Azimio chiefs trade blame over Raila Odinga poll loss

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya presidential party leader Raila Odinga speaks to his supporters at the KICC.

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party leader Raila Odinga. At least 15 top officials of the Coalition Party bear the greatest blame for Mr Odinga’s loss in the August 9 presidential election, sources within the outfit said. 

Photo credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP

At least 15 top officials of the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party bear the greatest blame for Mr Raila Odinga’s loss in the August 9 presidential election, sources within the outfit said. 

Interviews with multiple sources within Azimio have revealed a series of blunders that denied Mr Odinga an outright win in his fifth stab at the presidency. 

Apart from lack of proper campaign and vote management strategies, accusing fingers have been pointed at certain coalition bosses for either sleeping on the job or, by design or default, acting in a way that benefited President William Ruto, Mr Odinga’s main rival in the election. 

An apparent voter apathy in Mr Odinga’s Luo Nyanza backyard, which led to some 602,018 registered voters failing to turn out to cast their votes in the four counties of Siaya, Kisumu, Homa Bay and Migori, has also been cited as a major factor in the former Prime Minister’s loss.

Considering that Mr Odinga lost to Dr Ruto by a paltry 233,151 votes — having garnered 6,942,930 votes against Dr Ruto’s 7,176,141 — had the turnout in the ex-premier’s backyard been boosted, even by just a small margin, he could have turned the tables against his main rival.

“While Dr Ruto united opponents who had faced off in primaries, Azimio, and particularly in Nyanza, went ahead to attack its own members who were running on coalition tickets outside ODM after the bungled primaries. This led to voter apathy,” says former Alego Usonga MP Omondi Mulwan.

Mr Mulwan, who contested for the seat on a Democratic Alliance Party of Kenya (DAP-K) ticket, lamented that, whereas they were all mobilising votes for the presidential candidate, most of them were attacked with their supporters too afraid to turn up to vote. Some officials have also been mentioned as bearing the greatest responsibility for the poor show.

'Poor show' list

They include former President Uhuru Kenyatta, who chaired the Azimio Council, ODM National Elections Board (NEB) chairperson Catherine Mumma, Azimio Secretary-General Junet Mohamed, former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, Mr Odinga’s daughter Winnie, former Cabinet Secretaries Fred Matiang’i (Interior), Joe Mucheru (ICT), Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho and Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe. 

Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga KICC

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and ODM leader Raila Odinga during the Jubilee Party National Delegates Conference on February 26, 2022.

Photo credit: PSCU

Others are; Mr Odinga’s chief agent Saitabao Ole Kanchori and his deputy Caroline Karugu, Kanu chairman Gideon Moi, Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign board chairperson Ndiritu Muriithi and Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Meyo as well as Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli.

Even though Mr Odinga has defended Mr Kenyatta over accusations of being hands-off and thus failing to secure his victory, some coalition members feel he failed to activate state machinery to protect the ODM leader’s votes. Mr Odinga has maintained that, despite Mr Kenyatta being a member of his team, his main priority was to provide a level playing ground in the polls.

“He did not even use the security forces. He did not give instruction to the police, the intelligence machinery, the DCI to support me in any way. The environment was very free and fair for everybody,” Mr Odinga said during a recent interview on Citizen TV.

But a confidant of Mr Odinga yesterday questioned why the former President could not then use his influence to protect Mr Odinga’s votes “against theft which Mzee [Mr Odinga] has maintained happened at Bomas [national tallying centre].”

Ms Mumma is associated with the organisation of the contentious ODM party primaries, which is believed to have contributed to the poor turnout, particularly in Nyanza region.

The official, who later secured a nomination to the Senate, refused to comment on the matter touching on the ODM primaries when reached by the Sunday Nation.

Mr Mohamed, who was visible in nearly all the Azimio presidential campaigns, has exonerated himself from blame, saying, he was attached to the campaign team which had no challenges at all.

“I don’t want to blame anybody but my duty was in the field during the campaigns. That was my task,” Mr Junet told Sunday Nation.

He had been accused of working closely with Mr Joho and blocking other leaders from accessing Mr Odinga to offer him advice.

Former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho with Suna East MP Junet Mohamed addressing the Press in Malindi, Kilifi County on May 12, 2022. 

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

"Know-it-all attitude"

A senior member of the secretariat said “feedback and advise was mishandled due to a know-it-all attitude that affected the outcome, with Junet and Winnie Odinga leading the pack of dismissive comrades.”

But Ms Odinga, now a member of the East African Legislative Assembly, has continued to deny the claims, noting that, had she been involved in election day preparations and management, probably the results could have been different.

She says the Azimio team was divided into various departments created by the candidate to help steer it to victory. The team, she says, consisted of a board that hired CEO Elizabeth Meyo and a supervisory board headed by businessman S.K Macharia, a think tank and strategy team, a manifesto team, a resource and mobilization, election management and election day preparation team, communications and operations, legal team, Azimio Council and secretariat, political parties and other government officials.

During her recent interview on Citizen TV, Ms Odinga vehemently denied ever sabotaging her father’s candidature, saying, the allegations were propagated by her detractors.

“This is my father and I don’t think anyone worked harder on that campaign than me except him. People were there for their own agendas; they were there to sabotage us and do all sorts of things but I prepared him as best as I could for him to succeed,” she said.

Interior top officials

Dr Matiang’i, Dr Kibicho and Mr Mucheru, who all sat on the multi-agency forum on election preparedness ahead of the August polls by virtue of the influence of their offices, have also been faulted for failing to protect Mr Odinga’s votes.

Dr Matiang’i and Dr Kibicho were in charge of the powerful Interior docket, which offered security during the polls while Mr Mucheru’s ICT docket was crucial in the voting process.

Fred Matiang'i

ODM leader Raila Odinga (right) and former Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i at Mwongori Secondary School in Nyamira County on October 22, 2021.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

They were often accused by Dr Ruto’s team during the campaigns of using their dockets to advance Mr Odinga’s campaigns.

Mr Mucheru, who has also been accused by Mr Kanchory of sabotaging the management of Mr Odinga’s agents during the elections, has denied it, insisting that his role in the polls was to ensure “media and connectivity for results transmission.”

Mr Kanchory and Dr Karugu are said to have been unable to properly coordinate Mr Odinga’s agents despite being his chief agent thus leading to “manipulation of the results at the Bomas Kenya.”

But Mr Odinga has denied that he lost the election because Azimio did not handle the issue of agents well. He termed such talk as diversionary.

“Our votes were stolen at the tallying centre and not at the polling stations. Our campaigns were the most organised,” he stated.

“Even if there were no agents, it shouldn’t be a licence for anyone to steal elections,” Mr Odinga said

Mr Muriithi and Ms Meyo have equally not been left out of the blame games in the coalition, as they have been faulted for failing to ensure proper implementation of Mr Odinga’s “strategic and key decisions” they were tasked with.

On the other hand, Mr Murathe and Mr Atwoli have been accused of making controversial statements during the campaigns that may have negatively impacted the vote hunt.

Mr Atwoli, who has since made an about-turn and endorsed Dr Ruto’s presidency, was the President’s greatest critic during the campaigns. He at one time warned Kenyans against electing him citing corruption allegations against him. Mr Murathe says he does not regret backing Mr Odinga as the “current regime is already sinking due to its failure to address its pre-election promises.”

Mr Moi who was credited with playing a major role together with former President Kenyatta to bring in Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka on board to back Mr Odinga for the third time has also got his portion of the blame. He has been faulted for failing to take an active role during the campaigns and being unable to deliver votes from his Baringo backyard.