party swap

Kenya: Raila loses more political allies to Ruto

By Victor Abuso

Posted on March 16, 2023 11:20

 © Kenyan President William Ruto (C) met with Nyanza leadership who have agreed to work with Kenya Kwanza. (Kenya presidency)
Kenyan President William Ruto (C) met with Nyanza leadership who have agreed to work with Kenya Kwanza. (Kenya presidency)

Kenya’s opposition chief Raila Odinga continues to face a huge hurdle to retain political allies from his backyard of the Nyanza region in Western Kenya, after more than 30 leaders from Raila’s Orange Democratic Movement met President William Ruto this week. All resolved to join the ruling United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party, fleeing ODM.

This development comes days ahead of Odinga’s 20 March protest in Nairobi to oppose Ruto’s presidency, who he claims is in office illegitimately, following the 2022 contested presidential results.

Led by former governors Evans Kidero (Nairobi), Jack Ranguma (Kisumu), and Okoth Obado (Migori), the politicians who were defeated during last year’s polls said they will work with Ruto to promote national unity and shun tribal differences.

“We want to be part of the government to improve the lives of our people,” Kidero said, on behalf of other politicians after meeting Ruto.

“We are happy to be here. This is the leadership of Luo Nyanza. Anybody who is not here is not a leader,” he added.

Ruto has praised the decision by former Raila allies to embrace his government, with a promise of development goodies that he says will transform their political backyards.

“You have the opportunity to liberate the people of Nyanza,” Ruto said.

This is the second group of politicians from Raila’s stronghold to meet Ruto since the start of anti-government rallies that began in January.

Political traitors

In February, nine elected MPs and a senator from Raila’s party also from Nyanza met Ruto, saying they need to work with the government to push for development projects in their regions.

Odinga strongly condemned the leaders for meeting his opponent, calling them political traitors. His party has announced disciplinary actions against the legislators.

“The members who met Mr. Ruto need to resign from their positions,” Raila said during one of his rallies in Nairobi.

He also accused Ruto of buying members to weaken the opposition’s Azimio la Umoja coalition.

Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma, who hails from the Nyanza region, has termed the move from his colleagues as insignificant to Odinga and his party. “These are political rejects,” he said.

Felix Odiwuor, one of the MPs who met Ruto, says he is still loyal and is not ready to decamp from the ODM party. “Everyone knows how I love Baba (Odinga). I will not leave the party,” he said.

Weakening Raila politically

Ruto seems to be on a mission to weaken the opposition leader and secure political support from a region that did not vote for him during last year’s vote, Maimuna Mwidau, a Mombasa-based political analyst, tells The Africa Report.

“Odinga sees these meetings with Ruto as disrespectful,” she says.

Though Ruto faces an uphill task to convince Odinga’s supporters in Nyanza to embrace him, Mwidau says the president’s moves could produce results in the next election.

“The leaders who met Ruto also have supporters; it will not be surprising to see them embrace Ruto ahead of the 2027 polls,” she adds.

Odinga has vied for President five times and has continuously enjoyed the support of his Luo tribe from Nyanza since multi-party elections began in Kenya in the 1990s.

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