21 April 2013

Kenya: Pressure Mounts for Raila's Return to Parliament

Kisumu — Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga is under pressure to return to parliament for him to remain relevant politically.

Religious leaders who met Odinga in Kisumu on Saturday insisted on the need to have him get back to parliament through a by-election at a constituency represented by any ODM MP willing to step down.

Although it has not been decided on which MP will step down for Odinga, the religious leaders assured him that they are confident the situation will not turn out to be like the one facing former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka who has failed to convince any MP from his Wiper Democratic Movement to step down.

At a meeting held at the Ukweli Pastoral Centre in the outskirts of Kisumu town, the elders insisted that Odinga would not be useful unless he became a lawmaker.

Led by Catholic Archbishop Zacheus Okoth, they said they were aware of the former Prime Minister's decision to stay out of Parliament, but maintained it will not help him.

Interestingly youthful leaders, who attended the meeting, were opposed to the elders' opinion arguing that Odinga had risen above 'small' political seats like representing a constituency.

One of the youth leaders Augustine Abuya argued that the leaders were misleading the former PM instead of helping him steer his political interests.

"Raila is a national leader, sending him back to parliament is taking his (political) career backwards," Abuya told the leaders.

Siaya Senator James Orengo however, warned the leaders to approach the issue cautiously since Wiper Democratic Movement MPs had declined to step down for the former Vice President.

Musyoka has however, turned the issue around saying he had not asked anyone to step down on his behalf.

"Some people are going round saying they won't step down for me and yet they haven't been asked to do so," he said on Friday.

Reports had indicated that the Wiper Party was willing to pay off Mwingi North or Mwingi Central MPs Sh30 million to step down but the plan hit a snag.

During Saturday's meeting, Odinga urged the leaders to remain patient and allow him time to consult widely on the matter.

He has in recent past stated that he was not interested in returning to Parliament despite several efforts by fellow politicians and lobby groups to calling on him consider the option.

On Wednesday the Friends of Raila (FORA) lobbied for Odinga's return to Parliament saying Musyoka could not lead the opposition on his own.

"This is a battle that will not be won by the faint hearted or by politicians whose conscience, patriotism or sense of national good are all up for negotiation or hire. It is a battle that requires Raila's tested commitment," said FORA Secretary General Aloyce Obare.

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