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Raila Odinga in Kisumu to calm storms wreaking his backyard

By Harold Odhiambo | May 24th 2021
ODM leaders Raila Odinga. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

ODM leader Raila Odinga is in Kisumu County today (Monday) as he seeks to put his house in order ahead of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to the region in a week’s time.

The two leaders are expected to unveil several handshake projects when Kisumu hosts this year’s Madaraka Day celebrations on June 1.

The move is part of the efforts he has put in place to ensure that the President does not walk into a hostile crowd following claims of betrayal over the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) process that has run into a brick wall.

The Standard has established that the ODM chief is hoping to calm the sense of disquiet in his ODM party and backyard over the stalled BBI process.

The ODM chief will meet ODM leaders from the region in a meeting that is meant to resolve some of the woes that have rocked the Orange party in the recent past.

A number of ODM officials told The Standard that they have been invited to the meeting in one of the hotels in Kisumu.

Although the agenda of the meeting has been kept a closely-guarded secret, sources told The Standard that unity of the party, preparations for Madaraka Day celebrations and the 2022 succession quest, tops the list of issues the ODM chief wants to discuss.

But it is the crack in the ODM party that risks publicly embarrassing the ODM chief should local politics and supremacy battles within his own party play out during the national celebrations.

In the last couple of days, Raila’s main foot soldiers including Senate Minority Leader James Orengo, Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo, party chairman John Mbadi and ODM’s Director of Elections Junet Mohamed have been engaged in a war of words.

Raila Odinga addressing Kisumu residents at Kondele roundabout. [Kevine Omollo, Standard]

Some of Raila’s key lieutenants such as Orengo will be expected to deliver speeches during the national celebrations.

“It is important for us to ensure that we prepare for the event. Even if we have our own differences, we should not wash our dirty linen before our visitors,” said a senior ODM official.

And it is those differences that the ODM chief wants to address before the national event even as they begin preparations for next year’s General Election.

At the weekend, signs that the disagreements in Raila’s camp are far from over played out after Orengo launched fresh attacks on his critics within the ODM camp.

Orengo, who is said to be among lawyers approached by Raila to challenge the stoppage of the BBI initiative by the High Court, said leaders only turned to him "when things are thick".

The Siaya Senator has been at loggerheads with some ODM top brass over the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020. He voted in favour of the Bill.

Orengo claimed some ODM leaders were riding on the party successes without knowing how they came about. "When the party is in turmoil, everyone looks for me asking for my whereabouts, but during the other days, they undermine my capability," said Orengo.

He told his critics to focus on helping Raila clinch the presidency. "It does not matter what we all want now, our focus should be on the presidency... Ambitions can appear easy but getting what one wants is never easy."

A cold relationship between other Raila’s foot soldiers who are having ambitions for similar political seats in the region also risks splitting the party.

There are fears that some of the politicians may ferry goons to boo their opponents during the national celebrations, like was the case when Raila convened a meeting early this year in an attempt to rally his troops for the BBI process.

During the meeting at Ciala Resort, a section of the attendees booed Mbadi. And this is what some ODM insiders fear could play out, should the leaders fail to come together before the national event.

Yesterday, Raila snaked his way to his Riat home with a lean motorcade, evading journalists, with sources saying that he has planned a series of activities in Kisumu this week.

Despite the woes in the ODM party, Raila is optimistic that the several projects that have been undertaken that the president will unveil will breathe life to the region’s economy.

Yesterday, contractors tasked with delivering some of the projects were still racing against time to complete the word ahead of the national celebrations.

The facilities include a road project leading to the Sh350 million Jomo Kenyatta Sports ground, which will host the event. Others are the rehabilitated Sh3 billion port.

The revival of the Kisumu-Nakuru meter gauge railway line is among those that the President is expected to unveil after Kenya Railways workers completed its rehabilitation. The entity says only a few components of the project are still remaining.

Last week, the institution moved a passenger train to Kisumu in anticipation of the developments set to take place on Madaraka Day.

Aboard the train was the corporation’s Managing Director Philip Mainga and a team of engineers who undertook an inspection tour of the line.

The authority is also racing against time to complete the construction of a new passenger terminal in Kisumu. According to Kenya Railways, the construction currently stands at 35 per cent.

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