I won’t let divisive figures ruin our party, vows Raila

Raila Odinga

ODM leader Raila Odinga addresses the media after the Central Committee meeting of the party on April 3, 2024 at Capitol Hill Square in Nairobi.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • There has been tension in ODM since Mr Odinga declared interest in the AU job.
  • Two factions are coalescing around Hassan Joho and Wycliffe Oparanya.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga on Wednesday read the riot act to the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) top leadership over succession wrangles and warned that he would not allow the party to be balkanised.

The ODM chief cautioned against divisions based on regions, religion and ethnicity.

Mr Odinga spoke when he chaired the ODM Central Management Committee at his Capitol Hill offices in Nairobi.

The crucial meeting came at a time when there are heightened campaigns to succeed him as ODM leader, should he be elected African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson next year. 

Another key agenda at the meeting was drafting a roadmap for the party’s grassroots polls.

Sources at the meeting told the Nation Mr Odinga was firm and threatened to publicly rebuke those leading the charge in advancing party elections along regional, religious and ethnic lines.

"The meeting was cordial, although the party leader remained firm throughout and warned the top leadership against rallying their supporters along the three lines,” a member of the committee told the Nation after the meeting.

"He said that he would publicly disown leaders who will be promoting divisions ahead of the party's elections and, this will obviously have serious political consequences.”

There has been tension in ODM since Mr Odinga declared interest in the high-profile AU job. Two factions are coalescing around Mr Odinga's deputies — Hassan Joho and Wycliffe Oparanya — following his possible exit should he win the AUC post.

Mr Joho is out of the country in Mecca — the holiest city in Islam. 

A section of leaders from the Coast, Western and Nyanza regions had stepped up campaigns to succeed Mr Odinga. Others have openly cast their lot with either Mr Joho, Mr Oparanya or ODM Director for Political Affairs Opiyo Wandayi.

There are also forces behind ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna, Chairman John Mbadi and Embakasi East MP Babu Owino.

The much-anticipated grassroots polls would have been a good opportunity for them to install their allies ahead of the national elections.

“We have seen immense interest in the party. We are particularly encouraged by the number of young men and women who have expressed interest in contesting the leadership. This is the greatest assurance that the party has a future and is still seen as a viable vehicle for national leadership,” said Mr Sifuna.

The meeting, he said, resolved that ODM members should pursue their ambitions with a "sense of responsibility to strengthen and not weaken our unity and solidarity and to focus all our attention and energy on that great and most important task for any political party, which is to take power”.

“We, therefore, agreed not to allow election activities to be a source of division or cause fissures in ODM,” he said.

Read: Raila succession - Nyanza leaders fronting Opiyo Wandayi 

Speaking at a press briefing after the meeting, Mr Sifuna announced that the party will stagger its grassroots elections starting from April 27 in Kwale, Busia and Siaya counties.

On April 29, polls will held in Kajiado, Migori and Wajir counties. Kisii, Vihiga and Murang'a polls will be held on April 30. 

“The timetable for the next batch of counties will be released in due course,” Mr Sifuna said.

The party took issue with what it called “government-induced shortage of funds”, saying has crippled the party's operations.