Kenya: Raila Odinga Under Siege Amid Sustained Criticism

ODM leader Raila Odinga is a man under siege, as all major leaders have trained their political guns on the ‘enigma’ of the Kenyan politics.

The former prime minister is under a barrage of attacks from his former allies in the National Super Alliance (Nasa); Deputy President William Ruto is using relatives to snatch Mr Odinga’s base; while key lieutenants in his Orange party are taking him head-on.

This is after the Orange party leader gave the strongest indication yet that he may take yet another stab at the presidency next year after ruling out endorsement of any of his former Nasa co-principals.

Facing political heat from across the divide, Mr Odinga yesterday met his trusted lieutenants– including those allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta– who want him to succeed the Head of State in 2022.

He was hosted at the home of Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli in Kajiado in a high-profile meeting attended by Senate Minority Leader James Orengo, Jubilee Party vice chairman David Murathe and 2013 presidential hopeful Peter Kenneth.

Others were National Assembly Majority whip Emmanuel Wangwe and his minority counterpart Junet Mohamed, as well as Mr Wangwe’s deputy, Maoka Maore.

Confident that the 24-county constitutional threshold for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) to proceed to the next stage will be achieved today, allies said Mr Odinga is already planning the next phase, chief among them countrywide tours to sell the referendum message.

“From March 1, we are rolling out countrywide tours to take BBI to the people. With all the signs that the assemblies will pass the document, we will be rolling out grand plans to tell to the people what is in the document and counter any propaganda out there,” Mr Mohamed, who is also the BBI secretariat co-chairman, told the Nation.

But even as Mr Odinga planned a post-BBI process in the Kajiado lunch meeting, he was for the second day facing what is increasingly looking like a well-coordinated barrage of attacks.

‘Political deceit’

The ODM leader is facing criticism from his former Nasa) allies– Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (Amani National Congress) and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford-Kenya)– who have accused him of political deceit while Dr Ruto has also stepped up quest for Mr Odinga’s political bastions of Coast, Western and Nyanza.

Just a day after Mr Musyoka and Mr Mudavadi accused Mr Odinga of lying about the events of the January 30, 2018 mock swearing-in as the people’s president, an event skipped by the three Nasa chiefs, the Wiper leader was yesterday still on Mr Odinga’s case, accusing him of being incapable of keeping a promise.

Mr Odinga has announced that he will not endorse any of the Nasa Three for the top seat in 2022, citing the mock swearing-in.

“Sadly for Raila, every political coalition he has crafted has been collapsing immediately after each election cycle, with fingers pointing at Hon Odinga as the offender. . . Right now, there is no guarantee that Hon. Odinga will not abandon President Uhuru and join the President’s rival before 2022, if he realizes that his selfish desires are not being met,” read a statement by Mr Musyoka’s communication team yesterday.

In the statement, Mr Musyoka’s team said Mr Odinga’s “national popularity has mainly been emanating from the goodwill and support of the regional kingpins who have been coalescing around him, believing he can be trusted.

“Unbeknown to Hon. Odinga and his cohorts, however, is the fact that time has run out for the ODM leader. Having expended his last bullet in 2017, the ageing politician faces a political waterloo of monstrous proportions; whereupon, firing of blanks will not help to boost his dwindling political fortunes,” the team said.

ODM chairman John Mbadi, however, termed Mr Musyoka, Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula as “cowards” who made excuses after skipping Mr Odinga’s swearing-in.

“The three are free to continue clinging to Nasa. That too is consistent with their nature. They are never able to read the signs of the times and move,” said Mr Mbadi.

Basking in the glory of winning President Kenyatta’s Mt Kenya backyard through many political allies on his side, Dr Ruto has stepped up vote hunt in regions where Mr Odinga commanded massive votes in the 2017 presidential election.

The DP has also launched a charm offensive in Mr Odinga’s Nyanza backyard using his family where his brother – Mr David Ruto and wife Carol Kitur– pitched camp for three consecutive days in a door-to-door campaigns from Friday to Sunday.

Dr Ruto’s brother on Saturday launched ‘Hustlers Movement’ in Kisumu, a campaign mantra for Dr Ruto, conducted a fundraiser for Nyamasaria bodaboda youth and toured Usenge in Bondo Constituency, Siaya County where he distributed foodstuff and books to pupils.

On Sunday, he returned to Kisumu and visited Maisha orphanage in Chiga, Kisumu East, where he also distributed books.

“We are speaking the hustlers’ language and it entails involvement of all Kenyans regardless of their tribes and regions. That is why we are in Kisumu today and will continue crisscrossing the Country to uplift the living standards of our people,” Mr Ruto, the DP’s brother, said.

Ruto-linked United Democratic Alliance (UDA) national chairman Johnson Muthama said they have put in place elaborate measures to “eat into Mr Odinga’s votes.”

They include fundraisers, donations targeting schools and vulnerable groups, voter recruitment drives, opening UDA offices and reaching out to fringe parties in the targeted regions to rival ODM where UDA cannot directly win.

Mr Odinga is also under siege from within ODM. In addition to losing Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya, who enjoys support from the county, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi is slipping away while Mr Odinga’s deputy, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, wants to challenge him for the party’s ticket.

Mr Kingi has launched plans to register a Coast party, a move that is seen as seeking to further clip Mr Odinga’s influence in the region.

Even though some political pundits see this as a tactic aimed at rallying the region behind Mr Odinga, others see it as a dangerous card that will do more harm than good to the ODM supremo.

“Mr Odinga has been enjoying the influence through the residents, but since the people changed tune, the two governors decided to stand by their side hence leaving Mr Odinga to fight for his survival now,” Coast-based political analyst Prof Hassan Mwakimako said.

He added: “Their push has been gaining momentum despite it being clear that they want to use for their own selfish endeavours. If Mr Odinga doesn’t act early, he may even lose the two who will by 2022 gained the bargaining power that they are currently seeking.”

By Justus Ochieng’, Patrick Lang’at, Mohamed Ahmed, Anthony Kitimo and Onyango K’Onyango.

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