As the bitter rivalry between South Nyanza and the Odinga family-dominated north and central persists, indications are that there will be casualties among both allies and rivals of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Raila’s confidantes and supporters agree that it is too early in Nyanza’s succession politics to make a definitive statement on the region’s political future as there are indications that Jubilee, thirsting for a foothold in the three major regions that did not support it in the March 4, 2013 election, is quietly reaching out to ODM’s support base in former Nyanza, Western and Coast provinces. Such is the picture that emerges from conversations with ODM insiders.
Homa Bay Senator Otieno Kajwang who was last weekend ousted from ODM branch chairmanship, says the presidential poll debacle and February 28 aborted party polls have somewhat hurt ODM, but adds that Jubilee’s failure to deliver on its promises is a blessing in disguise.
The presidential poll and party polls would have been important points of dispersion in the party, but it turns out to be a rallying point given that the other parties, except Ford Kenya, have not subjected themselves to a similar exercise, according to Kajwang.
The Jubilee coalition, made up of The National Alliance (TNA) party and the United Republican Party (URP) have no elected officials.
ODM’s aborted polls have provided a suitable platform for Odinga’s critics in the three strongholds to charge at him, which they are doing with relish. Billed as ‘kalausi’ (whirlwind or tornado) the face of anti-Odinga in Nyanza comes mainly from South Nyanza, where Kajwang was last weekend ousted as ODM party branch chairman by allies of Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero.
After Raila’s father Oginga Odinga’s death in 1994, there was a brief interlude of political realignment before the former Prime Minister took over the mantle. His temerity shook off challenges from his father’s close allies such as Siaya Senator James Orengo and his Kisumu counterpart Anyang Nyong’o.
Ever since, there has rarely been a threat to Raila’s hegemonic dominance of Nyanza politics. But now he faces resistance from the likes of Dr Kidero and Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno, whose forays in South Nyanza have rekindled rivalries between the two regions in which the protagonists were Jaramogi and Tom Mboya.
Asked about a new party he plans to launch to take care of interests of South Nyanza, former Public Service Minister Dalmas told The Standard on Saturday he is determined and prepared for the tussle ahead.
“We sent five names to the Registrar of Political Parties for consideration. We have applied for temporary registration after which we will embark on countrywide membership recruitment. The way we do politics is going to change the political equation. The party will have a national outlook,” Otieno said after declining a question-and-answer request. He would not comment on the perceived betrayal of South Nyanza by the Odingas.
South Nyanza’s rebellion against the rest of the region is taking the shape of the post-independence rivalry between Odinga and Mboya, Kenya’s first Minister for Economic Planning. Mboya, before his assassination in 1969, had managed to limit the Odingas’ clout to Central and North Nyanza. But his death rallied the region behind Odinga, who fought for independence alongside Kenyatta, whose regime was seen to have been behind the assassination.
After Raila failed to capture the presidency in 2013, leaders in South Nyanza began piling pressure on him to quit politics and groom a successor. Focus then was on Dr Kidero, Dalmas and Orengo as possible options.
Against this backdrop, Larry Gumbe, a former chairman of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy, observes the rush for regional parties is stage-managed to weaken ODM and wipe strongholds as Jubilee seeks to entrench itself in opposition strongholds.
It is at the same event that a decision was made by Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and Senator Hassan Omar Hassan, and Kwale MP Dan Mwazo to start shopping for a party for the Coast region.
A polical scientist, Edward Kisiang’ani, says regionalising of politics is expected in turn to precipitate sub-ethnic nationalism, which is a recipe for civil strife.
“Ethnic nationalism is hitting new heights. What we are seeing is an expression of previously peripheral voices that had been suppressed by the previous constitution,” he says.