Raila terms rebel MPs traitors as bipartisan talks face hurdle


Azimio leader Raila Odinga addressing Migori County residents at Migori Bus Park on September 8, 2023. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

Azimio leader Raila Odinga has moved to stamp his authority in his ODM party, even as a catalog of unfinished political business begins to pile up in his in-tray.

In a move aimed at sealing the fate of the five rebellious legislators, Raila told leaders elected on his party's ticket to either toe the line or resign and seek re-election.

He ruled out any chance that the five MPs will ever fly the party ticket again, and challenged them to a duel with his other troops at the ballot.

The five expelled lawmakers are Bondo MP Gideon Ochanda, Senator Tom Ojienda, Suba South MP Caroli Omondi, Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo and Lang'ata MP Phelix Odiwuor.

But as Raila tries to restore party order by seeking to seal the political future of the five MPs and announcing plans to kickstart an intense grassroots mobilisation to strengthen the Orange party, fresh political smoke was rising over the bi-partisan talks.

Allies of the ODM leader, who spoke in public forums in Suna West and Suna East constituencies in Migori, hinted at the likelihood of returning to the streets, and criticised Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua for allegedly attempting to frustrate the talks.

Speaking in Kericho yesterday, the DP hit out at Raila for expelling the MPs, saying he (Raila) was not a democrat who can work with the government.

Mr Gachagua claimed that he had instructed the Kenya Kwanza team involved in the bipartisan talks with Raila's Azimio la Umoja to withdraw.

The emerging war of words over the talks and a sense of disquiet from some of Gachagua's allies appear to have pushed Raila into a dilemma as he tries to avoid creating an atmosphere that could derail the talks.

Yesterday, Raila's allies challenged the Kenya Kwanza administration to give the talks the seriousness it deserves, similar to that exhibited during the just-concluded Africa Climate Summit.

In his speech, however, Raila said his coalition was still committed to the talks and he was optimistic that it would be successful.

"We are ready for the talks and I do not want to say anything that can jeopardise them. We should let the talks continue," said Raila.

His stand was a sharp contrast to those of his allies, including former Murang'a governor Mwangi Wa Iria, who claimed Azimio was ready to go back to the streets should talks fail.

"We are issuing a 60-day countdown and if we do not see any results, we will be back in the streets," said Wa Iria.

A section of ODM 'rebel' MPs Elisha Odhiambo, Felix Odiwuor aka Jalango, Paul Aburo and Caroli Omondi after  addressing  the media at Parliament buildings, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Raila's focus, however, was on the MPs he claimed had betrayed his party. He launched scathing attacks on them, challenging them to a duel at the ballot.

"You hide then at night you gather yourselves up and go to State House, and if asked, you say you are looking for development. After going there you start speaking another language, we cannot accept that," said Raila.

This was the first time the ODM leader was speaking in public after the five MPs were expelled from the party.

Raila stressed that the MPs had gone against the party's promise to the electorate, and would be dealt with in accordance with the party's rules and constitution.

Accompanying Raila was Migori Governor Ochilo Ayacko, DAP Kenya leader Eugene Wamalwa, Deputy Senate Minority Leader Enoch Wambua, former Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Mureithi and legislators Edd Muok (Senator Migori), Tom Odege (Nyatike), Walter Owino (Awendo) and Fatuma Mohammed (Migori Woman Representative).

Two MPs, Uriri MP Mark Nyamita and Rongo MP Paul Abuor, got a reprieve after the party asked them to apologise and pay a Sh1 million fine each.

However, the Azimio leader said the two remained suspended for a year from handling party matters.

"You can't still be an ODM chairman in your constituencies. After the process, then you will be forgiven. Because you accepted your mistake, pay the fine and stay aside for a year after which you will be allowed to run the party in your regions," said Raila.

The ODM chief was speaking at Maranatha Faith Assemblies Church in Migori town, Suna West Sub-County where ODM elected leaders vowed to stay loyal to the party.

Governor Ayacko said those who had betrayed the party should not be allowed back as they would infect 'clean members with their disease'.

"When they come, they should stay aside. They will bring disloyalty and ruin unity amongst us," said Ayacko.