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Raila's hands full as he plans to rebuild party, keep Ruto in check

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga kicks the ball to officially start the march between Ombasa FC and Siruti FC Green on December 15, 2023. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

Azimio Coalition leader Raila Odinga is staring at a politically charged New Year that can shape the future of the opposition.

The year presents the opposition with opportunities to grow stronger, craft new alliances and begin implementing their road map towards the 2027 General Election.

Raila will be hoping to avoid some of the needles that pricked his political formation and threatened to weaken his ODM party and unity in the coalition as he puts his house in order.

Among the priorities the opposition is working on are strengthening the individual parties at the grassroots, preparing for party elections, check-mating the government on the cost of living as well as fast-tracking implementation the recommendations of the National Dialogue Committee.

The coalition, according to some sources, will also be exploring proposals by former President Uhuru Kenyatta's Jubilee Party to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Ruto.

In his party, Raila plans to resume mass membership drives in his crucial support bases.

Sources within the party say ODM is also planning to reach out to members who decamped.

In the last one week, the party chief has been meeting key allies as they lay out plans for some of the activities they intend to carry out next year to maintain a high political gear.

It remains to be seen if Raila's fold will also begin the process of propping up a potential aspirant as part of their road map toward 2027.

Interviews with key allies established that the opposition is planning to push back against the government's excesses even as they warned Kenyans to brace for tougher times.

Split Azimio

According to Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, the opposition is working on strategies to strengthen itself.

"The opposition will grow stronger. Now that the government has done a whole year, the opposition now has something to talk about," said Junet.

Junet claimed that they do not expect the economy to improve and will explore options for a push-back against Kenya Kwanza's policies.

"The extent to which the economy has shrunk, it requires more time to bring it up. So I do not think there will be any miracle happening this year in 2024," he said.

In fact, the crisis of the high cost of living is another headache for the opposition, which fears in Raila's camp that mishandling the hot debate could split the opposition.

The matter has already seen Azimio leaders differ, with Narc leader Martha Karua and her DAP Kenya counterpart Eugene Wamalwa openly criticizing the proposals of the bipartisan talks.

They claim the team's report failed to capture how the government intends to address the problem.

Yesterday, a senior ODM official said they are still crafting a formula on how to counter the government.

"It is one of our main agenda for the New Year. We are not ruling out the prospects of returning to the streets if all the coalition principals agree," said the source.

According to the leader, they will also explore proposals by the Jubilee to initiate an impeachment against President Ruto over the economic woes the country is facing.

"There are proposals by some of the members of our coalition to consider an impeachment Motion but it is a matter that is yet to be discussed internally by the coalition but it is on the table," he said.

Should the coalition make good its threat, Raila and his fold will embark on another mission to draw public support for Ruto's impeachment attempt.

During Christmas Day celebrations, Raila and his allies criticised the government for making life difficult and maintained that the situation was unlikely to improve.

"It is evident that this government has not deliberately made life difficult for Kenyans but they just do not know how to make things better," said the Azimio leader during a church service at the St Peter's ACK in Bondo, Siaya.

Wrong prescription

The former Prime Minister, who was accompanied by Siaya Governor James Orengo, MPs Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), Samuel Atandi (Alego-Usonga), Ruth Odinga (Kisumu Woman Rep) and Anthony Oluoch (Mathare), said increasing taxes by the regime will not solve the country's problems.

Raila, who likened President Ruto's system of administration to treating an illness with the wrong medicine, urged Kenyans to focus on unity and creating opportunities for the less fortunate.

Governor Orengo accused President Ruto of trying to kill devolution. "This regime sought power to satisfy personal needs not for the prosperity of Kenyans," said Orengo, warning Ruto against lying to Kenyans.

He further urged Kenyans to come out and solve the situation now instead of waiting for 2027.

Wandayi warned that the country was facing a bleak future. "This government is performing badly and operations in many schools are likely to stall because they are owed capitation money," he said.

The opposition is also hoping to push through the recruitment of new officials for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Reconstitution of IEBC is one of the issues Azimio listed as a top agenda during the Bomas talks.

In mid-October, the dialogue committee agreed to form a new team that would lead in the selection of the IEBC chairperson and six commissioners. They had agreed to increase members of the selection panel from seven to nine.

IEBC has been operating without commissioners since the retirement of Chairman Wafula Chebukati and commissioners Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu on January 17.

Delayed by-elections

The other commissioners who would have been left in office, former vice chairperson Juliana Cherera, Justus Nyang’aya and Francis Wanderi resigned after the President formed a tribunal to investigate their conduct. Irene Masit was removed on the recommendation of the tribunal.

Delay in reconstituting the commission has left voters in areas requiring a by-election confused, while the opposition is also keen to ensure that the process is transparent and not dictated by Kenya Kwanza.

In ODM, Raila will be hoping to keep his numbers intact after a year that saw him lose several allies in Nyanza, Western and Coast to UDA. A section of elected leaders also started to openly support President Ruto.

Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda, MPs Phelix Odiwuor (Lang'ata), Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem) and Caroli (Suba South) are still in the bad books of the party. The process to kick them out is still on even as they fight against the move.

Last Thursday, a group claimed that the leaders had betrayed the party but had failed to influence any development in Nyanza.

And yesterday, UDA officials led by former Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma held a meeting in Awasi to plan how to counter ODM and expand their influence in Nyanza.

Report by Harold Odhiambo, Isaiah Gwengi and Anne Atieno 

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