Afraha prayer rally stirs fresh storm in ODM

Karachuonyo MP James Rege

KISUMU: ODM is once again grappling with issues of party loyalty within its ranks with reports that some MPs are leaning towards Jubilee.

The loyalty test was reignited when two ODM MPs attended last weekend’s ‘Ocampo Six’ thanksgiving rally at Afraha Stadium in Nakuru County where thousands of Kenyans turned out to pray those whose cases over post-election violence had been terminated by the International Criminal Court.

MPs Ken Obura (Kisumu Central) and James Rege (Karachuonyo) and Nyandiko Ong'adi, representing the Luo Council of Elders, attended the prayer rally.

Also in Nakuru was Erick Okeyo, an aspirant for the Nyakach constituency parliamentary seat.

Their presence at the Jubilee rally elicited a sharp response from some members of their party who described their attendance as an act of betrayal.

Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma criticised Obura and Rege for failing to join their Opposition colleagues to push for compensation for 2007-08 post-election violence victims.

“Rege and Obura have betrayed ODM and the entire CORD fraternity. We are going to do everything to ensure they are not re-elected in 2017,” Kaluma said.

ODM chairman John Mbadi added his voice to the criticism and warned the two MPs against promoting the interests of a rival political organisation.

“It would be wrong if they continue serving the interests of the Jubilee administration,"  said Mbadi.

“If they continue to serve the interest of Jubilee, the party can take punitive action against them. Let them be warned that their constituents are watching,” he said.

But in a swift rejoinder,  Rege said he does not intend to  cross over to Jubilee.

“I am a man of God and I enjoy the constitutional right to attend any meeting or go anywhere I feel like,” said the MP.

He wondered why he was being singled out  for  criticism for attending the Afraha prayer meeting, yet some senior members of the Opposition party had been to State House to pray for President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“We have held prayers for President Kenyatta in State House with many MPs from CORD and Jubilee. I can recall that Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo attended such a meeting,” said Rege.

Constitutional freedoms

On his part, Obura dismissed the matter, saying it had been overtaken by events.

“I don’t understand why my attendance of the prayer rally is still newsworthy,” he said.

Defending his two colleagues, Kisumu West MP Olago Aluoch, who defected to Ford Kenya from ODM in the run-up to the 2013 polls, said discussions over perceived disloyalty  can be abused and used to deny candidates a party ticket during nominations.

“It should not be perceived that you are not loyal simply because you differed with the party leadership,” Olago said.

TNA Secretary General Onyango Oloo threw more embers to the fire when he defended Obura and Rege for attending the Afraha rally. Oloo said the Constitution guaranteed freedom of movement and association, and noted that Jubilee leaders were also free to attend CORD functions.

Obura and Rege’s presence in Nakuru appears to have presented their opponents with ammunition to intensify their campaigns against the two.

Former Kisumu West MP Ken Nyakudi, who will be seeking the party's nomination to contest a parliamentary, has stepped up campaigns  in Kisumu Central constituency, with a view that former mayor Sam Okello, Abdulkadir Omar, Richard Ogendo, Central Gem MCA Fred Ouda and TNA Nominated Senator Joy Gwendo may also want to be in the race.

As ODM MPs turn their guns on their two colleagues, elder Ong’adi’s presence at the prayer meeting has widened the division within the Luo Council of Elders.

His presence elicited fresh debate over who was the legitimate Ker (leader) between him and Opiyo Otondi.

Ong’adi said he attended the meeting to promote  unity between the Luo and other communities.

“I attended the meeting to represent the interests of the Luo community  through interaction with elders from other communities. We need to demonstrate solidarity with Kenyans from other communities,” he said.

A planned meeting to unite the Otondi and Ong’adi factions in Karachuonyo, Homa Bay County, was postponed at the last minute because locals were not agreed on whom was the legitimate leader.