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Raila returns, hints ready to lead charge holding Ruto in check

 Azimio- One Kenya leader Raila Odinga with Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir (right) and the deputy Governor Francis Thoya at Sarova Whitesands. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

After days of keeping his supporters guessing, ODM leader Raila Odinga bounced back into the limelight yesterday.

Raila explained why he had left Kenya after campaigns that saw him lose the presidency and gave every indication that he is not leaving the political stage.

As calm starts to return after a wrecked that appeared to have ended his decades-long political career, Raila hinted that he will lead the charge to keep the government in check.

Raila spoke in Mombasa when he made a surprise visit to a luncheon hosted by one of his political lieutenants, Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir moments after he was sworn-in.

"I was not yet ready to make a public speech but this happens to be one of the few functions where I must say something," Raila said.

"I have been out of the country. I went to recuperate in the Spice island of Zanzibar. I took my wife, children and grandchildren to go and heal from the shock they got as a family."

This was the first time Raila was speaking in public since the Supreme Court confirmed his election loss on September 5.

Raila rallied his troops to stay firm, saying he would give his supporters direction on the next political course.

He hit out at the Judiciary and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) which he claimed stood in the path of his victory. His tone and choice of words showed the ODM leader could be rolling up his sleeves to lead the Opposition once again.

The guests at the luncheon cheered as Raila spoke of how his supporters were frustrated during elections only to end up disappointed by what he described as "electoral theft."

"We will not allow the Judiciary to become a dictator. We will protect our freedom as Kenyans," he said.

He poked holes in the decision of the court which he described as biased and not grounded in the law. He said that they presented valid evidence but were shocked when the Supreme Court judges dismissed their evidence, and thus the petition.

"Shame on the Judiciary of this country. I have seen them protesting that they are being attacked. We will talk. The Constitution gives power to the people of Kenya," he said.

Amid cheers from his supporters, the ODM leader said that the people give power to State officers and can take this away any time. "If they are wrong, we have the power to remove them," he said.

Raila said there is need for reforms in IEBC as well as other State agencies, adding that Kenyans have lost confidence in the institutions.

He said the elections that led to declaration of William Ruto as the president was marred by several irregularities and had dented the confidence of citizens in participating in elections.

"I am wondering why people should wake up to go and vote when at the end of the day it is a mercenary from Venezuela who decides who becomes the president," said Raila.

Despite his strong criticisms against the State agencies, Raila kept his next political cards close to his chest. He however said they will decide a way forward after the Judiciary supplies them with the full judgment on his election petition.

And as part of the efforts to ensure that Azimio's dream is still alive, the ODM leader said they will rely on their governors to register exemplary performance in counties. "We are going to rely on our governors to show the way. The Azimio way. If our governors use the resources properly, it can show the way that Azimio government is the best that our country can have."

On Saturday, the ODM leader will be in Kisumu where he is expected to rally his supporters to stay united amid an onslaught from Kenya Kwanza that has already lured a number of his politicians from Azimio to their camp.

Earlier during the swearing-in ceremony of Governor Nassir, Azimio coalition leaders Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Martha Karua (Narc-Kenya) and a host of MPs allied to the coalition, expressed optimism of forming a formidable opposition.

Karua criticised the Supreme Court judges for claiming the Azimio petition was just hot air. "I am moving to the East African Court to prove that what we filed in the Supreme Court was not hot air," said Karua. "What I am doing is not to overturn the judgment but to prove otherwise."

Karua advised Nassir to work with the national government as was stipulated in the Constitution but not to kneel down to anybody. "Working with the government is within the law but you should not kneel down before somebody because whatever the county government wants to do is in the Constitution," said Karua.

Kalonzo said politicking was not over. "It was only the campaign which was over. As such, as Opposition, we must keep the government on its toes."

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