ODM leader Raila Odinga has denounced what is emerging as the proliferation of regional parties ahead of the 2022 General Election.
This comes against the backdrop of a strong wave by Deputy President William Ruto to split Raila’s traditional strongholds through the formation of regional-based parties.
The DP, a onetime crusader of strong political movements to bring the country together, appears to have changed tack and is aggressively spearheading the formation of regional parties in a calculated move to break Raila’s stranglehold.
Raila on Monday at his Karen home warned of ongoing regional alignments, saying Kenyans must remain one indivisible nation.
The former Prime Minister cautioned that such a move would only serve to further divide Kenyans along ethnic lines.
He insisted the country’s dream will not be realised when people retreat to their tribal cocoons.
“Let us move away from negative ethnic politics. Let us not talk about tribal unity. For example, (some will say) let us first unite as Kikuyu’s before we go and unite with Merus and Embus to become Gema, then come and unite with the rest of Kenyans,” Raila said.
Ideology and progressive policies, Raila said, should define the politics of Kenya.
“Let us begin to unite as Kenyans and let us be differentiated on the basis of ideology and policies. That is what is important. Ethnicity is not important. Nobody chose to be born a Mkamba or Mdorobo. That is a biological accident.”
Raila’s sentiments are seen as a response to calls by a section of Coast ODM leaders to break away from the Orange party to form their own regional outfit.
Coast has been traditionally under Raila’s lock and key but has in recent weeks shown signs of revolting from the Orange party.
A section of leaders are openly window shopping for a political outfit to be unveiled soon.
The charge to break away from the Raila-led party is being led by Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi and Kilifi North MP Owen Baya.
Baya, who has been the face of rebellion towards ODM at the Coast, on Tuesday told the Star that the push to have a homegrown party is unstoppable and no amount of persuasion would make them abandon the idea.
“People feel excluded from the mainstream so we have a strong desire to represent ourselves at the highest table. Baba [as Raila is fondly referred to] and his ilk are the people driving us into regional parties,” Baya said on the phone.
ODM deputy party leader and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho was also linked to the ODM exodus. However, his handlers on Tuesday dismissed the reports in the Daily Nation as rumours.
Joho’s handler who spoke to the Star, clarified that the governor did not utter such words and that it ‘was all a creation of the media’.
The Mombasa governor has been at the forefront excoriating the formation of a Coast-based political outfit.
Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir maintained that the Coast region will not exit ODM but will demand that the party supports their presidential candidate in 2022.
“It is not that we want to form our own party but we want the party to support our own presidential candidate. It is time the party proved that it is a national outfit and supports a minority tribe,” Abdulswamad said.
Last week, Baya billed the 2022 contest as the final nail in the coffin of what he described as a “foreign party that has continually used the Coast as a pawn in a game of chess”.
ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna dismissed the mushrooming of regional outfits.
He said most parties offend provisions of the Constitution, which require parties to have a national presence.
Sifuna, however, said the clamour to come up with parties was normal, especially when the country is nearing an election.
“These noises are normal during election time, actually, they are tribal outfits. We should not even call them regional parties; they are tribal outfits pushing parochial agenda. The truth of the matter is that those noises have always been there but they have never changed anything,” Sifuna told the Star on the phone.
“All those talking about regional or tribal parties are missing the point and even the registrar will not register those outfits because they are illegal. In fact, the Constitution expects and demands that you cannot have parties that are defined regionally or ethnically, you must have a party that has presence across the country and that is the political landscape we operate in.”
But, according to Baya, their proposed party will be national but have a foundation in the Coast region.
Garsen MP Ali Wario also expressed dislike for regional outfits, saying the country’s unity is threatened by mushrooming political parties.
“These people trying to camouflage regional-based political parties have their own agenda and they are working for certain politicians who want to divide this country into regions so that they can capitalise on those political parties,” Wario said.
“For instance, Aisha Jumwa [Malindi MP] talking of a political party called Kadu Asili, everybody knows whom she associates with. So the idea is not about political party.”
The Wiper lawmaker said as Coastal people they will continue to push for their stake in a national party and not a regional outfit.