While Raila Odinga was away, his co-
principals in the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy became increasingly strident in their political rhetoric against the ruling Jubilee alliance.
In fact, the national political discourse acquired a distinctly nasty flavour in Raila’s absence, with a whiff occasionally of hate speech, on political rally podiums, in social
media and elsewhere online, and on ethnic FM radio phone-in programmes.
Co-principals former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula became openly and uncharacteristically contemptuous of all things Jubilee.
Kalonzo, in particular, formerly one of the most careful cultivators in Kenya politics of a gentlemanly
mien after the Mwai Kibaki of the period before the State House years of power, even found himself
interviewed by officials from the National Cohesion and Integration Commission officials after he told a
journalist to his face and on-camera that his Kikuyu surname said all there was to say about his political
The subtext was that the reporter’s views and those of his originating community counted for little or
This is a Kalonzo who had remained so well hidden for so long that many people did a double-take when they first saw the footage.
These and other remarks Kalonzo has made,particularly while Raila was away, do not exactly make him the flavour of the month in the Mt Kenya heartland, where there is a groundswell of opinion that he is going way out of his way to be seen to be anti-Jubilee, to be more Raila than Odinga himself.
Raila’s own party ODM was in considerable disarray when he left the country two months ago, having
suffered the indignity of a botched National Delegates’ Convention and elections in the infamous men-in-black incident.
When Raila rose to address what will no doubt be a mammoth homecoming rally yesterday, what he most likely had in mind, among many other indicators,is this ugly turn in the national political conversation.
When President Uhuru overruled Inspector-General of Police David Kimaiyo’s stopping of the Raila return rally at midweek, he said he was totally unafraid of the opposition and did not mind them meeting as the rally and all their works would be of no consequence
to his administration.
Setting the rhetoric aside momentarily, Uhuru urged the political sector to bring down the temperatures and tensions caused by hostile, mutually repellent
Raila will do one of two things, depending on what he has decided during his lengthy break in America and hours, days and even weeks of introspection: He will
either escalate the tension levels or lower them by bringing lieutenants like the new-look Kalonzo to heel.
Those in Jubilee who are watching the unfolding scenario with not a little trepidation and dreading a
situation where tensions are ratcheted up to the boiling points of the 2007 campaign, the triggers of
the 2008 post-election violence, are hoping Raila will bring some “made-at-Boston APC statesmanship” to
bear on a rapidly deteriorating situation.
What Raila said yesterdat in Uhuru Park, Nairobi, about some things that transpired while he was away and other touchy issues, will make or break a number of factors both inside the opposition and the Uhuru
When he jetted out two months ago, he left an ODM cleaven down the middle, with Budalang’i MP Ababu
Namwamba and Nominated Senator Dr Agnes Philomena Zani leading two fiercely opposed factions.
The Namwamba group gave every sign of having the upper hand and they were loudly and lengthily
cheered on the floor of the February convention.
Zani’s group had the backing of an increasingly unpopular inner core group around Raila that was
booed hard and long and includes Prof Nyong’o and Homa Bay Senator Otieno Ojwang’.
Raila is widely thought to favour the Zani group and to be leery of the Namwamba brigade, which is
bankrolled by Mombasa governor Hassan Joho.
With Raila away, the Namwamba-Zani factions seemed to call a ceasefire but they will be jostling for
his attention and his presumably all-important nod beginning this morning.
How Raila reorganises the ODM convention and party polls and how he gets around his guarded suspicions of the moneyed Namwamba-Joho axis and deals with
their popularity at the ODM grassroots will be a supreme test of his own political skills.
That Raila was missed inside Cord there can be no doubt.
He remains the coalition’s most valuable living asset and most-likely unified candidate for the 2017 presidential race.
Another test of his political skills could well be whether he can lead Cord to victory in the event of a
gubernatorial by-election in the capital city should the Supreme Court uphold the Court of Appeal’s
annulment of Dr Evans Kidero’s election.
A Jubilee versus Cord repeat election for governor of the capital would be a titanic political struggle, pitting all the power and financial clout of central government incumbency against all the wits of a street-smart opposition.
Kidero’s heckling by ODM youth brigade is a very ominous sign in regard to this.
Only Raila’s wit will save Kidero from any further personal and public humilliation by very many souls in CORD rank and file!
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