October 23, 2014 OPINION/NEWS




Joe Khamisi

Something rather fishy is going on within the ranks of the Kenya Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). It could be a small kerfuffle by a group of disgruntled lowly placed party officials, but it could also be the beginning of a full scale power struggle at the top, aiming at undermining Raila Odinga as the supreme leader of the opposition party. Or, it could be agents provocateurs in the ruling Jubilee trying to destabilize ODM.

Pundits say, where there is smoke, there is fire. What is happening behind the scenes at ODM tells me a lot of fire is crackling underneath the Orange party.

Until early this year, leaders elected through ODM were the most loyal, the most compliant, and the most sycophantic of political leaders in Kenya. They sang “mapambano” with zeal and danced to all Raila tunes with absolute reverence. They cheered at his “vitendawilis” and condemned anyone who showed signs of dissent or opposition.

Then the rain started beating.

All of a sudden, a stronghold like the Coast remembered that ODM had nothing to offer; Westerners began to talk of old political wounds; people in the Rift Valley recalled betrayals of their leaders; and Nyanza, where Raila commands his biggest support, people started peeling away from the man they have supported fanatically for years, to form their own political organisations.

And now from the woodwork, a group of insiders has emerged determined to edge Raila out of the presidential race. Their reason? He has lost three elections and cannot be expected to beat the Jubilee team of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto in 2017. They say Raila has made too many enemies among his peers and cannot mobilise enough support for a successful bid.

To me, this smells of an attempted coup d’état.

What these young, ambitious legislators are saying is that Raila has gone past his sale date and must therefore retire and leave the space for someone else; that he is unlikely to be attractive to younger voters who have no clue about the struggles for democracy and human rights he waged all his life.

Like in any coup situation, the true leaders of this putsch are enigmatic, at least for now. The one often quoted in the media, Member of Parliament Richard Onyonka, is not even a member of ODM, but a representative of a fringe affiliate party, the People’s Democratic Party. So who is the real architect behind this risky rebellion?

Could there be a power struggle at the top? Remember, issues that surrounded the botched national party polls are still unresolved; and the proposed referendum has further divided the party between those who support it and those who oppose it.

Some party officials are pointing a finger at “enemies” of the party. Could they be referring to elements in the ruling Jubilee?

There are more questions. Does this group of about a dozen MPs and Senators that want to red-card Raila have the support of leaders around the country? And, does it have the wherewithal and guts to withstand the tsunami of resistance from a die-hard Raila brigade that is already out with blazing swords?

These questions are crucial because fighting Raila is not like fighting an individual. One of his closest allies has already told us Raila is an “ideology.”

If this is so, my advice to those trying to dislodge Raila from the presidential race is that, they must have strategies that work, otherwise, they may end up destroying their own political future.






Joe Khamisi

Joe Khamisi is a former journalist, diplomat and Member of Parliament. He is also the Author of the Politics of Betrayal:Diary of a Kenyan Legislator, a political memoir about the situation in Kenya between 2001, when the ruling party of President Daniel Arap Moi, the Kenya African National Union (KANU), merged with Raila Odinga’s National Development Party.

The book also narrates cases of corruption in Parliament and in the Media and records Senator Obama’s visit to Kenya in 2006. As a friend of Barack Obama Senior, the author also remembers the times and tragedies of the American-educated economist.

Joe Khamisi’s second book, a biography, ‘Dash Before Dusk’, is currently awaiting publication.

In addition to the above books, Joe Khamisi blogs at http://joekhamisi.wordpress.com/ , http://joekhamisi.blogspot.ca/ and for media enquiries can be reached at [email protected]

(This article is courtesy of Joe Khamisi and was originally published at the above blog on 23rd October 2014)


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