Top Stories / 2017 Elections
Sunday, 22 Jan 2017 14:13 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
With campaigns for the August general elections beginning in earnest, many ODM supporters are voicing concern at the high number of members of teh Oginga Odinga family seeking elective positions. While the family's political giant Raila Odinga is making a fourth attempt to capture the presidency, his brother Oburu Odinga is running for Bondo parliamentary seat and sister Ruth Odinga for the Kisumu governorship. In Nairobi, Raila's daughter Rosemary Odinga is running for the Kibra parliamentary seat.
All the family members are on Mr Odinga's party, ODM. "We thought a lesson was learnt in 2013, when Oburu and Ruth led controversial campaigns for the governorships of Siaya and Kisumu that contributed to violence and the nominations being aborted, but it now seems that the 2013 experience is being replayed, only on a much worse now," said an ODM politician running for a Kisumu parliamentary seat.
In addition to Oburu and Ruth, Raila's daughter is causing waves in the Kibera race where voicing support for her candidature is becoming a hallmark of party loyalty. "Top ODM politicians have rushed to Kibera to pledge their support for Rosemary, and this indicates to us that the nomination can never be free and fair," said an ODM activist from Kibra slums.
Kenyans are used to electing many members of the same family into political positions. In the current parliament, four senators (Gideon Moi, Stephen ole Ntutu, Moses Kajwang and Moses Wetangula) are serving with their brothers who are members of the lower house (Raymond Moi, Patrick ole Ntutu, Tom Kajwang and Timothy Wanyonyi respectively). The Wetangula brothers are in different parties (Ford Kenya and ODM respectively), while the Mois are in Kanu, the Kajwangs in ODM and the Ntutus in Jubilee.
However, in each case, the younger brothers were elected on their own merit without the influence of their family members playing a role. The Odingas too have had family members serve in Parliament at the same time for twenty years. Between 1993-2013, Raila served in the National Assembly at the same time as his father (Jaramogi in 93-94 and, after he died, Oburu who was elected to succeed him). The pairing was never controversial as Oburu usually beat his opponents for the party nominations.
However, in 2013, the then 70-year-old Oburu sought the much-higher Siaya governorship position, and the party went flat out to ensure he won the primaries, which ended in violence. The party had to inject a neutral candidate in the race. The Kisumu primaries ended in violence as well, and Ruth was nominated in a compromise position as deputy to the candidate, Jack Ranguma. The violence in both counties contributed to eroding trust in Raila Odinga's willingness to ensure fair nominations where his relatives were running.
In the run-up to the August election, Raila's democratic credentials are once again being questioned, with 74-year-old Oburu (now serving as a specially-elected MP) seeking to win back his former Bondo parliamentary seat, Ruth running for the Kisumu governorship and Rosemary as MP for Kibra.
Rosemary's interest in the Kibra seat is most controversial. Her late brother Fidel was known to be preparing to run for the seat following the 2013 elections and had been building a network independent of his father's. He died in early 2015, and some time in the middle of that year Rosemary happened on the scene.
Rosemary’s being in the race is raising the profile of another candidate, Eliud Owalo, the manager for Raila’s 2013 presidential election who many party supporters hate for bungling Raila’s campaign. Apparently, Mr Owalo is being seen as the only one championing an anti-Rosemary crusade, the incumbent Ken Okoth being too soft for bare-knuckled politics.
Mr Owalo has hired a team of fiery Raila supporters who have flooded Facebook over the last week with warnings that the CORD leader should choose between Rosemary and the presidency. According to a Kibera youth activist, Mr Owalo, who "has only outside chance of winning free and fair nominations", is banking on the prospect of a major fallout that would raise his profile as the underdog in a battle with the Odinga family.
"What he would use that profile for is yet unclear, but he is so far succeeding in creating a perception in the media that the battle is between him and Rosemary," the activist said, regretting that Raila was likely to jeopardise his more important presidential election. "Fidel had a lot of support here, he had scholarhips for some kids and was personally in touch with youth leaders. As for Rosemary, other than for the name Odinga, I really can't see why she wants to represent this constituency," he said.