June 29th 2017

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On independents, Raila suppressing supporters' turnout while Uhuru keeps eye on prize

"This will backfire on the party," said Kisumu-based financial expert Hesbon Omollo. "Raila must rise above sibling disputes in his Luo Nyanza backyard...For what shall it profit Jakom to win all ODM seats in Nyanza and other regions but lose the presidency?"

By Free Press Correspondentnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comSunday, 21 May 2017 13:13 EAT

Mr Odinga with NASA Pentagon member and presidential campaign chairman Musalia Mudavadi at the burial in Rarieda yesterday.

The NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga has provoked broad dissension in his Nyanza backyard by urging his supporters not to vote for independent candidates whom he called 'opportunists'.

“I have constantly urged them to adhere to the wishes of the electorate but they insist on using my name while running as independent candidates,” Mr Odinga said yesterday of the scores of independent candidates seeking gubernatorial, parliamentary and civic positions in the Nyanza region whose ODM primaries were marred with claims of rigging.

Speaking in Rarieda during the burial of Mama Gladys Amollo, mother to ODM nominated Senator Elizabeth Ongoro and Rarieda parliamentary nominee Otiende Amollo, Mr Odinga urged his supporters to vote only for candidates in the NASA affiliated parties. “NASA has five parties, that is ODM, Ford Kenya, Wiper, ANC and Chama cha Mashinani whose candidates should be considered. These are the ones who will implement our manifesto. The independent candidates are pursuing their own interests,” he said.

That position, which has alarmed some of the former PM's diehard supporters who expressed disappointment over ODM nominations, came on the same day that pro-Uhuru Kenyatta independent candidates launched the Kenya Alliance of Independent Candidates under the leadership of outgoing Kiambu governor William Kabogo and Nairobi gubernatorial candidate Peter Kenneth.

The alliance, whose secretary is former Tetu MP Ndungu Githinji, has been popularly received in Central Kenya and is being seen as the fuel for expected high voter turnout in the region. In a number of constituency, only a small margin separated Jubilee Party nominees and losers who went ahead to run as independent. The supporters on both sides will try their best to ensure their candidates win in August, with both supporting President Kenyatta's re-election.

While President Kenyatta has not publicly declared support for independent candidates in Central Kenya, he has also not disowned them. But he has embraced independent candidates around the country beginning in Wajir last month where he said his supporters should choose which local candidates best represented their aspirations. Yesterday in Isiolo, he also supported independent and small party candidates running against Jubilee nominees.

The bitterness over ODM nominations is highest in the six counties (Kisumu, Busia, Siaya, Nyamira, Migori and Homa Bay), and Mr Odinga's insistence that his supporters should not vote for independent candidates was received with disappointed among political analysts and reputed opinion leaders in the region.

"This will backfire on the party," said Kisumu-based financial expert Hesbon Omollo. "Raila must rise above sibling disputes in his Luo Nyanza backyard...whoever will be elected here will always be a Luo and given our tribal nature of politics, it does not matter...For what shall it profit Jakom to win all ODM seats in Nyanza and other regions but lose the presidency?"

Another analyst, Otieno Steven, said, "My concern however is premised on the different scripts by the NASA leadership. On the very day that the Rarieda Declaration was pronounced (20th day of May 2017), Kalonzo (Musyoka) unequivocally embraced independents and other friendly party contestants."

Mr Odinga's supporters are lost as to where the presidential candidate is ready to expend political capital on a matter that can only undermine his own electoral chances. All but one of the six ODM gubernatorial candidates (James Ongwae of Kisii) enjoys popular support.

The rest (Anyang' Nyong'o of Kisumu, Cornel Rasanga of Siaya, Cyprian Awiti of Homa Bay), John Nyangarama of Nyamira and Okoth Obado of Migori) are facing strong independent candidates whose supporters were bitter over the nomination results.

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