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Raila begins Coast counties tour as key allies pull apart

By Renson Mnyamwezi | March 1st 2021

ODM leader Raila Odinga addressing wananchi after attending a church service at Lwanya Catholic Church in Busia county on February 28, 2021. He was accompanied by Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong, Cornell Rasanga (Siaya) and a host of leaders. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

ODM leader Raila Odinga has been getting a rousing welcome whenever he visits the Coast. But his tour to the region today comes at a time the political landscape is shifting.

Raila is slowly losing grip on his perceived stronghold, as other political heavyweights fight for a share of the Coast votes. 

From losing some ODM MPs to his rival Deputy President William Ruto, to fighting among allies and plans by his trusted Coast point-man and Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi to launch a party this month, Raila hopes to cool the political nerves of the region.

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho has declared interest in the presidency and is seeking the ODM leader’s support.  

Raila is expected to spend a week touring Taita Taveta, Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River and Lamu counties to popularise the Building Bridges Initiative and reclaim lost political ground following frequent visits to the region by Dr Ruto.

The DP was at the Coast for four days three weeks ago buoyed by the support of ODM rebels Kilifi MP Owen Baya, Malindi’s Aisha Jumwa, Nyali’s Mohamed Ali and a number of former MPs.

Raila will begin his Coast tour in Taita Taveta County, where there were divisions among leaders on who hosts him.

The ODM leader is expected to land at Taita Hills and Salt Lick Lodges airstrip today at 3pm, and will be received by Governor Granton Samboja, local ODM MPs, MCAs and party officials.

Denis Onsarigo, the County Director of Communications, said the governor would host the former PM for the two-day visit.

“The governor will take charge of Raila’s tour of the region starting today,” he stated.

Last September the governor hosted Raila on a two-day visit that was given a wide berth by some local ODM leaders over claims that they were not invited.

Yesterday Mr Onsarigo said MPs Jones Mlolwa (Voi) and Andrew Mwadime (Mwatate), and a host of MCAs would accompany Raila and the governor in the tour.

“Raila will pay a courtesy call on the governor at his offices on Tuesday morning before inspecting the ongoing construction of the new Mwatate modern market and the sub-county isolation centre at the Mwatate Sub-county hospital, before addressing a political rally in the town,” said Onsarigo.

He added that the ODM leader would later address residents of Mbololo location before heading to Voi town for a rally.

However, ODM leaders who met in Voi town yesterday to plan for Raila’s visit gave conflicting information about the plans to host Raila.

Playing key role

The meeting was presided over by ODM county coordinating committee chairman Richard Tairo and attended by Mr Mlolwa, assembly majority leader Harris Keke and several MCAs. Senator Jones Mwaruma and the Mwatate MP sent their apologies.

Mr Tairo, Keke and Wundanyi branch ODM chair Christopher Mchana said local party leaders would host Raila. “Raila, who is a national leader, will visit the county tomorrow at 3pm and will be received by ODM leaders. His tour has been planned by ODM leaders,” clarified Keke.

The Rong’e Juu Ward representative said Raila would meet ODM leaders and local youths at a hotel today.

He said Raila would address rallies in Mwatate town on Tuesday at 9am, then proceed to Mwakinyumgu Primary School to commission a National Government Constituency Development Fund project in Mwatate.

Raila is expected to address rallies in Mbololo and Tausa trading centes and Voi town.

“It is a good opportunity to have our party leader in the county. This is the second visit within six months and our supporters are optimistic to receive Raila,” Tairo told The Standard yesterday, adding: “The local community that overwhelmingly voted for him in the last General Election is very optimistic about Raila’s tour of the county and will turn out in large numbers to receive him”.

The ODM leader lost key allies at the Coast to Ruto after the Handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta in March 2018.

Samboja has close ties with Uhuru and Raila, but frosty relations with Ruto, who has been wooing his opponents like former Governor John Muruttu, former Senator Dan Mwazo and some MCAs.

In spite of being elected on the Wiper ticket, Samboja is playing a key role in ODM affairs.

The governor’s strong ties with Raila have unsettled some local ODM leaders.

Recently, some ODM MCAs accused Samboja of taking over the party and causing divisions. “The governor has become the only Raila point-man in the region. Some party officials are not happy that now he has Baba’s ear,” complained a local party official. ?

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