Deputy President William Ruto and his entourage on Monday faced hostility from rowdy youths in Bungoma town as he toured the county to encourage locals to register as voters in the ongoing listing exercise.
The youths, who were chanting pro-opposition slogans, blocked the main bus terminus in the border town and set ablaze Jubilee-branded T-shirts at around 3pm.
The DP, who was accompanied by Bungoma Governor Kenneth Lusaka, was on his way from Mumias in Kakamega County to address a rally in Bungoma’s town centre.
Mr Ruto had to change the route and was forced to use the Mateka-Kanduyi road to link to the Malaba-Webuye highway before later addressing a rally in Webuye, several kilometres from Bungoma town.
“This is National Super Alliance (Nasa) and Cord zone. We have suffered a lot in the last five years and we don’t want more miseries,” said one of the youths as they set the Jubilee T-shirts ablaze.
They claimed that the Jubilee administration had stolen public funds and demanded a share before allowing the DP and Governor Lusaka into the town.
“We need a share of what you have stolen before addressing any rally here,” declared the youth, who included boda boda riders and taxi crews.
The youths also complained that Jubilee had not fulfilled promises it made to people of the region. The Jubilee material had been distributed by Mr Lusaka’s team.
Efforts by the security team to quell the youth were futile as they were overpowered by the group, which at one point attempted to set on fire billboards bearing portraits of Jubilee Party leaders.
David Mugonyi, the Deputy President’s spokesman, dismissed the incident as inconsequential.
“The reported incident involving youths barricading roads to block the DP’s convoy was stage-managed propaganda meant to create the impression that Jubilee does not enjoy support in Bungoma County,” he said.
BUNGOMA ‘NOT ON ITINERARY’
He went on: “What has been reported is propaganda and we had nothing to do with the rally at the Bungoma bus park since we had been informed Cord leader Raila Odinga had planned a rally in Bungoma and we didn’t want any confrontation.”
Mr Mugonyi added that the Bungoma rally was not on the DP’s itinerary as he had gone to inspect roads in Bumula and later addressed a rally at Kanduyi.
Mr Odinga was expected in the county Monday, but his trip was postponed to later this week.
Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi had addressed a rally in Bungoma on Sunday.
Last week, Mr Ruto faced the anger of Maasai residents in Narok South who accused the Jubilee administration of failing to fulfil its election pledges.
They interrupted the DP several times at Sogoo trading centre, criticising the government’s development record in the area. They complained about poor roads and health services, unemployment and police harassment of boda boda riders.
They also claimed that local administration officers were demanding Sh300 from those seeking national identity cards, and demanded their transfer.
They heckled the DP when he told them to register as voters and also refused to be addressed by some of the local leaders who accompanied Mr Ruto, among them Narok County Woman Representative Soipan Ole Kudate and Sogoo area MCA Moses Cheruiyot.
And on Saturday, while on tour in Baringo County, local leaders in the company of Mr Ruto faced hostility as two MPs were booed when they attempted to address the locals.
William Cheptumo (Baringo North) and Grace Kiptui (woman rep) were heckled by the crowd, which demanded that the two leaders be barred from speaking, as Mr Ruto watched.
But speaking in Kanduyi on Monday, the DP urged residents to turn up in large numbers and register as voters and vote for the Jubilee Party.
“We have done a lot as Jubilee government since we took over power and we urge you to give us another chance to complete pending projects,” appealed the DP.
Mr Ruto said Jubilee had done a lot for western Kenya, citing the revival of Rai Paper (formerly Pan Paper), which he said had already hired 500 people, a number that may rise to 1,500 in the next four months.
“The government cannot be formed through empty rhetoric but by people registering as voters,” he told the crowd.
Reporting by Barnabas Bii, Stanley Kimuge and Wycliff Kipsang