The Orange Democratic Movement has threatened to punish Members of Parliament, mainly from the Coast, who snubbed its National Executive Committee and Parliamentary Group meeting called by party leader Raila Odinga in Mombasa on Monday.
The MPs, most of whom have been linked to Deputy President William Ruto in recent weeks, were expected at the meeting at Flamingo Beach Resort but did not show up or excuse themselves.
Among them were vocal Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa and Coast Parliamentary Group chairman Suleiman Dori, as well as Jomvu MP Badi Twalib, Kinango MP Benjamin Tayari, and Kilifi North MP Owen Baya. Others were MPs Paul Katana, John Mlolwa, and Danson Mwishako, and Senator Jones Mwaruma.
However, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi, who has twice attended Mr Ruto’s events at the coast and signalled a willingness to work with him ahead of the 2022 General Election, graced the get-together.
NANOK DIDN'T SHOW UP
Mr Kingi and Mr Joho were the only ODM governors present. The party explained that Deputy Party Leader Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) and Kisumu’s Anyang’ Nyong’o will host another event soon. Council of Governors chairman Josphat Nanok also did not show up.
Mr Odinga used the caucus to explain his handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta and ask members to back the Building Bridges initiative, but his party's secretariat turned the heat on the "rebels".
“They will be asked to explain themselves in the next meeting," said ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna. "We will give updates on their fate at the right time.”
Sources indicated that Mr Dori, who has openly backed Mr Ruto to succeed President Kenyatta when his term expires and cast doubt on Mr Joho’s ability to be president, will be ousted from chairing the Coast Parliamentary Group.
WORK WITH GOVERNMENT
Mr Kingi is said to have explained to members that his dalliance with Mr Ruto followed Mr Odinga’s resolve to work with the government.
Mr Odinga said he was not worried by the early campaigns ahead of the 2022 elections, saying a transition was underway following his political pact President Kenyatta. The pact, he added, had bolstered the fight against corruption and ensured national unity.
Mr Odinga and his deputy Hassan Joho also insisted that ODM will field a presidential candidate in the next polls, but did not indicate whether or not he will be on the ballot. He said Kenyans should not be distracted by succession politics but “concentrate on building a brand new nation within this window of opportunity before it closes".
“Everything is going to change. In the process, we will change the factors that voters take into consideration when picking leaders, and those who think they are ahead will find themselves behind,” Mr Odinga told the ODM retreat.
“Let those with ears hear and those with eyes see, but let’s also make it our role to make the politically blind and politically deaf see and hear that Kenya is changing and they must not stand in the way.”
Deputy President William Ruto has hit the road in recent weeks, frequenting opposition strongholds since the March 9 Uhuru-Raila pact, doling out goodies, recruiting point men and seeking grassroots support. A number of opposition leaders have promised to back his bid for the Presidency when Mr Kenyatta's term ends.
Mr Ruto’s allies, some of whom have poured cold water on the new dalliance between Mr Odinga and the President, have also expressed concerns over the heightened war on graft, saying they were being targeted.
But on Monday Mr Odinga said the handshake was bearing good results in the war on corruption and unifying of communities. “Those who have refused to see and embrace the change, and those resisting the change and trying rewind the clock, are the ones wallowing in or creating confusion,” he said. “They embrace the 'handshake' in the morning and oppose it in the afternoon. They embrace the war on corruption today bit display its proceeds tomorrow. They embrace national unity this week and sow the seeds of discord the following week. The ODM is not in that league.”
He said that, as the handshake provides a lifeline to the long-stifled war on corruption, "ODM must do everything to enable its impact spread to the other areas stifling our nation and public life".
"If the handshake has enabled the war on corruption to take off, it must enable unity of our nation, end divisive elections and help us discover our national ethos. We need to agree on how,” Mr Odinga said.