Ongeri, Okongo Mogeni, Kisii county MP Janet Ongera, Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka, Nyaribari Chache’s Richard Tong’i, Dagoretti North’s Simba Arati among other elected leaders from the region. Ongera is in the Matiang’i camp.
Aware he is losing grip in the region, deputy president William Ruto who was widely expected to attend the burial skipped the function.
Chaos nearly erupted at the funeral when youthful South Mugirango MP Sylvanus Osoro was heckled by the mourners when he attempted to sell the tangatanga agenda. He was forced to cut short his speech unceremoniously and efforts by Nyaribari Masaba MP Ezekiel Machogu who is also supporting Ruto call for order proved futile.
Osoro was later heard lamenting that Matiang’i is unfit to be the president of Kenya and Kisiis do not have the numbers to help him rise to the position. Onyonka alluded that some people were intimidating the Gusii community to support Ruto’s presidential bid and declared that the community will rally behind Matiang’i and Raila Odinga in 2022.
Kisii deputy governor Joash Maangi who in the recent past has been seen to be supporting the Ruto spoke in low tones as he carefully avoided the politics of the day. He smartly did that to avoid the resistance and hostility by the thousands of mourners. The leaders further praised Raila for coming together with Uhuru to foster the development agenda set out by the government.
Ongeri termed anyone who is opposing the handshake as an enemy of progress. He advised the Gusii people to handle the matter of CS Matiang’i with much care so as to avoid antagonising his ascendancy to power. He firmly threw his support for the CS and congratulated him for his hard work which has won him accolades nationally.
Matiang’i skipped the politics and delivered the president’s condolence message where he was cheered widely by the mourners. He also urged Kenyans who have not been counted to go to the nearest chief’s camp to be enumerated.
On his part, mentioned a number of benefits the handshake has purportedly brought to Gusii region and the country. Raila also reminded the Gusii people to support Matiang’i so that he can deliver on the role the president has entrusted him with. Leaders who spoke during the burial at Nyaturago Secondary School playground differed on their support to various political factions in the country.
ODM party leader dismissed calls by a section of leaders who demanded him to support Interior CS Matiang’i for the seat of presidency come 2022 general elections .
Raila termed the calls as premature and uncalled for and asked the area leaders to focus on the unity of Kenyans which has been polarised by past political campaigns
“The country must remain united before we get down to think of political formation. We have the handshake that is key in uniting
Kenyans and fight corruption,” Raila said.
Matiang’i sat pensively watching in disbelief as leaders rooted for his presidential candidature.
“Matiang’i is my son and I know he deserves the best. It is not yet time to start politicking and that is why we are against early political statements that will derail our country’s development agenda. Nobody is fighting Matiang’i,” Raila remarked.
The former premier added: “We need an all exclusive process in the constitution amendment process. We have the Building Bridges Initiative whose report we have to wait for.”
Raila said it is wrong for other leaders to accuse those in Tanga Tanga of early campaigns yet they themselves are busy politicking. Arati took a swipe at politicians in the Tanga Tanga team saying the idea of picking handouts from leaders has to stop.
“We know those involved in corrupt dealings. They are using such proceeds to cause disunity among Kenyans thinking they will ascend to power by issuing handouts to greedy politicians and poor Kenyans,” said Simba.
Nyaribari Chache MP Richard Tongi warned that nobody can claim to own a community. “Our people have matured politically and soon we will be able to have our own ascend to the highest political position in the country.”
However South Mugirango MP and deputy president close ally Sylvanus Osoro called on other leaders to stop chestthumping on who runs government.
“God has given us the opportunity to serve our people. The greatest achievement we can have is to ensure that we have had enough employment opportunities for our youth as well as created an enabling environment for small businesses enterprises,” Osoro said.
Osoro said the community will never have any meaningful development project done to its completion if its leaders continued to engage in supremacy politics.
“Our people are in dire need of socioeconomic projects that can change their way of life. I will continue to champion the interests of the poor because that is what I was elected to do,” he said.
Matiang’i who is being supported by a section of Kisii leaders to go for the country’s top seat downplayed the statements saying the right time for such declarations was not yet ready.
“I better not get any leadership role in the future but, at the moment ensure that we have achieved all that we are required to do. It is time to work diligently for our people. Let’s support our leaders if indeed we intend to achieve all our objectives as a nation,” he said.
“One day I will make that announcement that most of you are waiting for. At the moment we must continue to seek spiritual guidance before we think of anything else.”
The CS said he was happy that the governors on the helm of Nyamira and Kisii county leadership were solidly behind the community’s unity talks.
“It is through unity that our people will have the Nyangwenta Sugar Factory, a banana processing plant and key water projects at Bonyunyu and Kegati.”
“Kenya needs peaceful and honest leaders. The responsibility to implement all government projects lies with us leaders. The struggle by our forefathers to liberate this country should not go to waste,” Matiang’i remarked.
Uhuru in his condolence message to Manduku family described Manduku as a devoted and ambitious leader who served his people and the nation with outermost sincerity.
In his speech read on his behalf by CS Matiang’i, Uhuru said Manduku touched lives of several Kenyans. “The death is a big loss to the family and the nation. There is no doubt that Manduku will be remembered by many.”
Raila remembered his days in parliament with the deceased saying Manduku was among the few humble parliamentarians at the time.
“There are those who could engage in unnecessary wars in parliament but I am sure Dr Manduku was never part of such schemes. His relationship with the our family dates back to several years when he went to Moscow with my elder brother Oburu Odinga for studies.”
Manduku made his first attempt into Kenyan politics in 1988 during the single party era where he unsuccessfully ran for the Nyaribari Masaba parliamentary seat.
He won the seat in 1992 and served for five years. He served the country as an assistant minister for Foreign Affairs and International Corporation.
Before his death, he underwent an emergency surgery in the USA before he was admitted to Nairobi Hospital several times early this year. He succumbed to his illness on the night of August 10 2019.
The burial of Manduku for the first time brought together political leaders from the Gusii community who are pro and against Matiang’i’s ambitions for the seat of presidency .
The group which is against Matiang’i led by the South Mugirango Osoro accused Matiang’i of being arrogant and failing to use his position in assisting the area residents .
Osoro and his team which has majority of MPs from the Gusii community are supporting Ruto for the seat of presidency. The pro-Matiang’i quartet is led by governors Ongwae (Kisii), Nyagarama(Nyamira), senators Ongeri (Kisii) and Omogeni (Nyamira) among others .
Ongwae and Nyagarama have asked the Kisii residents to reject leaders opposed to Matiang’i leadership come the next general elections .
They have also labelled those opposed to Matiang’i as traitors who should not be considered for any elective position in the community. Ongeri who is one of the longest serving political leaders from the Gusii community has asked opposed to Matiang’i to change their heart and come back to where the rest of other leaders are.
He likened those opposed to Matiang’i as young calves which run away from the mother after sucking milk from the udder and eventually come back when they are hungry. Ongeri said it was the right for the Kisii community to produce a presidential candidate it had the capacity and the numbers.
He also challenged the ODM to steer other leaders in supporting Matiang’i for the seat in reciprocation to what the Kisii community has also done to them.
For almost a year, realignments have been taking place with Governors Nyagarama and Ongwae playing a major role.ODM leader Raila Odinga held a closed-door meeting with leaders allied to Interior Cabinet Secretary planning to have him to venture into politics.
Kisii Woman Representative Janet Ong’era, a close ally of Odinga was present.
ODM treasurer Timothy Bosire openly questions the integrity of Dr Matiang’i, who it accuses of arrogance.
In July this year, the team, led Kisii ODM chair Sam Omwando and Richard Kaka of Nyamira, also toured Capitol Hill.
Dr Matiang’i and Mr Bosire do not see each other eye to eye. Bosire is on record for accusing Matiang’i of rigging him in 2017 polls at Kitutu Masaba.
Also, the loyal ODM troops under Bosire accuse Matiang’i of lining up certain candidates in Ongwae and Nyagarama succession race in 2022 polls.