An agitated President Uhuru Kenyatta issued tough threats to local chiefs in Wote, Makueni County, after he landed to a nearly empty stadium for his most important rally in Ukambani before the August 8 election.
The president had planned to use the rally as proof of the inroads Jubilee leaders claim to have made in Ukambani region in recent months following the defection of some MPs from the opposition camp, and had put massive resources to ensure high attendance.
A week to the election, the Uhuru camp in Ukambani is engaged in bitter internal wranglesover alleged diversion of resources for activities that didn’t raise, and in some ways could have undermined further, the president’s low standing in this region where he got less than 10 percent of the vote in 2013.
The highly-anicipated Wote rally was one of the most pooly attended in the town in recent campaigning, according to a correspondent for a national newspaper based there who spoke to NASA-NEWS.COM. “Even some MCA candidates have received better reception here,” the journalist said.
According to the reporter, most of those at the rally were government officials, members of the provincial administration and paid-to-attend residents who embarrassed the president by chanting pro-NASA slogans while dressed in Jubilee T-Shirts they had earlier been given by local party organisers.
Among the residents at the rally were those who had been ferried from as far as Machakos Town, using public service vehicles and school buses provided by heads of institutions from around the region. Some of the residents, who were paid in advance for their participation in the rally, did not reach the venue despite having pocketed the money.
When he landed at the stadium, President Kenyatta was visibly shaken by the thin crowd, and he spent his short-lived address rebuking the people for their ingratitude, claiming the Jubilee government had done a lot for the Ukambani region and the people should vote for it. He listed a number of projects his government has been accused of frustrating and claimed that they would be soon be completed under his watch.
“Already, work on Konza Technology City has started,” he said. The reality that everyone in Ukambani knows is that work on the Konza project stalled as soon as Uhuru came to power in 2013, forcing three successive CEOs to resign from the project, citing government neglect.
The president also claimed that a major dam to supply water to Makueni and Kitui counties and generate electricity for the region, Thwake Dam, had also begun. Residents, however, believe that the money that was allocated for their resettlement, a precondition for the start of the project, was diverted to projects outside the region.
As Uhuru spoke, he sensed the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the crowd and burst into a bout of anger, and told the people that he would win the election even if they didn’t vote for him. “We have come to ask for your votes but we are not forcing you to vote for us. You may vote for whoever you want but this time, I assure you, we will beat Raila,” The Standard Digital reported him saying.
He also warned chiefs whom he accused of failing to mobilise people to rally of sackings after the election. “You should appreciate that the allowances you are drawing and the motorcycles you ride are properties of Jubilee. The others had sidelined you,” the president, before blurting: “We know what you are doing and we shall deal with you after the elections.”
By the ‘others’ the president meant the opposition, whose leader Raila Odinga opposed the retention of the provincial administration following the adoption of the 2010 Constitution which provides for two levels of government.
NASA has proposed to realign the provincial administration to the new constitution, and in its Manifesto it promises to devolve the national government’s power over chiefs and other security agencies to the supervision of county governments.
Not keen to listen to anti-NASA politics, the residents burst into chants of ‘NASA! NASA! NASA!” forcing the president to call off the rally in a huff. Many in the crowds said Uhuru will be in the opposition on August 9 and his threats to sack chiefs after the election were hollow.
Signifying the depth of Uhuru’s disappointment over the rally, State House digital media director Dennis Itumbi later claimed in a Facebook post that the crowd had been instructed by NASA co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka to heckle the president.