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Raila calms Western as ODM, DAP-K size each other

DAP-K party leader Wafula Wamunyinyi and Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa when they received Isaac Andabwa who defects from ODM. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The speed at which Democratic Action Party-Kenya is consolidating its position as a political force in the Western region and within Azimio la Umoja Movement is ruffling feathers in the Raila Odinga-led coalition.

When DAP-K has hastily registered a few months ago, its major task was to help strengthen Raila’s presidential bid mostly in Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties.

The party associated with Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa had its work cut out. It was also expected to checkmate Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula and his allies in the two counties after they joined Deputy President William Ruto in the Kenya Kwanza Alliance in January.

“DAP-K has now made its presence felt across the region in a short period, making local leaders in ODM uncomfortable but it is the discontent they created by bulling some members that is making some leaders defect from Raila’s camp,” says political analyst Martin Andati.

Barely four months after it was launched, DAP-K is not only causing discomfort to Ford Kenya and Kenya Kwanza Alliance, but is also creating a headache for the older and more influential sibling ODM.

The party has spread its wings into larger Western and neighbouring Nyanza, where CS Wamalwa and party chairman Wafula Wamunyinyi received Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri from ODM on Monday.

It has also netted Kakamega Deputy Governor Philip Kutima, who decamped from ODM after accusing officials of trying to scuttle his ambition of succeeding Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

ODM officials in Western led by deputy partly leader Oparanya have complained to party leader Raila about “the confusion” DAP-K is causing, warning that it could cost Azimio la Umoja seats in Kakamega County.

Raila has so far not directly intervened but has repeatedly called on all Azimio la Umoja parties to build consensus in fielding candidates for county assembly, woman rep, national assembly, senatorial and governorship seats.

However, following the complaints from Oparanya, Raila mandated Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli to resolve the stand-off.

Former Cabinet Minister Noah Wekesa represented DAP-K during the last round of talks at Serena Hotel in Nairobi, while ODM was represented by Oparanya.

“Yes, we had a good meeting and discussed issues related to building consensus,” said Dr Wekesa.

An ODM official from Kakamega branch, however, said they expected either party chairman Wafula Wamunyinyi or Wamalwa to attend the meeting instead of sending Wekesa.

Asked in what position he holds in the party, Dr Wekesa referred us to Wamunyinyi: “Ask him what my position is in DAP-K but they sent me to represent the party at that meeting.”

As to how DAP-K will field its aspirants, he said the party had decided to field own candidates but support Raila for president. He said each party in Azimio will nominate its people and will therefore not do a joint nomination exercise with ODM and others.

Dr Wekesa, nicknamed “Bwana vyama” was involved in registration of coalition parties that won past elections including Party of National Unity (PNU) and National Rainbow Coalition (NARC).

“Unlike past coalitions where we collapsed all parties to form one coalition, this time all parties will only sign the coalition agreement but retain their identity and so we will not do joint nominations,” he said.

The talks convened by Atwoli were adjourned when he travelled to the United Kingdom with Raila but the discussions are expected to resume.

The talks are focused on areas where parties like ODM and DAP-K have two strong candidates who can split the vote and hand victory to Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

Wekesa however insisted that whereas they will do their best to nominate the best candidates in the wards, constituencies and counties, structured consensus, that will be an exception rather than the norm.

It has emerged that Oparanya and other ODM officials wanted parties to adopt the zoning method to stop Azimio candidates from partner parties from contesting against each other but DAP-K rejected the proposal.

“We are not going for zoning because that will be killing DAP-K, which is a young party with great promise for the future. It is going to be active in the next five years,” said Wekesa.

So far, DAP-K has received MPs who defected from Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress (ANC) party, including Ayub Savula (Lugari), Tindi Mwale (Butere), Peter Nabulindo (Matungu) and Christopher Aseka (Khwisero).

Andati argues that DAP-K will create problems for Oparanya, because it has a bigger presence in Kakamega than Bungoma because it has most MPs including the deputy governor.

“You cannot tell Eugene to abandon them now and force them to go back to ODM, a party that has no candidate in Butere where Oparanya comes from,” says Andati.

He says Oparanya should use his position as deputy party leader more robustly by being more visible campaigning, instead of sitting in hotels listening to Atwoli when DAP-K is out there getting more defectors.

He says Atwoli has been given the burden of solving a problem created by Oparanya, whose leadership style forced many leaders to leave ODM.

“The problem is becoming bigger because in Kisii Prof Ongeri, former Nairobi County Minister Evans Ondieki, some woman rep aspirants in Nyamira and some MCAs have jumped to DAP-K,” says Andati.

The problem in Kisii, he says erupted after Ongeri and supporters realised ODM was rooting for Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati for governor’s seat. “Kisii is a rural constituency which is conservative and therefore violence and showbiz which works in Nairobi may not work there,” he adds.