Ruto’s big dilemma as Khalwale, Malala fight

The political dalliance between Senator Cleophas Malala and Deputy President William Ruto risks complicating former Senator Boni Khalwale’s calculations in the Kakamega gubernatorial race.

Dr Khalwale, a key ally of Dr Ruto, has emerged as a frontrunner for the UDA party ticket. But Mr Malala has lately been pushing for a possible partnership between his Amani National Congress (ANC)  party and the DP’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) in what is seen as an attempt to elbow out Dr Khalwale.

The two have been engaged in a war of words as they try to outdo each other and popularise their bids. Close allies of Dr Ruto are reported to be rooting for Senator Malala as the UDA candidate, which could deal a huge blow to Dr Khalwale’s dream of succeeding Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

The former medical officer, nicknamed “the bullfighter”,  has been using UDA to popularise his bid for governor after losing to Mr Oparanya in 2017.

Dr Khalwale has also been closely involved in Dr Ruto’s presidential campaigns, traversing the entire county.

UDA campaigns

Last year, the rivalry played out in the Matungu parliamentary by-election after the seat fell vacant following the death of Justus Murunga, who succumbed to breathing problems while being rushed to hospital in November 2020.

Mr Peter Oscar Nabulindo of ANC party won the hotly contested by-election. ANC campaigns were coordinated by Mr Malala and Lugari MP Ayub Savula.

Dr Khalwale spearheaded UDA campaigns while Governor Oparanya took charge of his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party’s bid.

The outcome of the Matungu by-election was billed as a strong signal from voters in Western on the political direction the region would take in the August 9 General Election.

Dr Khalwale said yesterday that Senator Malala was welcome to join UDA: “We welcome Senator Malala to our party. He is a youthful and vibrant politician and the party has a lot of space to accommodate him.”

Looming tussle

But the former senator refused to be drawn into a discussion on the looming tussle for the UDA ticket between him and Mr Malala, should the latter join the deputy President’s side.

“The positions of President and governor are not child’s play. Those elected must be serious and credible because the two positions can make or break the destiny of their communities and those they represent,” he said, adding, the party had received applications from 896 aspirants seeking to contest different seats in the August polls.

“Ever since I joined UDA, my campaigns have had a huge impact and made UDA the party of choice in Kakamega County. I have been able to dictate the course of events in the county. I can say with authority that, before I met with [Dr] Ruto, UDA had little presence in the region. But today, the story is different,” said Dr Khalwale.

Dr Khalwale claimed he is best-suited to serve as the second governor of Kakamega County because of his vast experience in management of public affairs.

“This is evidenced by my tenure as a medical officer of health, assistant minister, MP, senator, chairman of Public Accounts Committee in the National Assembly and Senate, which [tenures] were characterised by the highest degree of integrity and accountability,” Dr Khalwale said.

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