A political storm is brewing in Western and Kisii regions as the Jubilee Alliance continues its vicious assault on opposition leader Raila Odinga’s political strongholds.
The sustained raid on Raila’s voting bloc in Western and Kisii regions has thrown the Orange party strategists back to the drawing table.
A section of Luo elders have also come under fire for asking the former Prime Minister to retire from politics and back another opposition candidate for the presidency in 2017.
Only weeks after former ODM Secretary General Ababu Namwamba and Vice Chairman Paul Otuoma quit their positions to cobble together what they termed a third force, a group of Kisii politicians led by Senator Chris Obure trooped to State House on Thursday, where they promised to join political forces with Jubilee at an opportune time.
The Kisii leaders, who met President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, criticised ODM for allegedly failing to pay attention to the Abagusii community.
“As things stand now, we are still in our respective parties, but later, if the people of Kisii ask us to move, we will have no choice but to do so,” said Senator Obure. Sources say the Obure group, which includes Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi and Kitutu-Chache South MP Richard Onyonka, was preparing to join Jubilee. One of the leaders who attended the State House meeting, but who requested anonymity, said Jubilee had vowed to wreck ODM in Gusii land. “Gusii politics will take a completely new turn in a month’s time. Jubilee is determined to turn tables on ODM in Kisii and Nyamira. They have been planning it for a long time,” he said.
But Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire, a close ally of Raila, says Kisii and Nyamira remain firmly in ODM.
He described the leaders who went to State House as selfish individuals. In 2013, Raila beat Uhuru Kenyatta in Kisii and Nyamira. He got 68 per cent of the votes in Kisii and 66 per cent in Nyamira.
Jubilee has lately increased its activities in Kisii, Nyamira, Luo Nyanza and Western Kenya – all of these Raila’s strongest political bases.
The ruling coalition is conducting civic education for its supporters, recruiting agents and identifying potential aspirants to face off with CORD in the next elections.
Bungoma Senator and CORD co-principal Moses Wetang’ula heightened tension in the opposition when he asked Raila to shelve his presidential bid and support him.
He is backed by Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale and a number of MPs from his Ford-Kenya party.
But MPs loyal to the former Prime Minister – Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), Bosire and Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga - have dismissed the defections and State House visit as a storm in a tea cup.
“Our voting blocs are safe. All these efforts by Jubilee will fall flat. The masses are in the opposition,” said Wanga.
Wandayi said he was not worried about Jubilee’s activities in Nyanza and Western regions. He said Namwamba and Otuoma’s departure would not affect Raila’s popularity in Western. “As a party (ODM), we do not deny them freedom of association, they can proceed to associate with anyone. They have not said they are defecting and we do not want to speculate,” he said.
But as observers watch the unfolding events, a section of Luo elders kicked a storm by asking Raila to bow out of elective politics and assume the role of a statesman.
The group calling itself “Luo Nation Alternative Voice” said on Friday that it was high time Raila passed the baton to a younger leader. Their leaders John Odeny and Ondu Agai claimed the Luos have been languishing in poverty since 2013 because of bad politics.
In swift reactions, 20 members of the Luo Council of Elders, led by their Chairman Willys Otondi, accused the “rebel” elders of disrespect to Raila and the Luo community.
In a bid to hold his party together, Raila has since moved to assure supporters of fair nominations, one of the sticky issues that has seen many defections from the party.
But University of Nairobi lecturer and political analysts, Dr Adams Oloo, says Raila remains as strong as ever in Western Kenya.
“Whatever we are witnessing in the political scene is normal. This is the season of political realignments and they (politicians) decide which parties they want to go with into the elections,” says Dr Oloo.
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