Raila, Orengo feud deepens, plays out in public

Raila's spokesman calls unnamed leaders demagogues, says ex-PM has changed his formerly combative strategy.

In Summary

• Orengo says BBI will entrench inequality and asks whether there is political goodwill to implement the progressive provisions

• He says people are agitated and displeased over the distribution of 70 new constituencies

ODM leader Raila Odinga and Siaya Senator James Orengo.
OLD FRIENDS ODM leader Raila Odinga and Siaya Senator James Orengo.
Image: FILE

The simmering political tension between ODM leader Raila Odinga and Siaya Senator James Orengo has spilt over into the public arena and is threatening to tear apart the Orange Party.

Their falling out has been triggered by the Building Bridges Initiative but it points to long-standing ideological differences, including how the handshake deal between Raila and President Uhuru Kenyatta was executed. Orengo and others in Raila and Uhuru's inner circles were excluded.

During the BBI Bill debate in the Senate on Wednesday, Orengo dissected the Bill to amend the Constitution. He returned a negative verdict on several key sections.

The senior counsel said some proposed amendments will entrench inequality and asked whether there is goodwill to implement the progressive provisions. 

“Section 11(a) talks about the economy and shared prosperity. I hope it’s not just there to please ourselves…I wonder whether we would achieve that. In the last two months, if you look at the appointments that have been made, I don’t know whether we are going in that direction,” he said in a clear dig at the President.

ODM has said it will unconditionally support BBI as the only panacea for the country's ills and challenges.

Section 11(a) talks about the economy and shared prosperity. I hope it’s not just there to please ourselves…
Siaya Senator James Orengo

In the Senate, Orengo said people were agitated in many parts of the country, including in his Nyanza backyard, about the sharing of constituencies through the creation of 70 new ones.

“Kakamega county has one of the biggest populations. Explaining how Kakamega is getting two constituencies is a bit of a problem if you are using a scientific process,” he said.

The position taken by Orengo and a section of his allies, mainly lawyers from Luo Nyanza in the National Assembly, has enraged Raila’s inner circle.

On Thursday, Raila’s spokesman Dennis Onyango went public referring to some unnamed leaders as "demagogues" known only for “discussing politics in flawless English and legal jargon on the floor and public rallies”.

Onyango insists Raila has changed strategy from combative politics, which has never handed him power in previous polls.

“We are taking a new path. The politics of jokanyanam untie? The people of the lakeside, are you there? The politics of excitement for the sake of it must end,” he wrote on his Facebook page, triggering massive interest.

“The demagogues have had their years, indeed decades, discussing politics in flawless English and legal jargon on the floor and public rallies. It is time for a different path.”

Referring to all Kenya’s previous heads of state, including Uhuru, Onyango argued that none of them publicly spoke about their schooling or ideological stand and yet they ascended to the presidency.

“Jomo Kenyatta never spoke flawless English. Nobody knows where he stood ideologically. Nobody knew his high school or university faculty. But he ruled Kenya for 15 years,” he stated.

“Arap Moi did not approach us in flawless English. He never told us what his ideologies were. He never told us what his high school was or which faculty he was in…There is a pattern to all this. Enough with English, faculty and demagoguery."

Onyango appeared to have been responding to Rarienda MP Otiende Amolo, also a senior counsel and Orengo’s ideological soulmate.

 We are back to where we were in 2009 when Raila all of a sudden accepted a pure presidential system against ODM’s known position for a parliamentary system

Otiende, seen to be one of the most eloquent debaters, had taken a dig at ODM chairman John Mbadi, telling him to be quiet since he lacked legal training.

“John Mbadi, you have not stepped into law school, so just allow me,” Otiende said in Parliament, explaining why the proposed 70 constituencies are unconstitutional.

Part of the discontent in ODM is fuelled by Raila’s unflinching commitment to the handshake despite concerns Uhuru is reluctant to support his presidential bid.

Insiders are also grumbling that ODM was sidelined in the distribution of the 70 constituencies created by the BBI Bill.  

They say most benefits, including constituencies, have been taken to the President’s Mt Kenya backyard.

The formula for disbursing county resources was also altered to reflect the “one man one shilling” policy advocated by the Kikuyu political elite.

“Raila is compromising in the hope that he would be backed for the presidency. We are back to where we were in 2009 when Raila all of a sudden accepted a pure presidential system against ODM’s known position for a parliamentary system,” an insider aware of the intrigues told the Star.

But some critics have accused Orengo’s wing of pushing Raila out of the handshake

There is even speculations that Orengo could be planning to make a stab at the presidency in 2022.

The Senate Minority leader contested the presidency in 2002 against the Narc wave, finishing fourth with 0.4 per cent of the vote.

He even lost his Ugenya parliamentary seat.

However, Orengo is believed to have been discontented with the handshake from the word go, a deal Raila secretly executed alongside Suna East MP Junet Mohamed and his lawyer, Paul Mwangi.

There are questions about how ODM has benefited from the deal, if at all.

When Uhuru was visiting Kisumu after the truce following the bloody 2017 polls, Orengo demanded that the President should compensate victims of the violence.

At the time, Mbadi described Orengo's demands as misplaced and uncalled for.

“When the President is coming, you don't have to give conditions to someone who is visiting on serious issues of development. I am not downplaying the significance of 2017 victims of election violence, but I think we have a different forum to address the issue,” he said.

Speaking to the Star yesterday, Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo and his Alego Usonga counterpart Sam Atandi downplayed the differences.

Odhiambo said what is playing out were mere differences of opinion.

“People have different perspectives. People are just reading more [into this] than they should,” he stated.   

"If you ask me, there are those who care less about the constituencies. But there are those who view constituencies as an avenue to get more resources and to accelerate more development in our region. More constituencies mean more resources…We are going to pass BBI, but again, that does not stop us from airing our views.”

Atandi, on the other hand, said ODM’s political enemies had infiltrated the party to portray the outfit to be at war

“Expressing divergent views doesn’t mean that people are fighting. People are at liberty to express their views. I don’t think there is infighting. People are just expressing their views divergently,” he said.

(Edited by V. Graham)