Is Raila Odinga a victim of blackmail in Azimio?

Azimio La Umoja-One Kenya coalition Raila Odinga

Azimio La Umoja-One Kenya coalition presidential hopeful Raila Odinga who on April 7, 2022 made a U-turn on plans to zone the country following protests by affiliate parties.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya flagbearer Raila Odinga faces a delicate balancing act to appease allies in the coalition as sibling rivalry threatens to tear the movement apart, just four months to the polls.

Affiliated parties have rejected zoning for fear of being devoured by the major parties in the coalition, which are Jubilee, ODM and Wiper. This means the three parties, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta, Mr Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka are now headed for showdown with their allies.

Mr Odinga seems to be struggling to satisfy the more than 20 parties supporting his bid, with some accusing him of dishonesty. His major dilemma is how to satisfy Mr Musyoka and keep happy the three Ukambani governors—Kitui’s Charity Ngilu (Narc), Machakos’s Dr Alfred Mutua (Maendeleo Chap Chap) and Makueni’s Prof Kivutha Kibwana (Muungano Party).

Dr Mutua had even alluded to the possibility of working with Deputy President William Ruto but yesterday pledged loyalty to the ODM leader following a meeting of his party’s National Governing Council. He offered himself as a possible running mate, a situation that might create friction with Mr Musyoka, who is also eyeing the position.

The Democratic Action Party – Kenya (DAP-K) associated with Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa also threw a spanner into the works by making fresh demands. DAP-K deputy party leader Ayub Savula said the Azimio Council, a top decision-making organ of the coalition party chaired by Mr Kenyatta, should also include Mr Wamalwa. He also demanded a confirmation that no power-sharing agreement had been signed.

Transparently

“We also demand that the documents signed by all parties at the KICC be released for scrutiny,” Mr Savula told the Nation, adding a running mate should be nominated transparently through a vote by Azimio delegates.

National Liberal Party secretary general Omondi K’Oyoo said they are supporting Mr Odinga for the good of the people. “We are not in the coalition for our own selfish interests and this is what should drive all the partners. This unity should not be about us, as the leadership of political parties but about the 50 million-plus Kenyans. The process of engagement is so far transparent,” he said.

Mr Odinga last week agreed to the demands of the eight parties that had coalesced under “Mwanzo Mpya” and expanded the Azimio Council to accommodate 11 members. Sources said this was not well received by Mr Musyoka’s camp. The parties were MCC, Narc, Muungano, Kenya Reform Party, Chama Cha Uzalendo, DAP-K, People’s Trust Party and Maendeleo Democratic Party. Ms Ngilu has been incorporated in the council by virtue of gender.

Prof Gitile Naituli, a political analyst, said the pressure Mr Odinga faces within Azimio was more of “blackmail” as some members had tried to court Dr Ruto if he failed to fulfil his side of the bargain. He argued that it was still early to accuse Mr Odinga of dishonesty. He said Mr Odinga seems to have been captured by several forces with many demands that make it difficult for him to make certain decisions.

Independent decisions

“The Mt Kenya Foundation is keen on everything that he does. He should make independent decisions if he wants to win this election,” he offered.

Mr Herman Manyora, an analyst, said Mr Odinga is going through a lot of pressure, adding that what Kenyans were witnessing “could simply be a tip of the iceberg. He might end up getting scratched so much if he doesn’t play his politics in a structured manner. With the appointment of Raphael Tuju as the Azimio executive director, I think he should be given a free will to run this coalition with the assistance of a few experts,” he said.

Mr Musyoka moved to deflate rising tensions on Saturday and commended Mr Odinga for what he termed as his “resilience”.

“I want my brother to know that whatever political formations they come up with, this is the time for him to be president and I commend him for his ability to stand strong,” he said at a church function in Mwingi where he accompanied the ODM leader.

Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign spokesperson Makau Mutua said all the concerns raised by their affiliate parties had been addressed, even as Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi said Azimio is not a coalition of the willing, hence the internal uproar.

Internal rifts

Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi said Azimio is not a coalition of the willing as its leaders have put it due to internal rifts.

“Our competitors are simply trying to force engagements but for us it is a cooperation of like-minded leaders with a vision for the country,” he said when he welcomed National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi to the Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign spokesperson Prof Makau Mutua said all the concerns raised by their affiliated parties had been addressed.

“There is a general consensus that the issue of running mate will be addressed through continuous consultations. That process will be evidence-based and data-driven,” he said.

“We have to find out who is popular and can bring in more votes’ an Individual who is capable of being a president. People cannot just say I want to be a running mate for the sake of it. A desire cannot be a criterion for selection of a running mate.”

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