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Speaker Oloo walks a tightrope as row hits assembly

By Harold Odhiambo | February 24th 2019
Kisumu County Assembly Speaker Onyango Oloo. [Phillip Orwa/Standard]

When he joined the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) a few months to the 2017 General Election, former TNA Secretary General Onyango Oloo became the centre of political attraction.

He was a big catch and his sweeping statements of how he had carried with him sensitive political secrets from TNA excited the opposition.

He became the attraction at National Super Alliance (Nasa) campaign rallies as he boasted how the secrets he had from TNA - President Uhuru Kenyatta’s party -- would help Raila with the ammunition to win the elections.

Mr Oloo became the darling of the media and locals as he promised to drop a bombshell on how President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto shortchanged Raila in the 2013 election. It is not clear if he presented these dossiers to Raila.

Buoyed by the good reception from ODM leaders and supporters, he run for the Kisumu Central parliamentary seat but lost to former Siaya MCA Frederick Ouda.

Several secret meetings he had with senior ODM leaders resolved that he be given a soft landing by supporting him to become the Kisumu County Assembly Speaker.

But one year after assuming office, Mr Oloo has not had it easy. Frequent fights among MCAs in the chambers over control of the Assembly millions, membership in the committees and alleged corruption have given him sleepless nights.

This week, the honeymoon appears to have ended after ODM, the party that handed him the seat, appeared to be isolating him.

Party interest

Only days after the Assembly’s Budget Committee Chairman Steve Owiti was ousted in chaotic proceedings in which the MCAs exchanged blows, the ODM leadership in Kisumu and Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o appear to blame Oloo for the frequent chaos at the Assembly.

Barely a day after Owiti’s ouster, MCAs allied to Oloo also started collecting signatures to kick out Majority Leader Kenneth Onyango and the Chief Whip Gad Olima.

But Kisumu County ODM Chairman Prof Ayiecho Olweny and Prof Nyong’o criticised the changes at the Assembly, saying they were not in the party’s interest.

Prof Olweny and Prof Nyong’o, in separate statements issued on Thursday, said they were perturbed by the frequent fights at the Assembly even after party leader Raila Odinga gave Oloo one year to put the house in order.

While meeting the MCAs in Kisumu early this year, Raila read them the riot act and gave Mr Oloo one year to restore order at the Assembly. He said the frequent fights were a shame to the people of Kisumu.

Since the MCAs came into office in September 2017, the County Assembly has never known peace and has been at the centre of public debate for the wrong reasons.

At one point last year, there was a failed attempt to impeach Mr Oloo, with members claiming he was dictatorial and promoting impunity.

And last week, the ousted budget committee chair claimed he was being targeted over his hard stance on the allocation of funds to build the official residence of the Speaker at a cost of Sh200 million as well as blocking an attempt to rent offices for staff.

During the session, several MCAs took a swipe at Mr Oloo and accused him of taking the assembly to the dogs.

But Oloo is putting up a brave face and has vowed to improve the services at the County Assembly even as he defended his first year in office.

“In terms of legislation we have done exceptionally well. We have passed several bills and motions,” said Oloo during the opening of the assembly last week.

He has however heaped the blame on some of the failures of the assembly, especially in following up on the implementation of laws passed, on the executive.

In a bid to bring unity to the assembly, the Speaker has also taken members on bonding and training trips outside the country, which have also brought divisions.

It is however the latest attempt by some MCAs allied to Mr Oloo to remove the majority leader and the chief whip that seems to have put the speaker at loggerheads with the party leadership.

On Tuesday last week, Mr Oloo told the House that as the speaker he is the most senior member of the ODM party in the Assembly after the majority leader protested the tabling of a list of members of the committee of the whole house.

The MCAs defended Mr Oloo and claimed only about 16 members were against the speaker contrary to reports that he had lost support of the majority.

The group led by Deputy Speaker Erick Agola and Kajulu MCA Roy Samu said the assembly was peaceful and they were ready to continue with their activities.

Lenient with members

“The problem with Mr Oloo is that he has been trying to play national politics at the local stage. He has been very lenient with some of members who are flouting rules,” said Samu.

A section of MCAs accused Oloo of failing to unite the House, with the majority leader claiming the speaker was promoting impunity at the County Assembly.

Mr Onyango said the Office of the Speaker is to blame for the chaos that has rocked the assembly, adding that some decisions made by Oloo have contravened Standing Orders.

The divisions in the ODM party, with some members supporting Mr Oloo while the rest are against his leadership, could explain the reasons for the planned removal of the party leaders at the assembly.

Prof Olweny however said the party stands with the majority leader and the whip, adding that any changes to the contrary would be null and void.

He said the party expected the MCAs to abide by the recommendations they made last year that directed Oloo to unite the assembly within one year.

“The two positions are party positions and the party has the right to recommend names, but as we speak, we do not have any problems with the two leaders,” said Olweny.

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