President William Ruto (left) and Azimio leader Raila Odinga. 

President William Ruto (left) and Azimio leader Raila Odinga.

| File | Nation Media Group

Raila Odinga lays trap for President William Ruto as ODM seeks to punish rebels

What you need to know:

  • Fidelity to political parties and coalitions is one of the items listed for discussion in the Raila-Ruto Talks.
  • An attempt to save the expelled MPs would mean the President is stifling the ongoing talks.
  • Raila accuses the errant members of derailing the opposition.

The expulsion of five ODM rebel MPs could have far-reaching implications for the ongoing crisis talks between President William Ruto and Opposition leader Raila Odinga after both factions said the development has a bearing on the dialogue.

By expelling the lawmakers for their association with the ruling coalition, Mr Odinga, whose party now wants to remove the rebels from membership of parliamentary committees, appeared to lay a trap for the President.

Among the issues representatives of the two leaders are negotiating is non-interference with rival parties and ODM puts the President in a catch-22 situation about the de-whipping of the rebel opposition lawmakers from parliamentary committees.

If the majority government-allied MPs frustrate the Orange party’s moves in Parliament, Mr Odinga’s allies have warned this would be a sign the President is not committed to the ongoing talks and should ODM have its way, the rebels would accuse the government of betraying them at their hour of need.

Equally, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, accusing Mr Odinga of insincerity about the dialogue, cited the expulsion of the ODM lawmakers.

“This man (Mr Odinga) is not genuine about any dialogue or discussion because if he did, he would not be punishing his MPs who visit the President seeking development,” he said at the funeral service for the son of Kipkelion MP Joseph Cherorot in Kericho on Friday September 9.

ODM chair John Mbadi addresses journalists accompanied by other ODM leaders

ODM Chair John Mbadi addresses journalists accompanied by other ODM leaders at Convent International Hotel, Nairobi on Wednesday, September 6. ODM has expelled five lawmakers it accuses of cosying up to President Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza camp.

Photo credit: Boniface Bogita | Nation Media Group

But Mr Odinga accused the errant members of derailing the opposition, as his allies announced that the next plan is to kick out the expelled MPs from parliamentary committees to which the party sponsored them.

The former premier said President Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza has to respect ideologies, the Constitution and rules of rival outfits for growth of political parties. He also told leaders elected on the party ticket to either toe the line and remain loyal to the party, or resign and seek re-election.

“They claim to have gone there to seek development. But the reality is that they were for their personal gain. All development initiatives should be channelled through the National Assembly,” said Mr Odinga. “We cannot operate as if we are in a market where everyone does his or her own activities. Our party should have members who are disciplined.”

The ODM leader, who spoke yesterday at Maranatha Faith Assembly grounds in Migori town, said party members have to abide by the set rules.

Caroli Omondi, Phelix Odiwuor aka Jalango, Elisha Odhiambo, Tom Ojienda

From left: ODM MPs Caroli Omondi, Phelix Odiwuor aka Jalango, Elisha Odhiambo, Tom Ojienda and Gideon Ochanda.

Photo credit: Nation Media Group

The political negotiations to settle the 2022 post-election crisis has listed “Fidelity to Political Parties/Coalitions and the law on multiparty democracy: Preventing interference with political parties/coalitions” for discussion following claims Kenya Kwanza was behind the wrangles in Jubilee Party and attempted to kick out former President Uhuru Kenyatta from its leadership.

The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition has also accused Dr Ruto of buying off some of their MPs. The opposition has in the recent past accused speakers Moses Wetang’ula (National Assembly) and Amason Kingi (Senate) of frustrating leadership changes in the Minority side.

In the Senate, the Minority side was taken in cycles in its bid to replace Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo as its whip. She was finally replaced. In the National Assembly, Jubilee’s attempts to replace nominated MP Sabina Chege as Deputy Minority Whip is still pending following a back-and-forth battle in the House and a subsequent court order.

ODM expelled MPs Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Phelix Odiwuor (Lang’ata) and Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda. The party is in the process of striking their names from the membership register.

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi told the Saturday Nation that it was untenable for the expelled members to continue accruing benefits extended to them for being members of ODM.

President William Ruto with a section of ODM leaders at State House on February 7, 2023.

Photo credit: Courtesy

“Once they are expelled by the party, they must be cut off any benefits extended to them by virtue of being members of ODM. They have to leave all party-sponsored positions,” he said. “That process will start as soon as possible because their continued holding of those positions is no longer attainable.”

Minority Whip Junet Mohamed said the Minority House leadership will consult over the matter before effecting possible changes.

The Standing Orders of Parliament require a member to be in at least one House committee. This implies that so long as they continue serving pending appeal processes, ODM will have to place them in at least one committee.

In the last parliament, Speaker Justin Muturi (now Attorney General) ruled: “It is, therefore, clear within the prerogative of the Committee on Selection to nominate members to serve in at least one or more committees.”

ODM has an option of relegating the members to less active committees and having their loyal members take up slots in lucrative committees. Prof Ojienda serves as the vice chairperson of Senate’s County Public Investments and Special Funds.

Raila slams Ruto over ‘three options’ threat

On Friday, Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said any attempts by the Minority to change membership of the committee in bad faith would be frustrated.

He claimed that they have a role to protect the opposition from degenerating into dictatorship.

“You have to bring a motion to the floor to change committee membership. If they do it in bad faith, they would definitely be frustrated. Parliament is an independent institution whose operations should not be interfered with by petty party politics.”

But ODM chairman John Mbadi said the Orange party does not expect any form of frustration in punishing the rebels.

Caroli Omondi: I don't need ODM for re-election

“There should be respect from the other side. ODM has the right to make changes in the committees and we do not expect any frustrations because that would be misbehaviour,” Mr Mbadi said.

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi said the rebel members should be worried about the timing of their expulsion.

He said Dr Ruto has nothing to lose if he decides not to protect them from the purge.

“One of the agenda items in the talks is interference in political parties. If Ruto tries to help them, he would basically be undermining the talks. The timing of their expulsion is critical.”

Recently, Jubilee officials demanded that Ms Chege relinquish her Deputy Minority Whip post as a sign of commitment by Kenya Kwanza in the talks. The officials believe Dr Ruto has a hand in the attempted coup in the former ruling party.

Jubilee had settled on Embakasi West MP Mark Mwenje to replace Ms Chege, but she proceeded to court to block her removal.

- Additional reporting by Joseph Openda