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Inside Raila's push to stem Azimio revolt

National
 Azimio leader Raila Odinga with coalition partners on June 14, 2023. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Azimio leader Raila Odinga is plotting how to stem internal divisions over the National Dialogue Committee report.

Raila allies are seeking to build grassroots support for the proposals amid loud disapproval by some leaders in the coalition, who argue that the team ignored the debate on the cost of living.

Part of the plan is already being implemented, with some of his allies in ODM working around the clock to entrench support in its traditional bases.

Strategic communication expert Barack Muluka cautions that the outcome of the bipartisan talks could scuttle Azimio.

Already, DAP Kenya leader Eugene Wamalwa, who was part of the committee, and Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua have dismissed the report.

“ODM is solidly behind Raila Odinga. It could be the end of Azimio, but I don’t think it can be the end of ODM. So I don’t think that Karua, (Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah) Kioni or Wamalwa would destabilise ODM,” argues Dr Muluka.

According to constitutional lawyer Bruce Odeny, the bipartisan talks have signalled the end of Azimio.

He does not believe any activity undertaken by the coalition will protect it from crumbling and argues that the country is likely to witness fresh political realignments.

Friday, December 15, Raila will pitch a tent in Migori as part of his efforts to entrench his support in his Nyanza backyard.

This is happening as Raila’s allies rally Azimio MPs at the National Assembly to back the proposals when the report is presented in Parliament.

Insiders claim there are concerns some disgruntled members may opt to reject it over claims that the proposals have not captured the interests of all coalition partners.

This, they claim, may expose Azimio’s underbelly and jeopardize the future of a political vehicle that is preparing to challenge President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza again in 2027.

The development presents Raila with a dilemma and a full in-tray during the festive season.

Jobs for the big boys

Wamalwa and Karua, who are key coalition partners, claim that the topic of high cost of living took a back seat.

Speaking in Sabatia, Vihiga, on Tuesday, Wamalwa claimed that the creation of positions for the “big boys” dominated the Bomas talks while the topic of the high cost of living took a back seat.

“We shall retreat next year to soldier on with the war against the high cost of living,” he said.

“I didn’t and will not append my signature to the report and have not and will not accept any sitting allowance for the same because I believe we did not do justice to the single most important issue affecting the people which is lowering the cost of living.”

Karua has also rubbished the report, terming it a fraud.

According to insiders in Raila’s camp, the coalition will meet with all the key players to rally them behind the proposals.

“We are keen to ensure that our Azimio house remains intact. We have not reneged on the issue of the high cost of living,” said a close ally.

The MP also revealed that they will be considering a meet-the-people tour across regions as well as membership drives for individual parties in Azimio to explain the contents of the report to their supporters.

Yesterday, several ODM legislators said they would support the report even though the talks have not addressed all their concerns.

Suna West MP Peter Masara and his Rangwe colleague Lillian Gogo said they will accept the results and move on.

Masara said the outcome of the talks was below their expectations. “I am sure Azimio is still intact. I believe the outcome will be explained to the few who are still not satisfied with the outcome,” said the legislator.

According to Minority Leader in the National Assembly Opiyo Wandayi, the coalition has room to address the issue of the high cost of living.

“The Azimio Parliamentary Group, in one accord, has adopted the report and will be supporting it during debate in the Houses of Parliament,” he said. 

He downplayed claims that the talks could crumble the coalition and maintained that they are a disciplined grouping that speaks through their leader.

His comments, however, are a contrast from other Azimio partners who believe the coalition leaders Raila and Kalonzo Musyoka have an uphill task to address dissent.

According to a source in Raila’s camp, they are likely to embrace the tactic used to market the Building Bridges Initiative to rally support.

“The move will see Azimio principals traverse the country to push for unity. However, we will finalise those proposals early next year once everything is in order,” said the source.

But former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya has dismissed the Azimio leaders opposed to the dialogue committee report.

According to Oparanya, the report presented by the committee is a progressive document. 

“Even if Azimio wanted the cost of living to be lowered, it would rely on the government of the day to implement that because we in opposition cannot do that. Even if Kenya Kwanza agreed to it but ended up reneging on lowering the cost of living, there is nothing Azimio would do to force the government to do that,” he said.

He is among the leaders Raila is banking on to maintain his support in Western Kenya.

This is happening as Raila’s party is fighting to keep President William Ruto’s UDA off his backyard. One of his long-time ally and former Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong announced he had decamped from ODM to join the President’s party.

He claimed Raila will not be on the ballot in 2027, and urged his supporters to support Ruto.

The development could complicate things further for Raila, who postponed his tour of Busia about two weeks ago.

Report by Harold Odhiambo, Benard Lusigi, Anne Atieno and Olivia Odhiambo

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