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Raila starts Western charm offensive after Namwamba exit

CORD leader Raila Odinga

CORD leader Raila Odinga embarks on a five-day tour of Western beginning tomorrow to assert ODM’s authority in the region.

The party has recently been jolted by the resignation of senior officials from Western led by Secretary General Ababu Namwamba.

Raila will seek to assure supporters that the resignations and defections would not hurt the party as it prepares for the 2017 elections.

An itinerary released by the Orange House says the ODM leader will leave nothing to chance as he goes all out to guard his support in the wake of growing dissent in the party.

Raila will crisscross the region, meeting ODM delegates and other interest groups. He is expected to make several stop-overs in trading centres besides addressing public rallies.

He starts his tour in Vihiga, then Busia before wrapping it up with a visit to Kakamega. The tour kicks off with a party delegates’ meeting at Sosa Hotel in Sabatia Sub-County, followed by another one at Shamakhokho Town Hall. Other meetings will take place at Rody’s Green House in Emuhaya, Port Victoria in Budalang’i and the final one at Matungu Cultural Centre in Kakamega.

The tour comes only three days after the ODM Central Management Committee gave Namwamba seven days to officially resign or face unspecified sanctions. On Thursday after a National Executive Council (NEC) meeting chaired by Raila, the party announced Senator Agnes Zani (Nominated) has taken over the roles of the Secretary General in an acting capacity.

Speaking to The Standard on Sunday, Namwamba said the former premier was free to visit Budalang’i. “He has never visited Budalang’i since 2007 elections yet residents voted for him overwhelmingly in 2013. We welcome him again,” said Namwamba. The former Raila ally added: “We welcome him in Busia but he (Raila) must know it is not going to be business as usual.”

But Otuoma said Raila should have responded to critical issues raised by nine legislators from the region first before reaching out to the people of Western. “He is free to tour any part of the country including Western but I wonder if the approach he has taken is the right one,” said Otuoma of the planned tour.

He claimed some issues dear to the hearts of local leaders had not been addressed. “Some of us relinquished positions but continue representing our people in the party until our term ends,” he said. He asked ODM leaders to engage the so-called rebel MPs in seeking party unity. “When we raise concerns, we are branded moles and condemned as Luhya leaders but when members of other communities express dissatisfaction in the party, they are embraced,” he added.

Although Raila’s supporters were quick to point out that there was no panic in the party, observers have argued it was worrying that ODM was seen to be disintegrating at a crucial time.

“Raila’s visit is not reactionary because it had been in the offing for long. He had already covered Coast, Rift Valley and North Eastern. It is now time for Western,” said Suna East MP Junet Mohammed.

The MP dismissed claims ODM was dented by the resignations and told those questioning the visit that they were “closing their eyes to reality” because the region is still the bedrock of the party.

Party sources told The Standard on Sunday that most of the 18 ODM MPs from the region, Members of County Assemblies, the two governors and Senators will accompany Raila in his visit.

Raila allies led by Kilifi County MP Aisha Jumwa have described Namwamba as a rebel without a cause, who abandoned his responsibility and was now dividing Western region for selfish reasons.

She claimed Ababu and Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung’aro were propagating Jubilee interests. She asked the Budalang’i MP to “leave the Luhyia people in peace”.

According to the MP, the two rebel colleagues have been hired to sabotage the Opposition by creating tribal political parties.

The Kilifi legislator said Ababu, Mung’aro and other CORD rebels in Coast “have dug their political graves” for defying their leaders and bidding for Jubilee. She said Mung’aro and Ababu would suffer the same fate that befell former Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu, Tourism CS Najib Balala, former Cabinet minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere who joined Jubilee in the last polls and lost.

Aisha spoke at Kakuyuni on Friday during the Malindi Sub County Affirmative Action Fund meeting where her supporters likened her to the legendary Mekatilili wa Menza.

“Namwamba should learn from Coast where Mung’aro, a once influential politician, is now seeking audience through events organised by the national government. He can’t even convene a political rally. Politics of the stomach has pushed him into political suicide. He was powerful in the Grand Coalition government courtesy of Raila Odinga,” she said.

“I want to tell him and others that the razor blade that was used to shave Musalia Mudavadi, Ngilu and Balala is the same one that will shave them,” she added.

Raila will open party offices at Sabatia and Ekwanda in Emuhaya and embark on stopovers at Majengo, Mbale, Mudete and Hamisi and finally address a public rally at Chavakali. A rally in Luanda town will wrap up his two-day-tour of Vihiga. He will then head to Busia where he is scheduled to address four public rallies and make five roadside stop-overs before heading to Busia.

Several activities have been going in the areas Raila will visit, with party leaders summoning delegates for meetings in preparation for the visit. Planning meetings have been held in Vihiga and Kakamega counties where Governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Sospeter Ojamoong’ (Busia) and Vihiga Women Rep Dorcas Kedogo were involved. “There are claims that our party leader has lost touch with the people. He is coming to meet the people and listen to them,” said Kedogo.

“It is sheer propaganda and we shall prove our adversaries wrong when Emuhaya MP Wilbur Otichillo, his Luanda counterpart Chris Omulele, East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA)’s Nancy Abusai, party MCAs and several other leaders will be at hand to receive him,” she said.

Of the 60 hours within which Raila is expected to cover the region, 48 hours will be spent in Vihiga and Busia counties.

Political analysts say it could be a well thought-out strategy by Raila to take a huge bite into Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi’s support base and cut his former Secretary General to size.“Looking at the itinerary, one can conclude that Raila’s tour is a desperate move to woo the region, particularly areas where he feels ODM may be losing grip ,” said Martin Oloo, a lawyer and analyst.

Analyst Barrack Muluka said: “He has realised his strongholds in Western may be slipping away hence his strategic visit to Vihiga and Busia.”

Ojamoong’ and Oparanya met grassroots officials and delegates at Jamindas Guest House in Kakamega on Thursday to polish arrangements for the visit. The two governors said ODM is a force to reckon with in the region and Raila would be received overwhelmingly.

“We have no time for those who are discontented. ODM is still intact and right now our focus is on Raila’s tour,” said Ojamoong’.

Meanwhile Funyula MP Paul Otuoma has maintained he is in ODM to stay and no one will force him out.

Speaking yesterday at Bumala market and Nangina Girls High School, Otuoma said he will continue to fight for change within the party to strengthen it ahead of 2017 elections.

“I only resigned as ODM vice chairman. I am now in ODM as an ordinary member enjoying my rights. I also contribute and participate as any other members. No one can give me ultimatums to me to leave the party,” he said.

He say he wants the party to achieve what it promised Kenyans which is maisha bora (improved living standards).

“Issues in ODM are not about Raila but about the maisha bora we promised people as a party. The electorate expect more from us,’’ he said.

Otuoma said the party had failed to propel Raila to the presidency twice because certain individuals were only out to use the name of the party leader to get elected without adding any value to his candidature.

“I respect Raila as my elder. I know he is above this. He must address emerging issues in the party,’’ said the legislator.

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