Raila Odinga

Azimio leader Raila Odinga. Ms Karua and Mr Wamalwa have gone against their boss, Mr Odinga, and opposed the Bomas report and call for a referendum.

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Raila Odinga under pressure to seal cracks in Azimio

What you need to know:

  • Raila says the Bomas report ‘a good beginning’, but his allies think otherwise.
  • Karua and Wamalwa have gone against their boss and opposed the document and call for a referendum.

Cracks in Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja One Kenya camp continued to widen after one of the coalition’s principal, Eugene Wamalwa, opposed referendum calls by the ODM leader unless the cost of living issue is addressed.

Mr Odinga has maintained that even though the National Dialogue Committee (NADCO) report was not conclusive, it was a good beginning and must be implemented through a referendum.

“To create the office of the leader of opposition or to formalise the office of the prime cabinet secretary, the people of Kenya have to have their say by way of a referendum,” he said.

He went on: “Besides it is a constitutional requirement that such significant restructuring of government must go through a referendum to avoid the mischief that may be played by some people going to court. It is also our stand that this country cannot continue moving forward by being undecided. We have to agree whether we want a parliamentary, presidential or hybrid system.”

But in a bold move that is likely to unsettle the coalition, Mr Wamalwa told the Nation that it is “insensitive” to take Kenyans to a referendum that would not address their urgent need which is the high cost of living.

After abstaining from endorsing the report and declaring it an insult to the people of Kenya, Mr Wamalwa now appears to be ready to face off with his coalition’s leadership, speaking the same voice with Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua who, by virtue of being Mr Odinga’s running mate in last year’s polls, is the Azimio second in command.

“Without cost of living we will not support that referendum and that’s why I have not signed the report. Even Kenyans will not support such a referendum. You can take that to the bank,” Mr Wamalwa declared.

He said that Kenyans were hurting and “you can’t ask them to go for a referendum yet they don’t have food and school fees. It’s not just insensitive but an insult to the people of Kenyan.”

Mr Wamalwa has teamed up with Ms Karua, who brazenly described the NADCO report that was spearheaded by her coalition counterpart Kalonzo Musyoka and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah as “a fraud which Kenyans should frown upon and reject”.

In a terse statement on Thursday last week, Ms Karua sharply differed with Mr Odinga on the NADCO report and called for its rejection in toto.

“…the NADCO report has nothing to alleviate the suffering of citizens but offers goodies to the leaders. It is a fraud which Kenyans should frown upon and reject. It’s a distracting national smokescreen,” she said.

She went even further to cast aspersions on the committee which was co-chaired by Wiper leader Mr Musyoka and Mr Ichung’wah.

“Unfortunately, the findings of the report confirm that the committee was formed by the unwilling, composed of the incompetent to do the unnecessary,” she charged.

Mr Wamalwa and Ms Karua are said to have the full backing of retired president Uhuru Kenyatta, who is also the Azimio council chairman.

Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni also reiterated their reservations against the NADCO report.

National Dialogue Committee co-chairpersons Kalonzo Musyoka and Kimani Ichung'wah

National Dialogue Committee co-chairpersons Kalonzo Musyoka and Kimani Ichung'wah flanked by committee members present their final report at the Hilton Garden Inn on  November 25, 2023.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

“We had no faith in that process. Whatever we were given is a document that is not conceivable,” Mr Kioni said.

He pointed out that as the spokesperson of Jubilee party, they do not subscribe to the report since it failed to address pertinent issues of cost of living, electoral justice and fidelity to multiparty democracy.

Mr Wamalwa and Mr Kioni, however, downplayed allegations of division in the coalition, insisting that they were speaking the same language.

“Martha is expressing what we have all said, but maybe in stronger terms by being unequivocal than some of us. That does not mean we are divided.”

“Azimio is a democratic movement that allows divergent views however strong they may be and people should not read too much into that or worry why I did not sign the report,” Mr Wamalwa told the Nation.

Mr Kioni said Azimio remains united, saying that Kenyans will continue seeing its leadership together in public functions.

“We will continue to consult with Kenyans in public barazas and you will see us speak in one language,” Mr Kioni said, even as he defended Mr Kenyatta over allegations of rocking the Azimio boat.

He said: “I speak as the Secretary General of the party after consultations with the entire leadership, so you cannot pinpoint one leader and lay accusations against him.”

In an earlier interview, the Nation had established former president Kenyatta’s shadow was looming large in the brazen position taken by the coalition’s leading lights, with highly placed sources in the coalition revealing disapproval of the talks by Mr Kenyatta over the cost of living matter.

“Uhuru made frantic efforts to scuttle the talks. Twice in about two months recently, Uhuru convened Azimio leaders to discuss the bilateral talks. Both meetings have been held at Raila’s home in Karen at Uhuru’s request,” a highly placed source told the Nation.

He revealed that Mr Kenyatta convened the Azimio leadership to be briefed on the progress of talks a month before it was finalised.

“At the meeting he expressed strong disapproval of the talks, preferring that Ruto (President William Ruto) be put under intense pressure. But it was not clear what he wanted the pressure to achieve,” the source added.

Saboti MP Caleb Amisi, however, pointed out that it was too early to conclude on the Azimio fallout. “Azimio is the most democratic open political movement. Members disagree on principles, but finally get a compromise. Raila is an astute statesman of international repute with enormous capacity on how to bring every dissenter on board,” said Mr Amisi.

He went on: “Azimio is beyond individual leaders. It is now a Kenyan project. You leave Azimio, you leave alone, maybe with your little cabal of family, and other members will immediately somersault to your position. Azimio has been taken over by Kenyans.”

Uriri MP Mark Nyamita and his Gem counterpart Elisha Odhiambo accused Azimio leaders seeking for a return to the streets of being insincere.

“That report (NADCO) needs to be brought to the floor of the House soonest so that we dispense of it. The creation of IEBC is of priority so that reforms, if any are done in good time. Martha Karua who couldn’t even command a polling station cannot honestly dream of leading street protests. We also do hope that Eugene will decline the allowances as well,” Mr Nyamita said.

Mr Odhiambo pointed out that street protests will achieve nothing, but only hurt ordinary Kenyans.

“Kenyans are tired of political theatrics. Azimio seems to have reached a dead end because of selfishness and political aggrandisement. The only window available is to let the country be,” the Gem MP said.

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi said that the dialogue had now moved from Bomas to the people of Kenya who will make a sound decision on the report.

Azimio at NDC Bomas

Former Laikipia governor Ndiritu Muriithi (right) presents a memorandum by the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party before the National Dialogue Committee at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on Tuesday, October 3. 

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

“Hon Karua and Hon Wamalwa have a right to have a dissenting view from majority of Azimio leaders who support the NADCO report and official communication made.”

“If you keenly listen to the two leaders, they are saying the same thing as the majority because Azimio position is that the report is imperfect and work in progress, but for strategic reasons we will support and demand that Kenyans should have their input in it. I think our two good leaders have not understood the strategic bit and I hope they will with time,” Mr Osotsi said.

Multimedia University don Prof Gitile Naituli, however, defended Ms Karua’s position on the report, saying it does not suggest division in the coalition.

“Central Kenya has got special challenges which are not necessarily affecting other counties and the idea for Kamwene is not to oppose Azimio, but to address those unique challenges facing us in the Mountain region within the context of a strong and energised Azimio,” Prof Naituli argues.

He went on: “Martha’s position does not mean Azimio is breaking up or not cohesive.”

Economic stability

Political analyst Dismas Mokua said the NADCO report forms a strong basis for “an all-inclusive citizens, partners and stakeholders’ conversations on how to secure Kenya’s political economic stability.”

“Political leaders should engage in ideas cross-pollination with the sole intention of making Kenya the winner in the conversation,” he said.

He went on: “Both Wamalwa and Karua are playing populist politics and attempting to manipulate Kenyans. Wamalwa and Karua will not succeed in their attempt to rally Kenyans against the report because they don’t have political capital for such an adventure. The duo want to use opposition to the NADCO proposals as a stepping stone for 2027 presidential elections. They want to position themselves as presidential candidates. Their opposition is fixed at 2027.”

President Ruto, Mr Mokua noted, has indicated his willingness to support NADCO recommendations in toto while Mr Odinga said he supports NADCO report in principle, but registered offence that NADCO did not address the high cost of living.

“Kenya Kwanza administration has already set infrastructure in motion to address the cost of living and has demonstrated capacity and competence in addressing key cost of living issues like food inflation. Kenya Kwanza has been correcting policy mistakes made by President Kenyatta to place Kenya in the recovery path. President Ruto says Kenyans will soon enjoy dividends of his administration’s interventions,” he added.

He said that Azimio is former President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, adding that the exit of Mr Wamalwa and Ms Karua will have no material effect on the coalition.

“Azimio will probably pop champagne bottles if the duo exit. There was no Martha effect in 2022. There will be no Martha effect if Karua quits Azimio. Both Wamalwa and Karua need Mr Odinga more than he needs the duo.”