A storm is brewing in the Nyanza region over big money fund-raising events presided over by Nairobi governor Evans Kidero and Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno.
A meeting at former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s Bondo home on Monday discussed the impact of the fund-raisings after Homa Bay Senator Otieno Kajwang complained that the events were aimed at dividing the Luo community.
The Bondo meeting attended by more than 35 MPs, including local senators, was called by Mr Odinga to brainstorm on regional leadership.
Mr Kidero, whose activities in Nyanza have intensified over the past few months, has been a major concern to local leaders allied to the former PM over suspicions he is attempting to take over the territory dominated by the Odingas since independence.
Last month, the Nairobi governor presided over a fund-raising in aid of Tom Mboya Secondary School in Awendo, which raised Sh15 million, including Sh2 million from President Uhuru Kenyatta and Sh500,000 from Deputy President William Ruto.
This month, Dr Kidero presided over yet another event at Asumbi Catholic Church, which collected Sh11 million.
And last weekend, Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno hosted another fund-raising in aid of Kamagambo Adventist Church, Ranen, which mobilised Sh6.4 million including Sh1 million each from the President and his deputy.
Mr Ruto was present at the event, which has seen Mr Otieno castigated by his colleagues for saying Mr Ruto is being sacrificed at the International Criminal Court because of his strong struggle to bring power to the people of the region in the 2007 elections.
Mr Kidero on Friday told the Saturday Nation that his activities in Nyanza have no political ends, but are driven desire to end the widespread poverty while at the same time resu citing the once academic giant.
“I want our people to understand that I am not doing this to compete with Mr Odinga. He is the leader of the Luo, something I have accepted while I am the governor of Nairobi – somewhere below his rank. We must raise funds to build schools and take our children to school,” he told the Saturday Nation.
Dr Kidero’s monthly Nyanza tours are expected to continue in the new year with a major fund-raising for youth groups in Kisumu expected next month, another fund-raising in March in Muhoroni to support women groups and one in Suba in aid of St Gabriel’s Gwassi Girls Secondary School is scheduled for May.
“I am not just doing this in Nyanza. The other day I was in Tetu raising funds for a local school. This is because government funds can never be enough for everything,” he stated.
Suba MP Mr John Mbadi, who attended the meeting at Mr Odinga’s home, said that though concerns were raised about the massive donations, no particular individual was discussed.
“Yes it is true the issue about harambees was raised but it was not in the agenda. There are concerns that some individuals want to use these fundraisings to gain political support in the region,” Mr Mbadi said.
He explained: “There was a feeling that these harambees were used by President Daniel Moi to hoodwink Kenyans that development could be achieved through them while public money was looted and diverted to private activities,” the Suba MP said.
Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo, who was also in Bondo, said the leaders were only worried about the source of money being donated in harambees.
“There was concern about where this people are getting their money from because we know their salaries cannot fund such multi-million projects,” she said.
Mr Otieno criticised Nyanza leaders for their stand on Harambees, arguing that the region’s skyrocketing poverty could escalate to unimaginable level if a caveat on such events was imposed as suggested by some local leaders.
“The truth is that Nyanza is poor. We must be able to raise funds for churches to be built and our children to go to school. It will be unfair to deny our people an opportunity to raise funds to supplement on government funds like CDF,” he argued.
The Rongo MP wondered why the Bondo meeting castigated him and the Nairobi governor, adding that Mr Odinga himself sent Sh100,000 in support of the Ranen fundraising.
The MP also maintained his comments on Mr Ruto’s situation: “It is true that if the youths from the Rift Valley did not block the highways the Grand Coalition government under which Mr Odinga became PM could not have happened.”
He added that Mr Ruto deserved support from the people of Nyanza just as the region also deserves compensation from the State for losses incurred by individuals from the area who were affected by the 2008 post-election violence.
On his part, Dr Kidero insists that the biggest thing in his mind is how to change and transform lives and not rhetoric.
Kisumu Senator Anyang Nyong’o recently attempted to introduce a Motion in the Senate to tax funds obtained from Harambees.