Kenya: Storm in ODM - Why Odinga Fired Otiende

Senate Minority leader James Orengo and Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo reportedly snubbed a meeting with ODM leader Raila Odinga on Monday, escalating the power struggle in the party which prompted the latest purge.

Prior to the planned meeting, Mr Amollo is said to have sent a text message to Mr Odinga, threatening to resign as vice-chair and member of the National Assembly's Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, presumably because of the hostility he was facing from the party since the committee authored a critical report on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill.

That text message and the subsequent failure to show up for the meeting with the party leader apparently prompted Mr Odinga to call his bluff and he directed the ODM House leadership to eject him from the committee which was done on Tuesday.

ODM national chairman John Mbadi yesterday accused Mr Amollo of instigating his sacking over his threats which he noted bordered on "blackmailing Mr Odinga."

Mr Mbadi said Mr Odinga had reached out to Mr Amollo and Mr Orengo at the weekend, asking them to a meeting on Monday for "issuing opinions contrary to the party position on the BBI only for the Rarieda MP to respond with the threats."

"When Otiende and Orengo were in Kadem, Nyatike, last Saturday, Jakom (Mr Odinga) heard their audio and called the two to meet him on Monday," Mr Mbadi disclosed.

Mr Orengo had told a meeting in Nyatike that he was among brave legislators who cannot just be a conveyor belt in the discharge of their duties.

Planned resignation

"When Raila was at Uhuru Park for his (mock) swearing-in, where were those (who are) now talking? We cannot be conveyor belts. It is only a castrated bull that goes wherever it is directed. What we are doing is to streamline the BBI document to ensure inequalities are addressed," Mr Orengo said.

Yesterday, Mr Mbadi went on: "The next thing Otiende did was to text Jakom telling him he could even resign as vice-chair of JLAC and as Rarieda MP. Who is he blackmailing?"

Another ODM MP told the Nation that Mr Amollo, in a meeting with Mr Orengo and Alego Usonga MP Sam Atandi, told them he was contemplating informing Mr Odinga of his planned resignation.

Against this backdrop, and the sentiments during debate of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill in the two Houses last week, the Nation established, infuriated Mr Odinga as he felt the leaders were not toeing the party line.

"Jakom did not understand what provoked him to send such a text laced with threats of resignation. Why did he want to resign as JLAC vice chair and MP? Where is the point of departure to that extent? Where is the raw anger coming from?" Mr Mbadi posed.

But Mr Amollo termed as "pure propaganda" assertions that he had sent a message to Mr Odinga threatening to resign.

"I never said I wanted to resign. If I did, can they produce the evidence?" Mr Amollo told the Nation yesterday.

Party position

He maintained his ouster was not sanctioned by the party. "My removal was not even discussed at party level. By Tuesday, it was already on the order paper," Mr Amollo.

He explained his position on BBI did not contradict the party position.

"This can be confirmed with the signatures of the joint JLAC committee members' signatures. Out of 19, 18 of us signed against the amendments apart from senator (Irungu) Kang'ata who abstained," Mr Amollo said.

Mr Amollo disputed reports he had been summoned to a meeting, saying he could not meet the ODM leader since "he is still not in a position to meet people."

Mr Orengo did not respond to inquiries by the Nation.

Mr Odinga's spokesperson Mr Dennis Onyango confirmed the ODM leader sought to meet Mr Orengo and Mr Amollo, but the meeting never took place.

Wrangles in ODM

"No meeting took place even though the PM wanted to meet them," Mr Onyango told Nation.

Late yesterday, Mr Odinga in a statement, however, described claims that there is a scheme to kick out Mr Orengo as "unfounded and widespread speculation".

"We wish to clarify that Mr Odinga and ODM have no plans to replace Mr Orengo as the Leader of Minority in the Senate," Mr Odinga said in a statement issued by Mr Onyango.

Interviews with close confidants of Mr Odinga revealed how the former prime minister was stunned when an ODM MP informed him they will push the party position against the distribution of the extra 70 constituencies.

The ODM MP from Nairobi had visited Mr Odinga at his Karen home last week. The lawmaker told Mr Odinga of their plan as party lawyers to help fight the "inequalities on the distribution of the 70 Constituencies as proposed in the BBI report."

"The MP was shocked by Mr Odinga's fury," the source told the Nation yesterday, adding "This matter is beyond BBI. It should not just be looked at at face value. There are forces that were keen on ensuring the collapse of the BBI and the handshake between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga but their moves have been thwarted."

ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya yesterday expressed fears that the wrangles in ODM, especially on the distribution of the 70 new constituencies, was a threat to the passage of the BBI Bill at the referendum.

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