Political tension between ODM leader Raila Odinga and Siaya Senator James Orengo has spilt over into the public and is threatening to tear apart the Orange Democratic Party.
Their differences have 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.
During the BBI Bill debate in the Senate on Wednesday, Orengo dissected the Bill to amend the Constitution. 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 however said it will unconditionally support BBI as the only solution for the country’s ills and challenges.
“Orengo co-chaired the committee that produced the final Bill. He cannot turn around now to say we didn’t agree on this or that. He cannot run away from his baby. He is essentially trying to disown a document he himself by the virtue of being a co-captain author. It is the height of political dishonesty,” Minority Whip at the National Assembly Junet Mohamed claimed
It has since emerged that after the Naivasha retreat with MPs, President Uhuru Kenyatta Kenyatta and the ODM leader formed a committee to fine-tune the Bill. They tasked Mr. Orengo and Majority Leader in the National Assembly Amos Kimunya to jointly chair it.
Junet told the Nation Newspaper that the committee was the final hand that dealt with the Bill before it went for printing.
“I am asking politicians opposing this, especially those from our camp, to retrace their steps, the journey the BBI has gone through. They may have forgotten where the country was before BBI.
“The first county assembly to pass the BBI Bill was Siaya that he (Mr. Orengo) represents in the Senate and oversights, why didn’t he ask them not to pass it if he feels it is a raw deal? Why was he quiet when other counties were passing it?”
The Siaya Senator is further facing accusations of leading a splinter group of lawmakers, with some going against the party’s position on various issues. His critics claim he could be forming an alternative power base to that of Raila
Orengo has however repudiated claims of rebelling against Raila.
“I want to categorically state without fear or favor that we are all under Raila Odinga. It should be known that there is no political heavyweight in this country compared to Mr. Odinga,” he said.
Orengo on Thursday hosted Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo, TJ Kajwang’ (Ruaraka), Sam Atandi (Alego Usonga), and Peter Kaluma (Homa Bay) in his office over the BBI report that was being debated in both houses.
The lawmakers, according to our source, were concerned that the original BBI report they put together at Windsor was not the same one tabled before the House.
Raila’s handlers not only accuse the senator of attempting to scuttle the very document he helped author but also projecting himself as the only leader looking after the interests of the Luo community.
“Orengo is my friend and senator, I visit him in his house and office, so what? Come 2022, the seat Orengo will be vying for nobody else will be vying for it, so what are people fighting for? Atandi posed and accused some unnamed party leaders of feeling more important than others.
“It is our usual enemies that want to portray that there is infighting in the party.
At the height of the wrangling is a myriad of issues ranging from succession politics in Luo Nyanza on who is best suited to take over the mantle of leadership when Raila retires to political preservation after the next General Election.
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.
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 said as quoted by 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.
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 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.