James Orengo's remark on Ruto impeachment irks Raila

Siaya Senator James Orengo addresses mourners at the burial of former chief Daudi Owino at Lifunga Kobiero Village in Siaya County on March 2, 2019. He said DP William Ruto can be impeached legally. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Mr Mbadi regrets that some of his colleagues have been careless in public putting the party leader in an awkward position.
  • The feisty politician came out to say impeachment was one of the available constitutional options for dealing with the DP.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga is not happy with one of his closest allies, Siaya Senator James Orengo.

Mr Odinga, the Sunday Nation has established, is furious with the seasoned politician for his recent utterances which he feels are aimed at poisoning the rapprochement he now enjoys with President Uhuru Kenyatta following the “handshake” last year.

Particularly, Mr Odinga takes exception to remarks that Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga have a secret political pact.

Only a day after Mr Orengo ‘revealed’ the existence of the pact, the opposition chief dispatched ODM chairman John Mbadi to “set the record straight”.

President Kenyatta is also said to have expressed his reservations over the same, particularly Mr Orengo’s assertion that he had met him for four hours.


Mr Orengo’s statement has given the Jubilee wing led by Deputy President William Ruto more impetus to hit at the handshake and a vindication of sorts to the long-held narrative that the political truce between the two politicians was indeed meant to block Mr Ruto’s ascension to power.

Multiple interviews with members of ODM reveal deep-rooted confusion in the party, with some convinced that Mr Orengo was merely doing Mr Odinga’s bidding. .

The genesis of the latest beef with Mr Orengo is traced back to a few days before Mr Kenyatta visited Luo Nyanza late last year, the first time since he was re-elected.

Mr Orengo led local leaders to agitate for compensation for victims of State instigated violence during the last elections as a condition for any engagement.

For Mr Odinga, this was not the time to give the Head of State ultimatums.


Mr Mbadi would later echo similar sentiments. “You don't have to give conditions to someone who is visiting on serious issues of development. I am not downplaying the significance of 2017 victims of election violence, but I think we have a different forum to address the issue,” he said.

Loyalists of Mr Odinga, whom he has privately confided in, accuse the Siaya senator of spoiling the party.

So concerned is the party leadership about the situation that Seme MP James Nyikal, who chairs duol (caucus of Luo MPs) has been tasked to individually talk to his colleagues not to join what they call ‘the Orengo bandwagon’.

On Friday, Mr Nyikal could not admit the role he has been given, instead choosing to say the handshake had given the country a new chance to achieve cohesion and growth that nobody should be allowed to scuttle it.

“If you are concerned about the welfare of Kenyans, you must support the handshake. Politicians will always have an opinion over one subject or the other but I want to ask that we wait for the final report of the BBI (Building Bridges Initiative, a product of the handshake,” he told Sunday Nation.


Mr Mbadi, without directly referring to Mr Orengo, regrets that some of his colleagues have been careless in public putting the party leader in an awkward position.

“It should be noted that their remarks are not attributable to ODM. Our people must be responsible in their statements going forward, bearing in mind that the handshake had nothing to do with the next General Election,” he said Saturday.

And when the feisty politician came out to say that impeachment was one of the available constitutional options to deal with the DP, the number of those in the Orange party convinced that he was up to something sinister increased.

While they relish the Jubilee civil war, there is a clique of politicians in the opposition who feel that the party should be left to fry on its own.

That their members should not meddle. They should be silent spectators, and they do not understand why Mr Orengo would present himself to the arena.


An MP privy to the discussion said that when he introduced the impeachment debate, Mr Odinga reached out to him, seeking an understanding of what he meant to achieve by being on the offensive.

On Saturday, Mr Odinga’s spokesman, Denis Onyango, sought to downplay the growing tension between his boss and Mr Orengo, a senior counsel.

“Why don’t you talk to Jim (as friends and admirers call the lawmaker) over that? My understanding on the impeachment debate is that he was speaking from a purely legal perspective without minding the political ramifications of the same,” Mr Onyango said on phone.

Having been kept out of the handshake negotiations, Mr Orengo is said to have not forgiven Mr Odinga, who consulted him on every decision in the country’s politics since they made up after his 2002 poll Waterloo.

In the opposition, Mr Orengo represents sceptics, those who feel that Mr Kenyatta could be ‘using Odinga’ to cross the river in exchange for nothing, or a raw deal.

Last week, the senior counsel, after coming under intense pressure, clarified that he was not speaking for Mr Odinga. And on Saturday he explained that ‘people’ were missing the point.


He says the turn of events did not come to him as a shock, more or less insinuating that some individuals in ODM were out to draw a wedge between him and Mr Odinga.

“I have heard of that narrative,” he said, before adding: “There are decisions I have taken in the past that people frowned upon but in the end I was vindicated. Like when I moved a motion to impeach President Moi. When I seconded the motion by the late Senator Otieno Kajwang’ to censure the late VP George Saitoti. In the end, that pressure saw Moi fire him.”

Prof Macharia Munene, political analyst from the United States International University, believes that Mr Orengo, being an outsider in the handshake deal, is trying to get Mr Odinga’s attention by rabble-rousing.

“He is on a personal mission and hopes to push Raila (Odinga) along. The impeachment (of the DP) won’t go far but it is a political statement”.

“Remember Orengo was later forced to pay homage to Raila for his own survival after staying in the cold for a while.”

Mr Orengo unsuccessfully vied for the presidency on Social Democratic Party (SDP) ticket in 2002. He failed to defend the Ugenya parliamentary seat that year.