For a very long time, Luo Nyanza has been synonymous with ‘Opposition’, in Kenya’s political arena.
And the area residents were for a long time alive to Former President Daniel Moi’s slogan of ‘Siasa Mbaya, Maisha Mbaya’, which loosely profiled them as playing bad politics, the politics of the Opposition which kept them from the national cake.
This bad politics saw the area’s economy crunch, with major factories collapsing. The sugar industry, the cotton industry, and the fishing industry, which are the economic backbones of the area, all went down.
It was an area known for political violence, and no government officials dared to visit the area for fear of embarrassments and even violent attacks.
Elections have been sources of grief, and all the bad reports on disease, high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate, poverty index, and underdevelopments among others were the order of the day.
Today, Miwani Sugar Factory is dead, while Chemelil and Muhoroni are on their death beds.
Kisumu Cotton Mills died a natural death, same to Kisumu Port which was a major connecting point for Lake Transport in East Africa.
Roads lost their flair, and appointments to senior government positions were shelved.
A few of the development projects which have been set up in the area were only registered when the area’s political icon Raila Odinga embraced the governments in place.
Fast forward to 2018, the development fortune of the area took a new shape following the famous handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga.
When he attended the burial of Former Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso in 2019 in Muhoroni, President Kenyatta’s statement to Nyanza leaders was a development based laden one.
“My friend Koyoo, I do not want to come to Muhoroni for burials alone, but I want to come here to initiate and launch development projects. Kindly liaise with your governor and see what we can do in terms of development,” said the President who was seen as addressing area leaders through Muhoroni MP Onyango Koyoo.
Analysts argue that Uhuru decided to rewrite the history of Nyanza with the national government and more specifically with his family,
After 50 years President Uhuru Kenyatta and his family have taken a keen interest in rewriting the history of Nyanza from tears of sorrow to tears of Joy.
President Uhuru has in the recent past after the famous political handshake with his bitter rival Raila Odinga has been on the drive to reconstruct the history of the nation and more importantly Nyanza.
The bitter rivalry of the two founding fathers of the nation the late President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and first vice President the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was somehow passed over to their scions who have faced off in two disputed presidential contest with the former emerging victorious.
However, the two scions have taken a rather new political dimension to rewrite and reconstruct the history of Kenya and Nyanza through their brotherhood and Building Bridges Initiatives (BBI) that was birthed after handshake.
In October 1969 when the first President the late Jomo Kenyatta visited the Russia-built Nyanza Provincial General Hospital in Kisumu, a fall out between the President and his former vice President the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga culminated into a protest.
During the protest, the presidential escort team and para-military forces opened fire on the crowd killing more than 11 people and injuring hundreds.
And a serene Saturday afternoon in Kisumu was turned into chaos, death and bloodshed as two political protagonists came face to face in the heart of the metropolis.
In August 3rd 2019 at the burial of Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso in Koru of Kisumu county President Uhuru in is parting shot to Muhoroni MP Onyango Koyoo said he was more concerned with development of the region than coming for funerals.
The political handshake between Uhuru and Raila opened Nyanza and the country to political lull and calm and eventually witnessed the end of streets demonstrations in Nyanza and other parts of Kenya.
Mr Elijah Oburu, a grandson to Odinga says President Uhuru is on the roadmap to reconstruct the history of Nyanza with the rest of the country.
‘Jaramogi and Jomo were great friends. If their scions have found wisdom to correct their past mistake. It is the best thing for the nation and the region,’ he says.
Nyanza is a new home for Uhuru
Rev John Limo says President Uhuru has found Nyanza as his new home and he is comfortable and at easy in Kisumu.
‘The people of Kisumu and Nyanza are so receptive and accommodative once they have accepted you. Uhuru has been accepted by Nyanza people and he is more at home in Nyanza than the rest of the country,’ he says.
Rev Limo for Uhuru and Raila to ride to Kisumu without security details clearing the traffic is a true manifestation how Nyanza has been for the president and that is why he is committed to development and not attending funerals,’ he says.
In the first incident President Uhuru and Raila breached protocol and delayed the former’s flight by more than four hours as they toured Kisumu.
In a surprise decision that apparently caught his security and protocol officers by surprise, Uhuru changed his mind about boarding his jet at the Kisumu International Airport at the eleventh hour on a Saturday evening and instead accompanied Raila in a tour of Kisumu town.
Driving in two cars with a skeleton security detail, the leaders, accompanied by Kisumu Deputy Governor Mathews Owilli, made a surprise visit to Kisumu Port before crossing over to the nearby Yatch Club for fish and ugali.
In a second incident when President Uhuru came from visiting the late Tanzanian President Pombe Mangufuli, he visited the port in a secret and restricted tour.
So secretive was the president’s tour that many locals did not detect his presence in the Lakeside city, though he rode from the Kenyatta International Airport to the Port.
Unlike the case whenever the president come visiting, Uhuru chose to break the protocol by sharing the road with fellow motorists.
Nyanza has begun to witness series of developments being undertaken by the National government.
This coming Madaraka day, President Uhuru Kenyatta is set to commission several projects in Kisumu that were undertaken following the historic Handshake with ODM leader Raila Odinga in March 2018.
Among the projects earmarked for unveiling by the Head of State are Sh3.8 billion rehabilitated Nakuru-Kisumu Metre Gauge Railway, Sh3 billion refurbished Kisumu port, Sh350 million ultra-modern Uhuru business park, Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium at the Mamboleo ASK ground, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Sports Complex, Inland Container Depot at Kibos and 400kv power project by Ketraco.
The President will also commission a marine school in Kisumu which is part of the Railway Training Institute among other projects.
Already Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) has confirmed that the Nakuru-Kisumu railway line in nearly complete ahead of its scheduled launch next week.
KRC board chairman Maj Gen (Rtd) Umudho Awitta announced yesterday that work on the rehabilitated railway line is almost complete.
The refurbished Kisumu port is set to be operationalized shortly after the launch, with at least 10, 000 employment opportunities set to be created.
Already, the dredging of the lake is ongoing, with other smaller ports in Homa Bay, Siaya and Migori Counties set to be opened up.
The Kenya Marine School is already expanding, with more youths set to be trained on navigation and other opportunities which come with the lake transport.
This will further expand with the connection of the Standard Gauge Railways from Naivasha to Kisumu.
“When I campaigned for the position of the Governor, I had a vision to revive lake transport. I didn’t know how I would do it, and I am glad that the doors opened and the dream is being fulfilled,” said Anyang’ Nyong’o.
Kisumu was also picked among the five counties to pilot the Universal Health Coverage which was launch by President Kenyatta.
The sugar industry also has some light at the end of the tunnel. This is after a taskforce report on the state of the industry was submitted to President Kenyatta for action.
Nyong’o who co-chaired the taskforce with former Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri confirmed that there were good recommendations in the report which are likely to breathe life to the industry which has been on its knees for the past two decades.
Nyakach MP Aduma Owuor says President Uhuru has challenged the leaders to have a structured engagement towards development and should not wait to ambush him at funerals with development proposals.
‘We must now learn to differentiate politics with development. It is time that we need to bring development to our people now that we have the support of the government,’ he says.