Eight cleared for Homa Bay senate race as ‘rebels’ defy Raila

Kenya: Differences within former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM over Homa Bay senatorial contest have sunk to new levels of acrimony with the rebel camp threatening to mobilise the county against a leader imposed on them.

Although possibility of expulsion from the party has been communicated to the rebels, some of whom are elected leaders, they have refused to bow down. 

Speaking on Thursday at a rally in Homa Bay stadium after escorting Moses Kajwang' to present his nomination papers to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Raila made it clear that all party members must support the candidate or risk being expulsion.

“We settled on Kajwang’ due to short time given to us by the IEBC but now other aspirants have rebelled and are accusing me of dictatorship and intimidation. But there is only one position and they should now support our choice. We want unity in our party to reclaim our seat,” said Raila.

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But threats of expulsion have not gone down well with the rebel camp neither are they prepared to cede ground. Indeed, the rebels have dared the party leadership to make good their threats.

MP James Rege accused those issuing expulsion threats of double standards and called on Raila to listen to the cries of Homa Bay people.

“When I won the ODM ticket in 2013, some party leaders supported my rival. I was not angered because that is democracy. I am calling on Raila to let the people of Homa Bay choose a person they like. That is what they are asking for and Raila should listen to them,” Rege said.

Those viewed as belonging the defiant camp include Rege (Karachuonyo), George Oner (Rangwe), Agostino Neto (Ndhiwa), Millie Odhiambo (Mbita) and Silvance Osele (Kabondo Kasipul). They did not attend the Homa Bay rally presided over by the ODM party leader.

Others include Homa Bay branch officials Martin Ogindo and his deputy Charles Were who have called on the former Prime Minister to let the residents elect a leader of their choice.

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Indeed, we have vowed that should the party expel them, they will lead the residents in collecting signatures to recall MPs who are killing democracy by forcing them to elect a particular candidate.

But Raila has insisted Kajwang' is the only candidate his party would support saying, “We will campaign for Kajwang' as a way of respect for the late Kajwang'. Kajwang' tutabeba msalaba wako (We will carry your cross, Kajwang).”

Party chairman John Mbadi has already said he will form a committee to investigate the rebels.

“As the party chairman, I will form a committee to investigate the MPs opposed to our cause,” said Mr Mbadi, who is also the Suba MP.

Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, who is the party’s director of political affairs warned the rebels that they have crossed the line. “ODM is a liberation movement. You can’t give it ultimatums but you should go with its decisions. Those who have declared war on ODM have crossed the red line,” Mr Wandayi said.

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But the defiant group will hear none of that. Deputy ODM branch chairman Charles Were said, “The MPs shouting obscenities are a liability. We have been using our resources to manage the party yet the best they can do is make noise. They should know they were elected to serve the people and not an individual,” Mr Were said.

He added, “If they continue to implement the threats, we will make sure that Gladys Wanga who is the County Women Representative, Opondo Kaluma (Homa Bay Town), Mbadi and Oyugi Magwanga (Kasipul) are recalled for going against the wishes of the people.”

Ogindo dismissed the group calling for expulsion. “How can three MPs purport to give a red card to five MPs. They haven’t read the mood of the people who are saying let the people decide who represents them in the party and not the party deciding for them,” Ogindo, former Rangwe MP said.

He said there is no rebellion and those referring to them as such are cowards. “This is not rebellion. Leaders are agents of the people and always respond to the will of the principal. The principal here is the people of Homa Bay,” Ogindo said.

Kasipul politician and chairman of the Luo Dialogue Initiative Calvince Odoyo Owidi faulted Raila for campaigning for one person.

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“All Homa Bay leaders and residents belong to ODM. It is only the way nominations are done that make us unhappy. By campaigning for a particular individual the party leadership has divided the people of Homa Bay and Luo in General,” Mr Owidi said.

Some of the aspirants like Philip Okundi, Fred Rabongo and Silas Jakakimba also supported the call to leave the residents elect a person of their choice.

“I have committed my time and resources to ODM for a long time and because the party failed to carry out fair nominations, they should let the people elect a person of their choice,” Okundi said.

Rabongo called on Raila to safeguard democracy so that his name will be remembered by generations to come. “You can’t say you are a champion of democracy when you stifle those having different opinions. For the interest of democracy the people of Home Bay elect a man of ability but not a political party,” Mr Rabongo said.

Jakakimba who pulled out of the race on Thursday said he supports politics of development and not empty rhetoric. “It is our democratic and cardinal duty as the people of Homa Bay to freely elect a person of our choice without violence, threats and intimidation,” he said.

IEBC Homa Bay by election ODM Raila Odinga