What next for ODM if Raila moves to AU?

ODM leader Raila Odinga addresses his supporters during the Party's membership recruitment drive at Makande in Mombasa on December 27, 2024. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

For nearly two decades, opposition leader Raila Odinga’s ODM party has been one of the dominant forces in the country’s political spectrum.

It is a party that has evolved over the years and has survived the departures of key members, massive back-to-back electoral losses, and betrayals.

With Raila at the apex of the party, ODM has led the opposition against successive governments and has been the leading voice of dissent against government policies deemed unfavorable.

In Nyanza, parts of Western and Coast, clinching ODM ticket has been like a guaranteed victory because of the support the party has enjoyed over the years.

With Raila now eyeing African Union Commission chairmanship, the Orange party will be on the balance.

However, party insiders are confident that they will be able to maintain the vibrancy of the party but some sources claim succession wrangles could affect the party.

The Orange party has been battling several flames that have been threatening to wipe out its influence in some of its strongholds.

Internally, the party has been struggling to fight off dissents who defied the party’s directive to work with President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza.

The MPs, Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Tom Ojienda (Kisumu Senator), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Caroli Omondi (Suba South) and Phelix Odiwuor alias Jalang’o (Lang’ata), are still embroiled in a tussle with the party over an attempt by the party to kick them out.

Raila has also been leading a charge to rejuvenate his grassroots network across the country to bolster support ahead of the 2027 General Election.

With Raila possibly out of the political picture in ODM due to the restrictions that come with the AU opportunity, it remains to be seen how his allies will navigate through the woes in the Orange party.

Constitutional lawyer and analyst Bruce Odeny says it is very unlikely that ODM will survive after the exit of Raila to serve continental interests at the AU.

The lawyer believes many politicians and voters are in ODM because of Raila.

“No one in ODM has been groomed to take over from him,” the lawyer says.

According to Odeny, politics in Kenya will be a boring affair once Raila exits the scene.

But Raila’s allies are confident that they will keep ODM strong and revive all grassroots networks of the party.

ODM Chairman John Mbadi says Raila’s interest in the AU job does not affect his position in ODM.

“We are remaining with a year hence there should be no cause for alarm,” Mbadi says.

National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohammed says direction will be given after a meeting set to discuss Raila’s political plans.

Suna West MP Peter Masara argues that Raila will still lead them.

According to the legislator, the Azimio leader will only vacate office for the time he will be at AU and join them afterward.

Some political analysts believe Raila appointment to the AU Chairperson job might not be the end of the road for ODM.

Barack Muluka, a strategic and political communications advisor, says Raila’s interest in the AU’s job and his possible appointment should not be the end of ODM.

Muluka explains that while Raila will not be expected to openly play an active political role, the Azimio leader will be organising a smooth transition within his party.

Political analyst Mark Bichahi opines that ODM must evolve or die.

“The best option is for them to solidify Azimio and make it a bigger party with a more national appeal,” Mr. Bichachi says.