The Orange Party has denied reports that its two-day retreat in Mombasa is aimed at punishing dissenting members who have shown allegiance to Deputy President William Ruto.
The party is holding a joint meeting of its national executive council and parliamentary group in the wake of significant forays made by the DP in the region recently, which have seen him win the support of at least five ODM MPs and a governor.
Party director of elections Junet Mohammed yesterday downplayed the decision to hold the meeting in Mombasa, saying it had nothing to do with a show of might or punishment of dissenting members.
“Mombasa is the ideal place for a retreat. Parliamentary committees, NGOs and private companies have made the city a favourite destination for retreats; why not ODM? A decision was consciously made a long time ago and it had nothing to do with the rebelling MPs,” he said.
Since the March 9 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, at least five ODM MPs have been inching closer to Mr Ruto, declaring their support for his 2022 presidential bid.
They include Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, who the party had appointed as its nominee to the Parliamentary Service Commission, Msambweni MP Suleiman Dori, Jomvu MP Ali Twalib, Kinango MP Benjamin Tayari and Kilifi North MP Owen Baya.
It is believed that Kwale Senator Issa Boy is also angling towards the DP.
Nyali MP Mohamed Ali (Independent) and Kisauni’s Ali Mbogo (Wiper) have also thrown their weight behind Mr Ruto.
And even though he has been linked to Mr Ruto, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi has never publicly supported the DP. However, the actions and public statements of his allies indicate that it is just a matter of time before he joins the DP’s camp.
A statement from the party yesterday said the retreat is pursuant to a resolution of the NEC meeting at Lake Elementaita Lodge in May, where it was agreed that a joint meeting of the two organs should be held.
The statement further said the two organs would be briefed by Mr Odinga on the Building Bridges initiative and about his meeting with President Kenyatta, which culminated in the March 9 handshake.
“He will be seeking members’ support for the initiative which is aimed at uniting the country and solving the problems facing Kenyans,” the statement, signed by Secretary General Edwin Sifuna, said
The meeting will be held at Flamingo Beach Resort and will be chaired by Mr Odinga, his two deputies Hassan Ali Joho and Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya, as well as the Secretary General, Mr Sifuna. Other top party officials will also attend, the statement said.
Yesterday, Mr Junet, who is also the National Assembly’s Minority Whip, insisted that the party is not interested in wars with its members, especially after the handshake.
“There is nothing to stand firm about,” he responded to a question on whether the retreat will consider disciplinary action against rebel MPs.
“Dissenters are normal in politics. We have had dissenters before; we have them now; and we shall have them in future. Are you suggesting that, now that Mr Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills MP) is considered a rebel in Jubilee, the party should hold a retreat in Nandi?”
However, both Ms Jumwa and Mr Dori returned to ODM in 2016 when they realised the ground was hostile.