Azimio leader Raila Odinga

Azimio leader Raila Odinga.

| File | Nation Media Group

Which way Raila? Inside failed plans to clip President Ruto’s wings

Azimio leader Raila Odinga is jetting back into the country today for a mega rally to give his supporters a way forward after his futile attempt to stop the Finance Bill, amid questions over his "futile" strategies to tame President William Ruto and his administration.

Mr Odinga's spokesman Dennis Onyango yesterday confirmed that Mr Odinga will return to the country today and proceed to the planned opposition rally at the historic Kamukunji grounds in Nairobi, where he will address his supporters and announce his next course of action.

"He will hold a brief meeting with other coalition leaders at the airport before proceeding to Kamukunji grounds where he will make a major statement on the Finance Bill, 2023, which is now a Finance Act, and give Kenyans a way forward," he said. 

Photo credit: Nation Media Group

Azimio deputy chief Martha Karua had last week announced that they would “go back to the people” today to make a major announcement on how to tackle the "excesses" of the Kenya Kwanza administration.

But even as mass action is expected to be one of Mr Odinga's plans to push back against the government, questions have arisen about his strategies, which, political analysts say, have not had much impact on the Ruto administration.

Boycotting products

Some of Mr Odinga's strategies adopted after his unsuccessful bid for election last year include boycotting products from companies he says have become "enablers and facilitators" of President Ruto's regime, launching the Movement for the Defence of Democracy (MDD) to galvanise opposition to the government, a futile march to State House and street protests.

Others are a petition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) against alleged police brutality during demonstrations, threats of secession, use of last year's election results by whistleblowers to challenge President Ruto's victory, expulsion of party rebels to force by-elections and get loyal members elected, a declaration not to recognise Dr Ruto as legitimately elected and a bid to get the bipartisan commission to sanction an audit of last year's election servers.

Political analyst Dismas Mokua argues that there is no evidence that Mr Odinga's product boycott has been successful since he urged Kenyans to embrace it in March.

"Raila's strategies are only anchored in hope marinated in propaganda. Scholars and practitioners say strategies and long-term plans need to be revised and adapted to new realities, while his strategies have been disrupted by Kenya Kwanza messaging and campaign infrastructure," says Mr Mokua.

He argues that those who took Mr Odinga's advice to boycott products abandoned the call midway, making the impact on the targeted products marginal, if any.

"Some of the targeted companies continue to post impressive results. Mr Odinga's product boycott has only served to appease a section of his support base and threaten the reputation of the companies."

"The targeted companies have deployed reputation management infrastructure to manage Mr Odinga's product boycott calls that generate negative media," he says.

Yesterday, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) national chairman John Mbadi dismissed claims that the Azimio product boycott was underway, pointing out that the coalition stopped some of its plans when it agreed to engage Kenya Kwanza through the bipartisan talks in April.

"When the demonstrations were stopped and we went for the bi-partisan talks, that was stopped. So there was no boycott, otherwise we would be communicating. Everything was put on hold," Mbadi told Nation.

He added: "If there is any boycott or new strategies, the party leader and the Azimio leadership will communicate tomorrow (today) on how to move forward".

Mr Odinga's launch of the MDD  to put pressure on President Ruto's government also appears to have fizzled out. The team was made up of young politicians and university students who would dress up in brown fatigues and red berets at Azimio rallies.

March to State House

"MDD was an immediate reaction to Mr Odinga's failure to win the presidential election. It was nothing more than a pain management strategy. It was not driven by any ideology or philosophy and was only useful in managing the expectations of Mr Odinga's supporters and stakeholders," argues Mr Mokua.

Another strategy that has fallen flat is his call for a mass march to State House and occupation of public offices to put pressure on the government and reclaim what he calls his "stolen victory".

But Kenya Kwanza has insisted that President Ruto beat Mr Odinga fair and square, pointing out that the victory was even upheld by the Supreme Court.

They have also dismissed the ODM leader's whistleblower results, which he claims gave him victory after he polled 8,170,355 votes (57.53 per cent) against President Ruto's 5,915,973 votes (41.66 per cent).

The former Prime Minister's push for an audit of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) servers used in last year's presidential election also appears to be a non-starter after Kenya Kwanza declined to discuss it during the inter-party talks.

Public portal

President Ruto argues that Kenya set a new standard in election management last year by providing a “secure, freely accessible public portal that accurately and faithfully transmitted the vote tallies, allowing Kenyans to compare and verify the tallies and ascertain the results”.

Mr Odinga's supporters are also yet to receive an update on his secession threats and petition to the ICC against police officers he accused of brutalising his supporters during anti-government protests in March.

The opposition had asked the ICC to investigate the allegations after three of its supporters were shot dead and Mr Odinga's motorcade was attacked by police.

On secession, Mr Odinga argues that Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua's assertions likening Kenya to a limited liability company with shareholders discriminated against those who did not vote for Kenya Kwanza.

Political pundits argue that President Ruto has developed a solid strategy backed by grassroots infrastructure to guarantee victory.

"Mr Odinga did not bother to deploy an agile last mile strategy. He relied only on former President Kenyatta and hope. President Kenyatta did not deliver and hope melted like cold cheese on a hot knife," adds Mr Mokua.

He argues that Mr Odinga's political trajectory is rooted in his ability to inflict pain and deliver joy.

"That is why he is called an enigma. The majority of Kenyans don't understand Mr Odinga and can't predict his moves."

"However, this ability has been significantly reduced."

Mr Odinga is also hoping to use the stalled inter-party talks to push out his party's rebel MPs and force a by-election, an idea that is also likely to hit a snag.