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August 21, 2018

Raila calls urgent meeting over ODM's future plans

James Mwangi, who is Equity Bank CEO and Kenya Vision 2030 board chairman, briefs opposition leader Raila Odinga about the 10th anniversary commemoration at Capitol Hill in Nairobi, June 12, 2018. /EVANS OUMA
James Mwangi, who is Equity Bank CEO and Kenya Vision 2030 board chairman, briefs opposition leader Raila Odinga about the 10th anniversary commemoration at Capitol Hill in Nairobi, June 12, 2018. /EVANS OUMA

ODM leader Raila Odinga has called a joint ODM National Executive Committee and Parliamentary group meeting to discuss the future of the party.

There is confusion in the party about its cohesion, about 'the handshake', about Raila's plans for 2022 and what to do about Deputy President William Ruto's inroads in opposition turf. These issues will be aired in the meeting on Tuesday.

Read: Ruto plots raids on Raila strongholds

Also read: Expert comment: Raila’s 2022 run would ruin the handshake

The meeting will receive an update on the March 9 handshake between Raila and President Uhuru Kenyatta.

"For those who misunderstand the handshake, the ODM leadership has programmes in place that will see the party go to the election stronger than ever before," ODM Treasurer Timothy Bosire told the Star.

"We also expect the party leader to tell us f he will vie for President or not so that we can decide what to do in view of the onslaught from other parties," a NEC member said.

The meeting, to be attended by all governors, will also discuss what disciplinary action to take against MPs who have defied party secretary general Edwin Sifuna and declared support for DP Ruto.

ODM lawmakers, mainly from the Coast region, have announced they will campaign in 2022. Sifuna has warned that the party will punish them.

The handshake — and lack of details — has caused confusion not just in ODM but also across the political divide.

NASA leaders Musalia Mudavadi of ANC, Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper and Moses Wetang'ula of Ford Kenya have isolated ODM in their activities. Wiper and Ford Kenya have said they would merge.

However Raila, NASA's presidential candidate, has insisted he has not left the opposition outfit.

ODM is the larges opposition party in Parliament but some MP are shifting their support to Ruto, while others like James Orengo have simply gone quiet.

"We do not know if Raila will contest the presidency and if ODM will be a serious party in 2022. For me and some of my colleagues, we have decided to back Ruto," said Msambweni MP Suleiman Dori. He has resigned as a member of the NEC.

Read: Nasa, ODM divided over Raila 2022 bid

Also read: Uhuru hands Raila allies jobs, targets graft ridden agencies

It is understood that Raila's party will get more appointments in government and President Kenyatta is likely to drop some ministers in a few months to make room for Raila's people.

Ruto has fiercely opposed Raila's calls for a referendum to amend the Constitution, expand the Executive and adopt a parliamentary system.

Raila insists that constitutional changes are inevitable if the country is to achieve long-lasting peace, cohesion and end the cycle of violence every five years.

"Next week we will tell our members that there is no reason to panic. If anything, there are good things coming our way," Sifuna told the Star yesterday.

The NEC meeting is likely to resolve that MPs who have shifted alliances be removed from committees and their places taken by party loyalists, sources have told the Star. 

There are also reports that ODM lawmakers are not pulling together in the Senate and National Assembly.

ODM chairman John Mbadi has issued a warning to its MPs who are in watchdog committees that they will be removed if they do not aggressively play their roles as the opposition,

"Some of our members are not taking their work seriously. We are telling them that we are watching and those who will not live up to the expectations will be removed from committees," Mbadi said yesterday.

ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya has played down reports that the party was fast losing support across the country.

"The general election is more than four years from now. Anyone thinking that ODM is finished is day dreaming. We are a very strong and popular party," he said.

"Those MPs announcing their support for other people just don't know what they are doing," said Oparanya who has announced his intention to run for President on the ODM ticket.

Yesterday the Star learnt that Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, another ODM's deputy party leader, is expected back today from Mecca.

He is expected to immediately embark on activities to reassure his supporters that ODM is still the party of choice in the region.

Although Joho will host Uhuru and even attend his functions on Thursday and Friday, Joho, according to his handlers, will hold a series of meetings with supporters to reassure them that he still wants to run for President in 2022.

"Forget those who have switched camps. They will suffer the same fate as those who have previously taken that path, like Gideon Mung'aro," said Kisauni MP and Joho supporter Mishi Mboko. 

After shaking hands and signing a cooperation agreement with Uhuru, Raila has kept his allies guessing about his strategy.

More on this: Uhuru tells world why he decided to work with Raila

Related: How Uhuru broke ice between Raila, Ruto

ODM Treasurer Bosire told the Star, the party’s general election game plan is on course.

“I don’t think there it is anything to worry anyone, what we are seeing [shifting alignments] will fizzle out. Usually before campaigns for the next election start, there is such behaviour by MPs who want handouts in order to be compromised,” Bosire said.

The Star established that lack of details regarding the Uhuru-Raila deal is what has caused great anxiety among some ODM members.

Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o, Suna East MP Junet Mohamed and Raila’s longtime lawyer Paul Mwangi are said to be the only allies in the know about Raila's long-term plans.

The majority of the MPs, governors and other party officials are groping around in the dark about ODM's future and Raila's game plan.

Also see: Ruto preaches peace, asks Kenyans to take after Uhuru and Raila

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