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Why Raila's mega rally was cancelled last minute

ODM Party leader Raila Odinga waves at Kondele residents on his way from Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium for Madaraka day celebrations.[Mumo Munuve,Standard]

The cancellation of ODM leader Raila Odinga's mega rally in Homa Bay County could have been informed by local politics, besides concerns over the latest surge in Covid-19 infections.

Dozens of politicians are seeking Raila's endorsement ahead of the 2022 elections, hence the heightened political tension. Just a year to the next elections, the former prime minister's allies are jostling for various positions.

But some of his allies attributed the cancellation to Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe's warning on the spread of Covid-19 across the country.

The cancelled rally was also to be the venue for a major political statement for the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) counties.

Raila was to hold the rally yesterday at Sikri in Kasipul constituency, Homa Bay County. The gubernatorial contest in Homa Bay has attracted several of Raila's allies including Evans Kidero, John Mbadi, Gladys Wanga and Oyugi Magwanga.

ODM insiders said the plan was to get views of Nyanza residents on their priorities ahead of the forthcoming elections, and consolidate support for ODM as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s term ends in 2022.

"Baba was to engage the people but there was also fears that some aspirants would use his visit to seek endorsement. We want a fair level ground," said an ODM leader, who didn't want to be named.

Suna East MP Junet Mohamed said the engagement was supposed to begin yesterday, but the government brought up the Covid-19 protocols prohibiting gatherings, more so political.

“In fact they called us yesterday. Health CS Mutahi Kagwe called ODM and told us to stop these gatherings until the infection rates come down. He told us the situation was not good. I was also called by Inspector General of Police who urged me to stop the gatherings,” said Junet.

“We hope that the infections will have eased by August 18th so we can go ahead with our planned rally. We will have another meeting and decide what next,” he said on KTN news.

Raila's last major public events in the region were in the run up to the Madaraka Day celebrations in Kisumu where he accompanied President Uhuru Kenyatta alongside Burundi counterpart Évariste Ndayishimiye. His other rally was when Junet was endorsed in his constituency.

Raila announced the meeting during a burial at Kawaindi village in Kasipul constituency last Monday.

Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga said they realised holding the meeting would predispose residents to Covid-19 infections.

Wanga, also ODM chairperson in the county, said: “We decided to put the rally on hold to enable the authorities assess the Covid-19 situation."

She added: “We are going to be silent for two weeks to give us an opportunity to assess the situation. If the region records notable decline in infections, we will reschedule the meeting.”

On Wednesday, Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti said the meeting will not take place until later.

Raila said the meeting would mark the new political journey towards 2022.

The much publicised meeting was planned for all the eight regions (formerly provinces) across the country. The rallies were to be held in each of the counties, with 100 delegates from each region.

Those who are highly targeted are people from the informal sector who are the majority.

The meeting is aimed at enabling Raila to augment his political vigour after NASA affiliate partners Ford Kenya, ANC and Wiper resolved to quit the coalition.

ODM also followed, announcing its decision to quit the coalition and is now working on an alliance with President Kenyatta's Jubilee party.

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