Raila to hold meetings in Nyanza, punish rebels as President Ruto plans visit

Raila Odinga

Azimio leader Raila Odinga at Kamukunji grounds in Nairobi on July 7, 2023.

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

Opposition Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga has launched a three-pronged strategy to stop the poaching of lawmakers from his traditional bastion by President William Ruto.

Mr Odinga has lined up rallies designed to set up rebel MPs against their constituents while countering President Ruto’s aggressive inroads, especially in Nyanza.

The President is expected in Suba South and Karachuonyo constituencies, both in Homa Bay County, on July 23.

Dr Ruto will then be in Gem and Bondo constituencies, Siaya County, the following day, where he will be hosted by some of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) MPs who have pledged to work with the Kenya Kwanza administration.

In an interview with the Sunday Nation, the ODM rebels remained adamant, talking of “liberating our region and pushing for development projects”.

Disciplinary committee

In the National Assembly, Mr Odinga has instructed Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi and Minority Whip Junet Mohamed to gauge the performance of ODM members in committees with a view of reshuffling them for effective oversight of the Executive.

The reshuffling is designed to ensure the minority Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition in the National Assembly and Senate present a united front on the floor and departmental committee sittings.

The charges also seek to clip the wings of the renegades.

“We are reviewing the performance of our members in committees. The exercise will inform reshuffling to strengthen our teams for effective delivery of our mandate in the Parliament,” Mr Wandayi said.

“Members who are busy elsewhere should not be overburdened with sitting in many committees.”

Mr Mohamed said he and his team are engaging their members in changing their approach in dealing with parliamentary business.

“We will make sure our numbers are up to date on every issue and vote. We are coming up with a new strategy to make our numbers in the House more effective,” he said.

Last week, the ODM Central Management Committee ratified a decision to expel at least seven members. The meeting was chaired by  Mr Odinga.

The issue has since been referred to the ODM Disciplinary Committee for processing.

Rebels targeted in this latest strategy by Mr Odinga are MPs Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem) Mark Nyamita (Uriri), Paul Abuor (Rongo), Phelix Odiwuor alias Jalang’o (Lang’ata) and Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda.

The party has scheduled at least four consultative meetings in the coming weeks.

The opposition outfit also plans to extend the activities to other parts of the country as it seeks to solidify its support base.

According to a tentative itinerary, ODM plans grassroots activities on Saturday next week.

Party top brass will have a meeting with Kisumu East constituency ward officials.

This will be followed by a rally at the Nyamasaria-Mowlem bus and matatu terminal.

The team will have another meeting with officials in Suna West before addressing a rally at Masara Primary School on August 5.

The ODM big guns will proceed to yet another rally in Rangwe constituency the following day.

On August 12, the party bigwigs will be in Nyando for a meeting with delegates before a rally in Othoo. It is not clear if Mr Odinga will attend the rallies.

The opposition party has held meetings in Ugunja. The meetings were attended by Mr Odinga. Other constituencies visited are Nyatike, Awendo, Gem and Kasipul.

Mr Wandayi said the grassroots mobilisation rolled out by the party would cover the entire country.

“We aim to energise our traditional bases and venture into new frontiers. The ultimate objective is to recreate ODM as a formidable movement in preparation for the inevitable future political duels that we shall be engaged in with our allies,” the Ugunja MP said.

“We believe that a political coalition is as strong as its constituent parties. A strong ODM is, therefore, good for Azimio la Umoja One Kenya or any future umbrella formation.”

The rebels, however, appear recalcitrant even in the face of the spirited onslaught by Mr Odinga and his allies.

President Ruto met them at State House, Nairobi, on Tuesday to plan his Nyanza visit.

There was a follow-up meeting with Roads and Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen on Friday.

The lawmakers and the minister discussed some of the projects President Ruto is expected to launch.

“In preparation for the President’s trip to Nyanza, I met MPs and Members of County Assemblies from the region. Our discussions focused on the President’s commitment to expand road infrastructure as part of this administration’s efforts to improve trade, investment and tourism, and create employment for the residents of the region,” Mr Murkomen  later said.

Former Nairobi governor Evans Kidero – who was among the now unconstitutional Chief Administrative Secretaries (CAS) – said Nyanza is “slowly getting liberated from political capture”.

Mr Kidero, who unsuccessfully contested the Homa Bay governor seat, added that the President’s visits “will be purely for the purpose of development”.  He accused Mr Odinga of failing to push for development during his rapprochement with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

President’s goodwill

“We expect the President in Suba South to commission the construction of the Mbita–Sindo–Magunga–Sori road on July 23. The road will open up the region for more development. Tourism and fishing will benefit from this project greatly,” he told the Sunday Nation.

“We support the President for the sake of the development. These are some of the things Raila should have pushed for after his handshake with President Kenyatta on March 9, 2018. For the first time, our people are moving away from the politics of cultism. Our people have started to see that they are being liberated.”

Mr Odhiambo said Gem residents would understand why he has opted to work with Kenya Kwanza administration when President Ruto tours the constituency.

He said the President would launch several development projects in the area.

 “The goodwill of the President is key in influencing development projects. That is why our region realised some projects when our party leader chose to work with President Uhuru Kenyatta,” he said.

“How can recognising our President be betrayal? What is important is to bring development to the people. The President will soon be in my constituency. After looking at the orientation of the country, I have chosen to take a path of reconciliation. I will not, therefore, be taking part in anti-government protests.”

The Gem MP added that his decision should not be construed to mean he has betrayed Mr Odinga, insisting that he remains a member of the ODM.