Raila Odinga stays put on party's choice for Homa Bay race
By Protus Onyango and James Omoro
| January 16th 2015
Kenya: ODM leader Raila Odinga took a hardline position on members opposed to the party’s choice for the Homa Bay senatorial by-election and declared he would campaign for him to the end.
Raila spoke yesterday during a charged rally at Homa Bay stadium moments after escorting Moses Kajwang’ to present his nomination papers to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
Opponents of Kajwang’, who was handpicked by the party, prompting defections by other aspirants who felt shortchanged, had told the former prime minister, who has immense political influence in the region, to stay away from the campaigns.
And the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) threatened to expel its members perceived to be against Kajwang’ as the party’s flag bearer for the February 12 by-election.
Raila led other party officials who declared that since the late Senator Otieno
Kajwang' belonged to ODM, all party members must support his younger brother or risk being expelled.
"We had a short time for nominations and the National Elections Board (NEB) settled on Kajwang'. Now the rest have rebelled because they thought they would be nominated. But there is only one position and they should now support our choice. We want unity in our party to reclaim our seat," said Raila.
He exonerated himself from blame that he is running the party in a dictatorial manner and trying to impose a leader on the people of Homa Bay.
"Let me assure you that I have never thought of any activity which implies dictatorship in the party throughout all the elections we have held in ODM," he said.
In reference to those opposed to the party's choice, Raila said he does not regret campaigning for Kajwang' because as a party leader, he has to stand with his candidate.
"By-elections are always partisan and as an ODM leader, I will be shirking my responsibility if I don't campaign for the party's flag-bearer. I will campaign for him regardless of the opposing voices," Raila said.
He congratulated Silas Jakakimba of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) for quitting the race and told the crowd he had talked to Fred Rabong'o of the National Agenda Party to also step down in favour of the ODM candidate.
Jakakimba had earlier withdrawn from the race citing threats to his life. "We chose UDM after what was clearly bad manners taken too far by NEB and ODM. Even so, several things have since transpired, including but not limited to direct security threats on the one hand, and on the other, though completely unrelated, the sudden demise of my brother, political confidante and close friend Fidel Odinga," said Jakakimba.
He added: "Under the circumstances and after wide, painful consultations and deliberations with my team, I wish to, with all humility and gratitude to my supporters in and out of Kenya, withdraw my candidature from the current contest."
However, Rabong'o dismissed Raila's assertion that he had quit the race.
"I am surprised that such utterances can come from Raila. I deny that I have stepped down for anybody. I am not even thinking of doing so. That is Raila's wishful thinking," Rabong'o said.
"I confirm that Raila has talked to me directly and through proxies for me to step down. But for the interest of democracy and my supporters, I won't, after what ODM did to us. The people of Home Bay have resolved to elect a man of ability, but not a political party."
Other speakers supported Raila in his call to discipline errant party MPs who have decided not to support Kajwang'.
"As the party chairman, I will form a committee to investigate the MPs opposed to our cause," said John Mbadi, the MP for Suba.
He named James Rege (Karachuonyo), George Oner (Rangwe), Agostino Neto (Ndhiwa), Millie Odhiambo (Mbita) and Silvance Osele (Kabondo Kasipul) who did not attend the rally as those who will be investigated for supporting other candidates instead of Kajwang'.
"We cannot allow people who are going to bed with the Jubilee to wreck our party. We need to be strong so that we can win the presidency in 2017," said Mbadi.
Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga echoed Mbadi's sentiments.
"The by-election is about the ODM and Jubilee hence our people need to be careful. You either support us or if you don't, then we know that you are a Jubilee mole," she said.
Other speakers who supported the call for disciplining 'rebels' in the party include Junet Mohammed (Suna East), Oyugi Magwanga (Kasipul), Peter Kaluma (Homa Bay Town) and Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), John Kobado (Uriri), Dr James Nyikal ( Seme), TJ Kajwang' (Ruaraka), Shakeel Shabbir (Kisumu East), Timothy Bosire (Kitutu Masaba) and nominated MP Dr Oburu Oginga.
Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti and his Siaya counterpart Cornel Rasanga called on ODM leaders and supporters to respect Raila.
"This by-election is about 2017 and let us elect Kajwang' to make a political statement that Raila is strong and ready for the next general election," Awiti said.
Rasanga said that as a show of respect to the late Kajwang' and Fidel, Luos should elect the ODM's choice.
IEBC yesterday cleared four candidates including Philip Okundi ( Maendeleo Democratic Party), Innocent Masara (Independent), Moses Kajwang' (ODM) and Mark Okang'.
But Prof Luke Misama was not cleared after he failed to present a soft copy of his photograph and a list consisting of 2,000 signatures of his supporters. He has until today, 4pm, to be cleared or be disqualified.
Those cleared called for peaceful campaigns to allow the people elect a person of their choice. "There have been cases of security threats on other aspirants including myself, but let us shun violence and campaign peacefully," Okundi said.
Masara called on IEBC and the security personnel to punish those who flout electoral laws.
"Campaigns are supposed to start officially after a meeting between candidates and the IEBC on January 18. Those who flout the rules should be punished. We must shun intimidation and violence," Masara said.
Hillary Alila, Rabong'o, Benard Otieno, Edwin Matete and Enock Aduke are supposed to be cleared today.
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