Wrangles rock ODM as rival factions open party offices 

Edwin Sifuna and Simba Arati

ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna (left) and Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati during a sensitization and BBI Signature collection exercise at Kilimani Primary School in Nairobi on November 29, 2020.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Last month, Mr Ongwae, Prof Ongeri and Ms Ong’era moved in to revamp the party in Kisii after reports of dwindling support in the region.
  • The party has only one Member of Parliament in the larger Gusii region, which comprises Kisii and Nyamira counties.

Leadership wrangles have hit the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in Kisii, with various factions opening parallel party offices.

Dagoretti MP Simba Arati, who is eyeing the governor seat, has been opening ODM offices across the county, separate from those opened by local leaders.

Sources say Mr Arati, who on Thursday started opening 11 ODM offices in the county, has the blessings of party leader Raila Odinga.

Mr Arati seems to be in for a big fight with Governor James Ongwae, woman rep Janet Ong’era and senator Sam Ongera, the top ODM leaders in Kisii.

While opening Masimba office, Mr Arati said it will be used to register members, run party affairs and registration and mobilisation of voters in the one-month mass voter listing that started this week.

“We do not have any other agenda. There are so many things being said out there, but let it be known that our agenda is clear. We are supporting Mr Odinga for the top seat. Additionally, there is no one who will get a direct ticket, let that be clear. We are not fighting with anybody,” said the Dagoretti MP, who was accompanied by five ward reps.

Last month, Mr Ongwae, Prof Ongeri and Ms Ong’era moved in to revamp the party in Kisii after reports of dwindling support in the region.

The party has only one Member of Parliament in the larger Gusii region, which comprises Kisii and Nyamira counties.

Bonchari MP Pavel Oimeke was elected on the party’s ticket during a recent by-election.

Mr Arati is opening the offices despite ODM threatening to discipline members opening party offices without express authority from the national office.

In a statement released by secretary-general Edwin Sifuna recently, the party warned that such moves will henceforth attract disciplinary action.

Mr Sifuna issued the warning after a meeting of the party’s top decision making organ, which was chaired by Mr Odinga.

"We have received alarming reports that there are some members of the party purporting to open offices in the grassroots without reference or consultations with the national office," Mr Sifuna said.

“We wish to remind all members that whenever there is a need to open any party office, the same must be done in consultation with the national office, failure to which such offices will not be recognised,” he added.

Mr Sifuna added that the opening of such offices amounts to brazen violation of the party’s rules.

“Mr Arati is a close friend to Mr Odinga; that is why he has been allowed to open the offices,” said an ODM party official.

Though the party has managed to remain strong in the Nyanza region over the years, there is infiltration by Jubilee, United Democratic Alliance and other small parties.

In the 2017 polls, President Uhuru Kenyatta (Jubilee) managed to get almost half of the votes from Kisii and Nyamira.

Deputy President William Ruto, through his UDA party, is also giving a headache to ODM leaders.

The DP camped in Kisii for three days this week as he tried to woo the Gusii community to support UDA.

He is expected to tour Nyamira County later this month.

Last month, Mr Ongwae, Prof Ongeri, Ms Ong’era and ODM Kisii County Chairman Kerosi Ondieki commissioned a party office at Nyamataro in Kitutu Chache South constituency.

Mr Ongwae said the wider plan is to see Mr Odinga clinch the presidency. “Other regions have produced presidents for almost 60 years. It is time for Nyanza region to produce the next president in 2022,” Mr Ongwae said.

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