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Raila party plots reforms to counter Ruto’s rising wave

By Kepher Otieno and Protus Onyango | September 18th 2020

Raila Odinga when he addressed Taita Taveta County residents in a meeting attended by area governor Granton Samboja and Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho. [File, Standard]

ODM is working on strategies to counter Deputy President William Ruto’s spirited presidential campaigns ahead of the 2022 General Election.

Ruto has been crisscrossing the country, spreading the anti-referendum agenda and championing his presidential bid.

Initially, he was riding on launching government projects until that was taken away from him through an Executive Order. He then engaged a full-blown campaign mode, provoking a fallout in Jubilee Party which saw his allies kicked out of House leadership positions.

And after a lull, triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, the DP surged back a few weeks ago, hosting political and religious delegations, touring regions and hitting hard through media interviews.

Election campaigns

In response, ODM is planning meet-the-people tours, unveiling of the Handshake report and coining the time-for-change slogan to keep up with the election campaigns that have started in earnest.

Last week, Raila visited Coast to reassure his support base. His Orange party is also beginning to look inwards to make amends and draw new allies.

According to ODM Chairman John Mbadi, the party will not give room for Ruto to overtake them in the presidential race ahead of 2022.

Mbadi said although Raila had not officially declared that he will run for president in 2022, the party considers him their 2022 flag bearer.

“Raila was our presidential candidate in 2017 and we have not picked another person. He is still our best bet. We shall do all we can to support him for the presidency,” he said.

The National Assembly minority leader said ODM will push for a set of reforms to counter Ruto camp’s anti-constitutional change agenda.

“We are pushing for meaningful changes that will see a more expanded Cabinet, as we seek to transition to more powerful MPs who can also be appointed as Cabinet ministers,” Mbadi said.

He said the proposals will include opening up of public access to government administration, reforming the voting system and improving the government’s interaction with the public.

The party also plans tours in towns in coming days to showcase what it calls a pragmatic approach to fixing Kenyans’ historical woes.

“Real change is in the air. ODM and Jubilee have been talking about change and new modalities to make sure that BBI succeeds. If there was ever any doubt, we will be clearing them in coming days,” said Suna East MP Junet Mohamed.

The biggest task for ODM is to convince Kenyans to trust the Handshake and the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) to put Kenya on a pedestal of prosperity and peace.

In the plan, Ugunja MP and ODM’s Director of Political Affairs Opiyo Wandayi says, the message of a “super grand coalition government” where decision-making process will be transparent, will feature prominently.

“Very soon, the two principals will receive the BBI report. Then we will go to Kenyans and tell them that this is the remedy for all the problems we have been having. We can’t allow this winner-takes-it-all mentality to continue. We want a united country. Anyone opposed to this is selfish, just like Ruto,” Cotu boss Francis Atwoli told The Standard.

Prof Macharia Munene, who teaches history at USIU-Africa, says the country is entering a full-blown succession politics mode.

“We are witnessing interesting times. This is pure competition between Raila and Ruto on who succeeds Uhuru in 2022. These are two ambitious politicians trying to outdo each other,” Munene said.

Support bases

He said Ruto is setting the stage to take over from Uhuru and is targeting Raila’s strongholds.

“Raila is no longer at ease just to wait and see Ruto make inroads in his support bases. He has to wake up and undo what Ruto is building because he has realised that he can’t just sit and imagine that these areas still support him,” Munene said.

He said the campaigns will focus more on BBI once the task force releases its final report and Kenyans read and understand its contents.

Junet said Raila will hold more rallies in coming days to reactivate his political networks.

“He is consolidating his support base. His cylinder is shooting as he sets the stage for the BBI. He is waiting for the Covid-19 pandemic curve to flatten. Then he will be seen in his usual element,” said the National Assembly Minority Whip.

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said those backing the BBI do not intend to neutralise anyone on the issue.

“We will just deal with the lies and propaganda that our DP is sending out as part of his premature 2022 presidential campaigns,” Wambugu said.

Political scientist Michael Ndonye argues that kingmakers can punish a rival harder by sponsoring and crowning alternate kings so that they can gain some control.

This is what Raila did in 2002, and what Ruto did in 2013. The battle obtaining now is the clash of two kingmakers who believe their time has come.

“Ruto, as a kingmaker, wanted to punish Raila, who betrayed him in the coalition government. This way Ruto succeeded in isolating Raila from the throne between 2013 and 2018, when Baba usurped the throne by winning Uhuru’s political heart,” said Ndonye.

For him, if Ruto wants to beat Raila in 2022, he should front a candidate. Likewise, for Raila.

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