Internal rebellion threatens Raila’s 2017 election plan


Instead of consolidating support as a rallying figure, opposition chief Raila Odinga has become a fireman.

Thirteen months to the election, Raila is forced to put out fires of rebellion in his Western, Kisii and Coast strongholds — before they turn into bush fires.

Fresh rebellions in his once-presumed domains are complicating his strategy to consolidate and expand his base for his 2017 presidential bid.

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In two months, Raila has been on whirlwind tours of the three regions — with a big one to come in Western — fighting off a sustained,well-funded charm offensive by Jubilee and rebellion by some leaders.

The former Prime Minister has hammered away at Jubilee, accusing the ruling alliance of luring opposition MPs with money to decamp and weaken him.

Though the opposition has put on a brave face in confronting the mutiny, there’s tension within ODM over the exit of former allies, once diehard loyalists.

Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba has angrily resigned as ODM secretary general, Funyula MP Paul Otuoma as vice chairman and secretary of security and Sirisia MP John Walukhe has also exited his national and county posts in the party. They cite frustration and mistreatment, though they remain members for now.

But Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo, the National Assembly deputy minority leader, says the party is not worried by their departure “driven largely by their stomachs, rather than ideologies”.

“Namwamba is just a second-term MP and has allowed dark forces to control his conscience, thinking he can match ODM leader Raila Odinga,” Midiwo said.

“Raila has weathered many political storms. The issue of Ababu can only be compared to a storm in a teacup. ODM will not lose its stature in the region,” Midiwo said of Western.

This morning Raila will chair a meeting of ODM’s Central Management Committee at Orange House against the backdrop of open revolt by those who accuse him of betrayal and dictatorship.

The committee will receive official resignation letters from Namwamba, Otuoma and Walukhe.

Party chairman John Mbadi said the resignations would be on the agenda.

“They have complicated issues now because they had asked for two weeks to meet the party leader, but with the latest developments we’ll deal with them as emerging issues,” Mbadi told the Star yesterday.

The meeting will adopt internal election nomination rules and reconstitute the party’s National Elections Board

Two weeks ago, the party’s key decision-making organ gave Namwamba, Otuoma and MPs from Western two weeks to decide whether to ditch the party or discuss their issues.

Rebel MPs accuse Raila and top officials of treating them as second-rate members. They demanded they be consulted about party activities in their backyards.

A senior CMC member told the Star today’s meeting

will consider the impact of rebellion from Western “without necessarily looking at who will fillpositions of secretary-general and vice chairman”.

Nominated Senators Agnes Zani and Elizabeth Ongoro were Namwamba’s deputies in a leadership deal struck by Raila following months of squabbles after botched internal elections on February 26, 2014.Popular firebrand Namwamba had been poised for exalted heights.

But goons dressed in black, ‘Men in Black’, overturned tables, smashed ballot boxes and destroyed election materials at Kasarani stadium.

There are four ODM vice chairpersons, including Otuoma and Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok.

The leadership deal was reached after rivalry pitting a team headed by Namwamba and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho against a faction headed by Zani, considered Raila’s favourite for secretary general.

The Star has established that factions have again emerged in replacing Namwamba and Otuoma. A group close to Raila says Zani should take over in an acting capacity from the Budalang’i MP.

A group of liberals wants the positions left vacant. They argue any attempts to fill them would be divisive and open wounds that won’t heal before the election.

“The situation is a delicate scenario and any attempt to replace the officials may open a Pandora’s Box exposing the party to internal and external attacks to benefit our rivals,” one member said, on condition of anonymity.

Another problem is city lawyer Edwin Sifuna who has declared himself the substantive ODM secretary general and has installed himself at party headquarters.

Trouble also brews in Kisii county where leaders headed by Senator Chris Obure, a Raila confidant, say they want to form a new party to protect community interests.

MPs Richard Onyonka (Kitutu Chache South), Simeon Ogari (Bomachoge Chache) and Kisii deputy governor Joash Maangi, all of ODM, say they are shopping for a party to champion the community’s agenda, further loosening Raila’s grip on South Nyanza.

“I can confirm those decamping have their own reasons but Raila Odinga is still popular in Gusii and those doubting should wait for 2017,” said ODM national Treasurer and Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire.

An Ipsos poll last month showed Raila’s approval ratings are falling dramatically, especially in trongholds where many respondents support President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Uhuru’s nationwide approval rose from 47 per cent in November last year to a record 68 per cent over the last three months. His approvals in Cord strongholds of Coast and Western rose to 66 and 52 per cent, respectively.

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