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MPs allied to Opposition leader Raila Odinga yesterday warned that Deputy President William Ruto’s Nyanza ‘development tour’ could ignite tension and undermine the handshake. The tour begins today. The politicians led by ODM chairman John Mbadi and his Suna East counterpart Junet Mohamed said Ruto was exploiting the tranquility created by the handshake pact to further his political agenda — a run for State House in 2022.

Nyanza is Raila’s backyard. But with peace prevailing, the DP is making his debut tour of Migori and Homa Bay counties to launch projects and market his candidacy.

The MPs urged the DP to stop subjecting the country to a perpetual campaign mode through his ‘tangatanga’ tours couched as visits to promote the Big Four. President Uhuru Kenyatta has repeatedly called for an end to politicking and a focus on development. “The handshake between Raila and Uhuru was meant to quell tension after the divisive general election. Those exploiting this calm to push their agenda are against the direction of peace,” Mbadi warned.

Read: DP Ruto intensifies 2022 campaign in drives disguised as official duties

The MP said some of the projects Ruto will be launching today, were commissioned by President Mwai Kibaki’s Grand Coalition government. The Kanyadhiang ring road and Kehancha-Muhuru road were started by the coalition between Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, he said. “DP Ruto is welcome in Nyanza but I can’t attend the function because I don’t know his agenda,” Mbadi said. Junet, a close Raila ally and strategist, said ODM leaders in the county have not been invited on the tour that he said was all about 2022.

The March 9 unity handshake has brought about stability essential for Ruto’s tour of Nyanza. Ordinarily, Ruto — Raila’s nemesis — would not set foot there because of bitter rivalry extending to Raila’s supporters.  On Friday, Ruto held a symbolic meeting with Raila at the DP’s official Karen residence, apparently to send signals of unity to supporters.

The meeting, which was attended by President Kenyatta, was billed as a lunchtime catch-up but analysts called it a calculated move to cement the Raila-Uhuru handshake with Ruto. The optics of the landmark luncheon — the first by the trio since Raila was named AU High Representative for Infrastructure in Africa — would also project camaraderie and presumably tone down antagonism. A tenacious and strategic politician, Ruto is keen to leverage the handshake deal to penetrate Raila’s Nyanza bedrock. Ruto and Raila have often been bitterly at odds since Ruto’s his dramatic exit from ODM in 2011. Today, the DP will hosted by Migori governor Okoth Obado — one of Raila’s fiercest critics — in his Nyanza foray.

In Migori, Ruto will commission the Kehancha-Muhuru road that had stalled from Masara to Muhuru Bay and street lighting at the Masara Trading Centre. He will launch Last Mile Connectivity at Muhuru market. In Homa Bay, the Deputy President will commission the 45km Kanyadhiang-Kadel ring road and electricity connectivity. The DP will be accompanied by Ketraco chairman and former Karachuonyo MP James Rege.

Ruto will hold a major fundraiser in Homa Bay town, in an attempt to woo South Nyanza region only a week after Baringo senator Gideon Moi visited the area and held harambees. On Saturday, Ruto is expected to return to Migori to launch the road linking Narok county and the Kuria region from Isibania through Kehancha-Kegonga to Lolgorian.

Yesterday, Obado held rallies in Nyabisawa, Masara and elsewhere to prepare the ground for Ruto’s visit, calling on residents to turn out in large numbers to receive the Deputy President. “This will be a very important tour by the Deputy President to launch development projects. I ask our people to come out and receive him,” Obado said.

Last week on Wednesday, Obado held his first rally after being released on Sh5 million bail over the murder of his lover Sharon Otieno and their unborn baby.

An ODM renege, Obado has become a disrupter in Raila’s own turf and has stirred the waters with his friendship with Ruto.

The Nyanza tour comes a month after a bitterly contested Migori senatorial by-election in which ODM accused Ruto of supporting Federal Party of Kenya’s Eddy Oketch who came second to Ochillo Ayacko of the Orange party.

Before his detention, Obado had been at loggerheads with the Orange party after he opposed its move to hand Ayacko a direct ticket.

He pledged to campaign against Ayacko, a move that angered Orange party luminaries when he threw his weight behind Oketch.

ODM secretary for political affairs and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi told the Star not to read too much into Ruto’s Nyanza visit, as this was not the time for politics.

More: House united against MP’s bid to block Ruto in 2022 as Uhuru’s succession debate erupts

“He has the freedom to visit any part of the country, it doesn’t really matter. We want to embrace everybody and people in government should be allowed to visit any place,” the MP in an apparent change of heart.

“There is nothing much in this small-time visit,” he said, apparently not wanting to appear antagonistic to the fruits of the handshake.

Initially, a section of MPs from the region have complained that while the DP has been launching development projects in other parts of the country, the government has turned a blind eye to Nyanza.

They had also accused Ruto of hiding behind ‘development tours’ to campaign for 2022 after the President branded the DP “mtu wa kutangatanga”.

But Kuria East MP Marwa Maisori of Jubilee defended the DP’s forays into Migori county, maintaining that he is marketing the government’s development agenda.

“The DP’s visit to Migori county is purely for development, not 2022 politics. He is on record that politicians should shun the 2022 talk and deliver on the promises they made to the people. There is nothing strange in the DP visiting Migori as he is serving all the Kenyans regardless of their political affiliations,” Maisori said.

Suna West MP Peter Masara will play host to the DP in Migori while Karachuonyo MP Adipo Okuome will host him in Homa Bay.

Speaking to journalists in Kendu Bay yesterday, Okuome said commissioning of the Kanyadhiang-Kadel ring road would open up the area for economic development.

He said the ring road will help tourists to access Lake Simbi and hot springs at Homa hills. “Tarmacking the road will revitalise these spots for economic tourism,” he said.

The road will also facilitate transport of fish caught along beaches.

“It will also be easy to transport sorghum produced in the area to the EABL industry in Kisumu,” he said.

Homa Bay Jubilee party coordinator Odhiambo Markowiti said residents hope Ruto’s visit will promote economic transformation of the region.

“The majority of residents are focussing on development and commissioning of the projects will stir economic growth,” Markowiti said.

Homa Bay county Bunge la Wananchi speaker Walter Opiyo said they want DP Ruto to visit the area frequently for development.

“There is total peace and we appeal for the DP to bring development to the region. Ruto is a leader for all Kenyans and he is free to tour anywhere,” Opiyo said.

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