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Raila faces tough test in CORD amid Orange party discontent

By Jacob Ng'etich | July 24th 2016 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Cord leader Raila Odinga addresses supporters in Teso South , Busia county on the fourth day of his tour of Western Kenya, July 21st ,2016 . Photo by Evans Ouma.

Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga left for the United States yesterday, a day after completing a rigorous four-day tour of Western Kenya to contain rising discontent among some of the party's leading figures.

But even as Raila was putting out fires in his backyard following the resignation of ODM secretary general Ababu Namwamba and Vice Chairman Paul Otuoma, statements by his CORD co-principals about the suitability of his candidacy for president have raised a political storm.

Last week, the opposition co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka, who is also the Wiper leader, said if CORD is to dislodge Jubilee President Uhuru Kenyatta from office, he would be the suitable candidate.

And on Thursday last week, the other co-principal Moses Wetang'ula, who is also the Ford Kenya leader, made the same remarks, and told a KTV interview that there was an impression created that Raila could not easily win a presidential contest, and should cede ground for a more qualified candidate with better prospects of victory.

"He (Raila) must support a winning team. The gesture will be very helpful to the coalition," Wetang'ula told the interviewer.

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Yesterday, both Kalonzo and Musyoka downplayed the impact of their statements. Kalonzo said the narrative that was emerging by their detractors was a deliberate ploy to portray the coalition as divided.

"We know that our opponents are keen to see us disintegrate, we tell them that they will wait for a long time because we have unity of purpose and we are mature as a coalition to be broken down by minor issues," said Kalonzo.

Kalonzo said that the co-principals had a good working relationship and their unity was key in their quest to secure the presidency in the next election.

Wetang'ula also downplayed the reactions that followed his statement.

"I am not against Raila based on the statement I made. All I was saying is that as CORD, we should perhaps change strategy so that we can beat Jubilee in 2017, otherwise this is very strong coalition," Wetang'ula told The Standard on Sunday yesterday.

Wetang'ula also dismissed speculation about his absence from Raila's tour of Western Kenya, and described it as a purely ODM affair.

"What I insist on is that a strong ODM, Ford Kenya and Wiper means a stronger CORD coalition. I would not want to see wrangles in these parties because it weakens us as a coalition," said the Ford Kenya leader.

Speculation about the relationship between the co-principals has now become a matter of public discussions. Even the presence of Wetang'ula at the funeral of Mavoko MP Patrick Makau's father John King'ola at Ngelani village in Machakos accompanied by Kalonzo send tongues wagging.

Raila tour of the Western region was triggered by the resignation of the party's secretary general and Budalang'i MP Ababu Namwamba and his Funyula counterpart and party vice chairman Paul Otuoma.

Two weeks ago the ODM Central Management Committee met to discuss the new cracks emerging in the party. It was not long after that Raila's four-day tour of the Western Kenya was planned.

However during the tour, a group of protesters carrying placards tried to interrupt Raila's meeting in Vihiga on July 18.

And on Friday last week, police were forced to lobby teargas at protestors in Shibale market where Raila was expected to meet party supporters.

During this tour Raila asked part supporters to vote for ODM candidates only in an area considered the political turn of Wetang'ula. However, members of the opposition coalition have asked their supporters not to read too much into Raila's statement that the people of Western should vote for ODM candidates only.

Tongaren MP Eseli Simiyu said that it must have been a slip of the tongue for Raila. "I think he meant to say six-piece for CORD," said Eseli in reference to a plea that the party supporters should vote for ODM ward representatives, MPs, women reps, senators and the president all in one sweep.

CORD's problems seem to have heightened at a time the party supporters in the Kisii region have being growing restive, with some publicly toying with the idea of transferring their support to the ruling Jubilee coalition.

Deputy President William Ruto has publicly stated that he was behind the recent upheavals in CORD and will be part of a party that will be leading Jubilee leaders on a campaign to canvass support at the coast where the party leaders are set to tour Kwale, Lamu and Kilifi counties in the coming weeks.

Raila Odinga western tour ODM CORD western kenya
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