Raila’s fresh headache as he readies for BBI report launch

The Building Bridges Initiative report is around the corner, ODM leader Raila Odinga announced on Friday at the Stoni Athi Resort, Machakos County, where he hosted the party’s National Executive Committee.

“The forces that have always opposed change — the voices of impunity that thrive on corruption and outright lies — have already lined up against the report,” he told the leaders. “Those dark forces are already working hard to cause fear and disharmony among our citizens. They are corrupting our people with stolen money and they are beating the drums of war all in a bid to scuttle change. We must stop them from dragging the country into anarchy.”

In the coming months, he said, the country will experience “a confrontation with the beneficiaries of the proceeds of corruption who are arraigned against our agenda for a radical socio-economic transformation, job creation, and equitable distribution of prosperity.”

Yet winning this war seems to be becoming an uphill task every day, as hurdles crop up on the way to “Canaan”.

Heavy burdens

First, his political nemesis Deputy President William Ruto has become emboldened by the disenchantment among Kenyans shouldering heavy burdens of a failing economy, amid allegations of high-level corruption among the elite.

In the past two weeks, Dr Ruto has been marshalling the “Hustler Nation” to come together to chart a political future. And this week, the battle for Msambweni parliamentary by-election rose up the list of the political duels between the duo, with ODM oozing confidence and promising the deputy president a resounding defeat.

Dr Ruto on Thursday met with Feisal Bader Abdallah, an aspirant for the seat in the December 15 by-election, who is an ODM defector. The DP is determined to take part in the mini-poll even after his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, sanctioned the Jubilee party’s decision not to field a candidate to prevent a possible faceoff as witnessed in the Kibra mini poll last year.

The campaigns will be a litmus test for the awaited BBI referendum, which is seen as a rehearsal for the 2022 duel between the two political supremos.

Lick his wounds

ODM director of elections and campaigns Junet Mohammed asked Dr Ruto to prepare to lick his wounds as he did in the Kibra mini-poll last year. At the time, Dr Ruto fronted Footballer McDonald Mariga, who lost the seat to ODM’s Imran Okoth.

Mr Mohammed told the Saturday Nation that they were planning to reduce the contest to a match between the deputy president and ODM deputy leader Hassan Joho.

“Joho is his match. We are planning to reduce the contest between him (Ruto) and Joho and not between him and Raila,” Mr Mohammed said.

It is expected that Mombasa Governor Joho and Kwale Senator Boy Juma Boy will lead the ODM campaign in the by-election, facing off with the Mohammed Ali and Aisha Jumwa faction that is aligned to DP Ruto.

But the Ruto side is waiting for the falling out from the ODM primaries.

Mr Odinga assured the party that he was strengthening the grassroots and recruiting more members.  “We must forge new alliances and strengthen existing ones with the aim of getting the country to move forward. Our existing alliance with the pro-reform wing of Jubilee led by the President has seen the country move forward in critical areas like fighting corruption and initiating key development projects evenly to more parts of the country. Previously, the dark forces against reform also ensured certain regions were starved of development,” he said.

The DP had begrudgingly accepted his party’s decision not to field a candidate in Msambweni.

But on Thursday, Dr Ruto held a meeting at his Karen office with several Coast MPs Athman Shariff (Lamu East), Mohammed Ali (Nyali), Owen Baya (Kilifi North), Khatib Mwashetani (Lunga Lunga) and Aisha Jumwa (Malindi), giving a clearest indication that he was joining the fray in Msambweni.

This seemed to herald Mr Odinga’s loosening grip on the Coast to Dr Ruto, who has recently become a frequent visitor to the region, especially Taita Taveta County, where he is believed to have gained some political traction. The Thursday meeting, which was termed an “introduction of sorts,” was a coup for Dr Ruto, as he had bagged Mr Baider. But yesterday, ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna told the DP’s troops to prepare for “another resounding defeat”.

Resounding defeat

“We have beaten the DP before. I have no doubt we will hand him a resounding defeat like Kibra,” said Mr Sifuna, adding that by conducting free and fair primaries that satisfies both winner and loser, “just like we did in Kibra, both candidates have vowed to support whoever wins.”

Meanwhile, uncertainty shrouds the vote-rich Mt Kenya region, where the DP had made inroads before the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted his momentum.

This gave the Odinga side hope of riding on the Handshake goodwill to win it over, and Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe, a President Kenyatta insider, has assured the ODM man that Central is his for the taking.

But the Mt Kenya leaders from both sides of the political divide last week met in Murang’a County and agreed to push a development agenda and back the person who pledges to advance their interests in 2022. This leaves the eight million votes in the region up for grabs by the best man – or woman.

Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, who has been angling to be the Mt Kenya political kingpin, has been campaigning, with some quarters saying he is going for the top seat. This seemed to be affirmed yesterday when he toured Nyeri where he was crowned as a Gikuyu elder in a private ceremony.

If the central region has a candidate for the top seat in 2022, this may complicate the game for Mr Odinga as he prepares to unite most of the country for the BBI referendum and onwards to the 2022 race.

In his backyard, Mr Odinga is also facing defiance, especially in Migori County, where a vicious battle between him and Governor Okoth Obado is forming.

Political analyst Mr Matiko Bohoko says the impending ouster will be a test to Mr Odinga’s grip of the vote-rich Luo Nyanza bloc and Migori County in particular, where he has been enjoying overwhelming support in the past.

The party top brass has been racking its brains to put up a strong case before the 57-member County Assembly, with indications from its lawyers on Thursday that they now have all the necessary documentation to support the impeachment plan.

Justus Ochieng, Allan Olingo, Rushdie Oudia and Ian Byron

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