Raila Odinga headed for clash with President Uhuru and his deputy Ruto
A high-level meeting held by Raila Odinga’s coalition on Thursday last week laid the ground for a confrontation that could fan fierce rivalry between the former Prime Minister and President Uhuru Kenyatta.
At the meeting, an emotional Raila, who has taken up the task of leading the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) from outside National Assembly and Senate, instructed the members in attendance to step forward to protect the Constitution and keep Uhuru’s JubileeCoalition on its toes.
By so doing, the leader of Kenya’s second biggest political coalition set in motion a series of events that would predictably put him in the crosshairs of Uhuru and his allies once again.
Because it will boil down to a battle of numbers, and with Uhuru controlling both Houses, the rivalry between CORD and Jubilee, particularly over devolution, is likely to spill over to the public arena through civil society groups and the courts, which are empowered to interpret the Constitution whenever there is a dispute over some of its provisions.
In what analysts see as a sign of what lies ahead, Raila Odinga and Wiper Democratic Movement leader Kalonzo Musyoka officially launched their roles as Opposition chiefs with a seven–point memorandum which they want addressed by the Uhuru government.
Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka chaired separate Parliamentary Group meetings for their Orange and Wiper Democratic Movements on the same day.
Both gave similar demands and ultimatums, signaling their plans to tackle Jubilee’s influence in the two Houses.
“We are back to the heady days of the 1990s when the opposition gave the then ruling party Kanu sleepless nights. The die is cast and Raila assured us he will lead the battle from outside Parliament,” said an MP who attended the ODM meeting.
He added on condition of anonymity so as not be seen to be betraying the party leader’s intentions: “We are under firm instruction to keep close watch on the government, both outside and inside the two Houses. The statement you saw is just the beginning of a long journey.”
In their meeting, the ODM MPs and Senators accused the Government of sabotaging devolution and abetting corruption.
Waste of money
They cited the recent controversial continental trips by Deputy President William Ruto on a hired luxury jet, which they termed as waste of taxpayers’ money.
They also attacked the Leader of the Majority in Parliament, Aden Duale of Jubilee, over his recent threats against the media and the decision by Mr Ruto to order the deployment of the army to crime-prone North Eastern Province without clearance by Parliament whilst he is not the Commander-in-Chief.
This was the second time Mr Odinga was meeting the CORD elected leaders after he lost his bid for the presidency in the March 4 elections.
The CORD Parliamentary Group meetings come barely two weeks after Mr Odinga declared he was not ready to take up a job in the Jubileegovernment.
He also rejected attempts to have one of the ODM MPs step down for him so he could return to Parliament by way of a by-election.
It had been reported that Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto wanted to appoint Mr Odinga to a senior diplomatic post.
This was after Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka visited State House and were pictured in a jovial mood with the two Jubilee leaders.
It was also reported that Mr Ruto has constantly been in touch with the ODM leader. Two weeks ago, Mr Odinga broke his silence, saying: “I don’t need a job from the Jubilee government. I have my plate full with major issues. I can serve Kenyans from outside Parliament and the Government.”
Another MP from Nairobi who attended the Thursday meeting said Mr Odinga emotionally told them not to let Kenyans down. “He told us to stand firm and play our role as members of the opposition. He said he would be working closely with us, albeit from outside Parliament,” said the MP.
With the influential Public Accounts Committee in its hands, CORD is spoiling for war in Parliament.
Already, the Public Investments Committee chairman and Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba is gathering evidence on the controversial Ruto trips to several African countries.
In an interview with the The County Weekly, Mr Namwamba reiterated that it would not be business as usual in the two Houses.
He put the Government on notice, saying CORD MPs and Senators will play their watchdog role effectively and efficiently and without fear or favour.
“The honeymoon is over,” he added.
Mr Namwamba, a close Raila ally accused theJubilee government of frustrating the devolution process, saying the creation of the Ministry of Devolution was a ploy to frustrate the process.
“The Orange party is appalled over what is going on. We are seeking immediate answers. We are very concerned over what is happening in this government,’’ he said.
Mr Odinga’s allies wondered why the Government allocated a whopping Sh84 billion to the ministry instead of directing the funds to county treasuries.
The PAC Chairman said the ministry, which is headed by Ann Waiguru was created in bad faith, arguing the decision had cast the President in bad light.
“This government is sending bad signals that do not give confidence as far as the Constitution is concerned. If you ask me, it is the old Local Government ministry in a new name and would not help Kenyans realise the fruits of the Constitution,” said Mr Namwamba.
Mr Namwamba said CORD leaders vowed during the two meetings to protect the Constitution.
“Kenyans have faith in us and we are not going to let them down. From today, it will not be business as usual,” he said.
Nominated ODM legislator Patrick Wangamati said the county was heading towards a crisis if theJubilee Government continued with what he termed as “shameless impunity”.
ODM MPs Silvance Osele of Kabondo Kasipul and Opondo Kaluma of Homa Bay Town revealed it was resolved during the meeting that CORD lawmakers would thwart the passage of any Bills that would hurt the interest of Kenyans, especially on Devolution.
The two leaders said their party’s biggest concern was the government’s alleged scheme to ‘kill’ the county governments.
“We resolved to take the battle to the Government’s doorsteps. We opposed the manner in which the Government intended to release Sh84 billion meant for development in the 47 counties through the Ministry of Devolution,” said Osele.
Kaluma told The County Weekly Jubilee MPs and Senators should prepare for battle with CORD should they interfere with the full implementation of the Constitution.
But two Jubilee MPs from Central Kenya accused ODM party members of being insincere.
Mr Anthony Mutahi (Laikipia East), and Nyeri Women representative Priscila Nyokabi said they were ready to face the CORD team in Parliament.
They defended the Government’s decision to channel funds to counties through the Ministry of Devolution, saying the system of governance was new in Kenya, and that some counties do not have the required financial management experts.
“You are well aware that a lot of activities are going on, including vetting of principal secretaries, among others. Once these activities are over, the government will fully settle on Devolution,” said Mr Mutahi.
But Ms Nyokabi opposed a move to include the youth and women departments in the Devolution ministry, saying it should only handle Devolution.
Mr Duale, who appeared to be the target of CORD team, declined to comment on the issue.
He promised to call back The County Weekly but had not done so by the time we went to press.
–Reports by John Oywa, Francis Ontomwa, James Omoro and Job Weru