Anxiety in ODM as county governors avoid Raila rallies

Raila in Tranz Nzoia - Kitale

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya party leader Raila Odinga second (left) and Democratic Action Party of Kenya leader Eugene Wamalwa (left), during a rally in Kitale town, Trans Nzoia County.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Anxiety has gripped the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) camp in Western following a refusal by governors in the region to attend anti-government rallies held by party leader Raila Odinga.

ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya has accused the county chiefs and other opposition politicians of going to bed with the government under the pretext of seeking development projects, while other leaders claim the governors are caught between a rock and a hard place.

“They have been threatened. We pass a budget in parliament and allocate enough money to counties to fund development initiatives. There is no need for a governor to go to State House [to canvass for the projects],” said Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi.

Mr Oparanya termed the move by the leaders as self-seeking and against the interests of their constituents. He accused them of being insincere.

State House

“Let me tell the truth. A leader must have a stand. Some leaders are elected under Azimio but keep going to the State House pretending to be seeking development,” said Mr Oparanya.

He added: “As a governor, which development are you seeking from the State House yet you have a budget?”

“I have been a governor and I never sought development in State House. We are calling on our supporters to rethink such leaders who are only seeking their own interests,” the former Kakamega governor said.

The anti-government rallies have put a number of Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party governors in an awkward position. They feel attending the rallies would be taken to imply that they are opposed to Dr Ruto’s presidency.

They now find themselves torn between backing President William Ruto in return for development projects or remaining loyal to Mr Odinga, who has declared that he does not recognise the United Democratic Alliance party leader as the Head of State. Mr Odinga has held two public events in Vihiga County, both of which were snubbed by Governor Wilber Ottichilo (ODM).

Mr Odinga, together with former President Uhuru Kenyatta, held a public rally in Luanda town after the burial of former Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha.

The second event was held last Saturday during the homecoming ceremony of Luanda MP Dickson Maungu, where Dr Ottichilo was said to have travelled to Nairobi to attend an event hosted by Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi.

During the Luanda event, Mr Odinga declared Mr Osotsi and Mr Maungu as his footsoldiers in the county.

And in Busia County, Governor Paul Otuoma skipped an anti-government rally held in his backyard without apologies.

Residents who demanded to know his whereabouts were told he was on his way, but the event finished without him ever showing up.

Skipped the rally

It was the same case in Trans Nzoia County on Sunday, where Governor George Natembeya skipped the rally. In Kakamega County on Saturday, Government Fernandes Baraza attended but has publicly declared his support for the Ruto administration for the sake of locals.

The governors’ boycott of the rallies has left a gaping hole in grassroots mobilisation for Mr Odinga, who has resorted to forming youth wingers to spearhead the planning.

In Busia and Kakamega counties, Mr Odinga has created the Movement for Defence and Democracy, a youth group that will help advance the coalition’s interests on the ground.

The Kakamega group is being led by Mr John Mukhwendo, who has since declared the red beret-donning, military fatigue-attired group are ready to travel to Nairobi when the planned mass protests start.

“Ruto must go home. Kakamega youth will take part in demonstrations in Nairobi. We will die with Baba [Mr Odinga]. We will go to jail with Baba,” Mr Mukhwendo declared.