Intrigues behind Otiende Amollo's ouster from House committee

Otiende Amollo when former Kenya Railways Managing Atanas Maina when appeared before the committee during a session at the Mini Chamber county hall, Nairobi. April 14, 2021 [Elvis Ogina, Standard

Details have emerged on the intrigues behind the ouster of Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo from a parliamentary committee.

Party chairman John Mbadi yesterday claimed the Rarieda MP had threatened to quit as vice-chair of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) in a message to party leader Raila Odinga. Mr Mbadi’s claims point to the infighting in the Orange party that has seen Amollo and Siaya Senator James Orengo faulted for opposing the party’s stand on the push for amendments to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill.

“When Otiende and Orengo spoke in Nyatike, Raila listened to their demands and called the two. He told them to come to Nairobi on Monday, but Sunday morning the next thing that Raila received was a text from Otiende that he was ready to resign from JLAC and as Rarieda MP. Who is he blackmailing?” posed Mbadi.

Yesterday Amollo challenged Mbadi’s claims, saying: “How does a Motion for removal mutate into a resignation? As a lawyer, I know what to do if I wanted to resign. I have chosen not to respond to them.”

Mbadi said the party basically “facilitated his resignation” from the JLAC committee. He added that the Orange party did not appoint Amollo to the committee to “go speak a lot of English and legal jargon” but to support its position on the BBI.

“We put him in that committee to push the party agenda. We even had a stalemate when reconstituting the committees because we wanted to align them to the BBI agenda. We even held Parliament at ransom when we were making the changes,” said Mbadi.

“Why were we then removing MPs William Cheptumo and Alice Wahome from the committee? There was a reason and he knew that. We did not put him there to speak a lot of English and legal jargon,” he added.

The Suba South MP said Amollo chose to oppose the party’s stand on the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020, making his continued stay in the committee untenable.

“We took him to that committee to ensure the party’s agenda is supported and if he has any problem with the party agenda, he should have said his problem,” he added.

Another ODM MP who sought anonymity said that on Sunday Raila unsuccessfully tried to reach Amollo after receiving his text. Rails even sent emissaries to Amollo.

The ODM leader also reached out to Orengo and Alego Usonga MP Samuel Atandi on Saturday after the burial of Mama Keziah Obama in Nyatike, asking them to get to Nairobi for talks on Monday over their stance on BBI.

This was after the leaders said experts, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission should be allowed to discharge their mandate and ensure Migori, Kisii, Busia and Homa Bay counties benefit from the additional constituencies proposed by the Bill.

The lawmaker, who described Amollo as a brilliant lawyer, took issue with his stance on the matter.

“Raila tried to reach him on Sunday for clarification on his text messages but he did not pick calls. I personally also tried to get him so that he could meet Raila over the matter, but he declined,” said the MP.

“The MP gave his enemies ammunition to finish him. Raila loves him a lot, that’s why he got the Public Account Committee membership and the JLAC vice-chair despite being a first time MP. When Raila threw back the matter to the parliamentary leadership, his fate was sealed in record time,” he added.

The MP said Amollo’s stance threatened to puncture BBI’s momentum at such a crucial stage. Raila’s aide Silas Jakakimba said: “There is legitimate feeling within the party’s rank and file that the negative energy generated by that stance may not be good for the overall agenda at this point in time.”

“For Orengo and Amollo, the big question here is, is it proper in the immediacy for all our team players to interrogate, work and look at all these things from the end backwards? From where I sit, the answer is in the affirmative,” Jakakimba said.

Last Thursday, during the BBI debate, Amollo was faulted for shutting down Mbadi, insinuating that the latter did not understand legal jargon when he highlighted the fundamental concerns in the BBI report by the joint JLAC.

Rarieda Member of Parliament Otiende Amollo [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

“He brought this upon himself. He disparaged the party chair on national TV. Raila watched the tiff in Parliament and with the text and finally his tweet, he just pricked himself. In politics, we must have a give and take. Hard-line positions do not help. Sometimes it is good to implore emotional intelligence,” said another MP.

Amollo and Orengo, top legal minds in ODM, opposed calls to pass the Bill in its entirety, a stand that has put them on the receiving end, mainly from Luo MPs accusing them of trying to derail the BBI process.

Yesterday’s revelation by Mbadi has also split the members, with others arguing it has nothing to do with BBI but his (Amollo) attitude towards them. “TJ Kajwang’ was appointed to JLAC and not as vice-chairperson. He still has room to apologise to Raila to get his post back,” an MP said.

National Assembly Minority Leader Junet Mohammed also said Amollo sent a text message to Raila threatening to resign. Mbadi and Junet dismissed reports that Orengo could also be targeted in the purge against perceived errant members.

“I can’t talk about that before the party takes a position; I can only say what the party has decided. His removal has not been discussed anywhere,” said Mbadi.

Download the BBI Judgement by all seven Judges - Civil Appeal No. E291 of 2021