The Orange Democratic Party (ODM), Kenya’s Leading Opposition party, is grappling with sibling fights that could split the party. The party’s firm leader leader, ex-Prime Minister Raila Odinga is the one keeping the party intact.
National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed Vs Older Members
Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed recently took a luxurious jet trip to visit the ODM leader in Dubai where he was recuperating. The trip was seen as a show of opulence at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has almost crippled the economy.
Behind the curtains, Mr Mohamed had threatened to resign from his position in the party. Mr Mohammed claimed he was being “mistreated” by some ODM members. He is also the party’s director of elections.
The scuffle came up after the Suna East MP was confronted by Ruaraka MP TJ Kajwang over “skewed assigning of MPs to House committee slots”. The heated scuffle is said to have seen Mr Mohamed leave an ODM MPs’ WhatsApp group.
While the Dubai trip had been planned earlier, Mr. Odinga insisted that Mr Mohamed be on the flight. This led to more heat within the party. The heat led to a failed meeting called by party chairman John Mbadi to heal the situation.
“Leaders, especially Luos, have been concerned that their support for Baba is taken for granted. Questions emerged on why none of them was considered for the trip,” said an ODM legislator.
Where it all started
During a housekeeping meeting chaired by Mr Odinga, Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo lamented about senior officials she referred to as ‘Super League’ riding stout on them. Ms Odhiambo has an impressive record in the House but is among some of the members who feel sidelined.
During the handshake negotiations between Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta after the 2017 elections, nearly all high-ranking ODM officials like Senate minority leader James Orengo were kept in the dark. Mr Mohamed was however privy to it, cementing his position as a confidante of the ex-Prime Minister.
“A number of politicians who have been under Mr Odinga’s pupillage now want to establish themselves,” said Stephen Mwakesi, a public policy analyst. “Baba (Mr. Odinga) is being sabotaged from within. If I were Raila, I would be very careful,” he added.
Mr Mbadi has been neutral within the groupings but quietly complains that the minority whip was usurping some of his powers. “I do not belong to any grouping. What some people may not know is that Raila deals with his troops differently, according to their strengths and competences. There is no bad blood in ODM. There could be competing interests but not bad blood,” he said.
Mr Odinga is said to have a liking for Mr Mohamed because of his ‘effectiveness in carrying out duties.’ It is also believed that it is part of nationalist credentials by supporting a man of Somali extraction to run for a seat in the heart of the Luo nation.
The rise of Mr Mohamed within ODM to a confidante of Mr Odinga was not welcomed by older politicians. They have always viewed him as an ‘outsider’.
Odinga’s Deputy Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya Vs Party’s Secretary-general Edwin Sifuna
Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya is not getting along well with secretary-general Edwin Sifuna. Mr Odinga had to meet the duo on July 16 for a re-conciliatory meeting This was just four days after his return from his medical visit of Dubai.
The duo’s rivalry is said to have started when Mr. Oparanya fell out with Mr Sifuna and a team of youthful leaders during “development tours” in the Western region. Mr Sifuna had accused Mr Oparanya of ignoring the youth in his western tours.
“This had threatened the unity of the region and was giving the handshake team a bad name, compelling Mr Odinga to move with speed to forestall the differences,” a source said.
“We are going to involve everybody in our meetings, so it is not right to claim youths have been left out,” Mr Oparanya said in an interview. Mr Odinga managed to broker a truce between the two although they both denied.
“The party leader is accessible to all members and there is no way one MP can ride roughshod over another. Mzee is always willing to listen to everyone. Equally, there is no issue between me and Oparanya.
“We only disagreed with the action of Eugene Wamalwa and omitting to include any young person in a list they had presented to State House for some appointments. The issue was resolved after the two, in a show of mature leadership, accepted to recall the list to allow wider consultations. That was the end of the matter,” said Edwin Sifuna.
Senator Minority Leader James Orengo Vs MP James Wandayi
Mr Orengo and Mr Wandayi are not seeing eye to eye either. The two have been said of harboring competing ambitions to be the next Siaya governor. Each one of them expects a green light by the party leader, Mr Odinga.
The opposing sides
According to close contacts, the ‘Super League’ has Mr Mohamed, Homa Bay Women Representative Gladys Wanga, her Kisumu counterpart Rosa Buyu and the party’s secretary for political affairs and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi. Ms Wanga was recently elected the chairperson of the Finance and National Planning Committee of the National Assembly. She is the first woman to occupy the position in the history of Parliament. Mr Wandayi chairs the equally powerful Public Accounts Committee.
The other camp revolves around Mr Orengo and has most of the MPs such as Mr Kajwang’ and Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo. Their beef is centered on Mr Odinga’s preference for young blood whom they blame for ‘misleading him’. Mr Orengo, who is of the same age bracket as Mr Odinga, has been thought as a possible successor in the Luo Nyanza politics.The hot-and-cold relationship especially in the ‘90s he had with Mr Odinga could however stand in his way.