Focus turns to Raila over ODM conflicts

Discontent in ODM gathers momentum after  botched poll.
By FELIX OLICK

Kenya: Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga faces the challenge of defusing a simmering revolt among close allies in the party, particularly MPs from his Nyanza backyard.

It is believed there has emerged an axis allied to Siaya Senator James Orengo, which has the backing of Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo, Raila’s first cousin.

Orengo, Jakoyo, Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno and a section of Nyanza MPs, self-branded the ‘Young Turks’, are among those who have boycotted crucial ODM events recently. The disgruntled MPs have skipped at least three crucial meetings; CORD’s Parliamentary Group meeting, ODM’s National Governing Council (NGC) and the National Delegates Congress (NDC) that ended in chaos last Friday.

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The discontent has gathered momentum against the backdrop of the bungled polls that saw Raila lead a party caretaker team with representatives from the rival camps.

“In plain terms, Orengo is leading a rebellion against Raila and his commander-in-chief is Jakoyo Midiwo. They have not just come out publicly for fear of a backlash,” an MP from Luo Nyanza told The Standard, but on condition of anonymity for fear of a backlash.

Gwasi MP John Mbadi, a close ally of Raila, admitted that there is a simmering rebellion against the former PM within his Nyanza backyard

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“Rebellion? Yes, I see something close to that. Some people are misapplying the democratic space provided for them,” Mbadi told The Standard.

But he warned the rebels saying they risk political oblivion.

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Political theatric

“I liken this rebellion to the 1996 political theatric when Raila ditched his father’s Ford-Kenya for NDP. Most of the politicians who defied him were swept in the 1997 General Election,” Mbadi said.

Kabondo Kasipul MP Silvance Osele who is among the ‘Young Turks’, explained that some ODM MPs have been skipping party functions because of security reasons.

He cited the case of Kibra MP Ken Okoth who was confronted by rowdy youths for allegedly being a ‘Jubilee mole’ keen on wrecking ODM from within during the CORD Parliamentary Group meeting.

On Wednesday, Okoth told The Standard that Raila remains the undisputed leader of Luo Nyanza.

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“Talk of rebellion is wishful thinking by people of little relevance. Raila remains the undisputed leader of our people,” he said.

The divisive campaigns for ODM elections sowed the seeds of the silent rebellion especially after some of the MPs claimed they were forced out of the race by the party’s leadership.

Indeed, Dalmas Otieno, in a bare-knuckled attack on Raila during the ODM campaigns for party posts in January, claimed Raila forced him to abandon his bid and give way to others the former PM was grooming.

Dalmas claimed he was against dictatorship by the party leadership, especially in the manner in which aspirants from Nyanza were being bundled out of the race.

The uncharacteristic attack drew an equally blunt response from Raila’s allies, led by the former Premier’s brother, Buru Odinga, who charged Dalmas was “never part of them” as he was with “the other side.”

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The statement was understood to mean that Dalmas wasn’t a believer in Raila’s past bid for the presidency.

Raila said the likes of Dalmas had sought his endorsement and wanted some top posts ring-fenced for the region, but he dismissed them, as ODM was a national and not Luo party.

After the fallout President Uhuru Kenyatta recently named Dalmas a special envoy for south Sudan peace talks. Dalmas is also said to be keen on working with Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero.

“Dalmas is plotting to run away with South Nyanza because he thinks he has completely burnt bridges with Raila. He intends to rope in Kidero because of his financial muscles,” another MP claimed.

“The problem is that there is no consensus among the rebel group as to who is their leader.”

And Jakoyo reportedly had fronted Orengo to gun for the secretary general’s post.

The “Young Turks” also backed the youthful Kisumu Central MP Ken Obura for the secretary general’s post.

It was telling that Orengo and Jakoyo led a group of MPs who backed Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba over nominated Senator Agnes Zani, who was perceived as favourite of party’s leadership for the post.

Sources told The Standard that the Nyanza leaders shifted their support to Namwamba in defiance of Raila.

When the Orengo-Raila rivalry was first reported, the Siaya Senator down played the allegations insisting that he is a “loyal and disciplined member of ODM.”

Jakoyo, who is also CORD’s Minority Chief Whip, has urged Raila to shun key allies, including Oburu, Homa Bay Senator Otieno Kajwang and Nyando MP Fred Outa, accusing them of misadvising the former PM.

Ironically, Eliud Owalo, who was Raila’s campaign manager in the last elections, quit the CORD coalition and pointed an accusing finger at Midiwo.

In his resignation letter to Raila, Owalo cited “persistent and unwarranted attacks from your cousin Jakoyo Midiwo.”

Raila downplayed the resignation saying Owalo was a member of the secretariat that was disbanded after the General Election.

On Wednesday, Outa who is among leaders who have been accused of misleading Raila dared leaders who are not satisfied with the ODM leadership to come out in the open.

“Those who are making noise are people who have been caught dining with the enemy. We want them to come out openly and speak their minds. Why is it that any time they are asked about the same, they insist Raila is a good man?” Outa asked.

Homa Bay Women Representative Gladys Wanga and her Siaya counterpart Christine Ombaka acknowledged that the heat of the party polls created differences but down downplayed talk of a rebellion against Raila.

 “It’s true that the elections generated a lot of heat. But there is no rebellion to our party leader. The differences are things that we can sort out,” Wanga said.

Ombaka urged legislators who have been giving the party a wide berth to come back and rebuild ODM.

Yesterday, Midiwo could not be reached for comment as his aides answered his phone. Orengo did not respond to calls or mobile text messages.

In a statement to newsrooms on Monday, Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi alluded to the apparent revolt, urging Nyanza MPs to show what he termed “political maturity and be in the forefront of keeping ODM intact”.

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