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Raila to chair key ODM organ over party polls, succession

Raila Odinga will on Tuesday chair a meeting of an influential organ of his ODM party over the planned grassroots elections and internal succession.

The Central Management Committee meeting comes at a time when the party is gearing up for elections this month after postponing the exercise from December last year.

The 12-member organ has sweeping powers to make major decisions and recommendations about the party’s affairs before such resolutions are tabled before expanded committees.

Tuesday’s meeting, officials say, will decide whether to postpone the elections once again or agree on a modality that will assuage anxiety and tensions within the party.

“The meeting is on,” said former Kakamega Governor Wickliffe Oparanya.

The party has been rocked with vicious infights over who should take over from Raila as party leader in case he succeeds in his bid for the African Union Commission job.

In anticipation of Raila’s exit, camps have emerged in the party jostling for leadership positions.

National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed told the Star that the meeting will agree on the fate of the upcoming party elections.

“When it comes to elections, everyone has a right to contest for any seat. But people should not jump the queue,” Junet said, exposing the high stakes in the race for leadership slots.

Junet, who is the ODM’s Director of Elections and Campaigns, said the party will navigate its succession and elections through the ODM constitution.

ODM had announced that it would hold its grassroots elections in April but there are fears that the party could develop a timetable that will see elections held in a staggered manner.

Those who support the idea of postponing the polls say holding such highly charged elections would hurt Raila’s image as he campaigns for the AUC job.

Raila is Kenya’s candidate for the African Union Commission chairman’s job.

He received the backing of President William Ruto and some East African leaders ahead of the AUC polls in February 2025.

Having been the leader of the ODM party since 2005, the former prime minister is keen to craft a fool-proof succession matrix that consolidates and cements his legacy, despite the jostling and rivalries.

When asked how ODM will handle the tricky issue of succession, ODM National Treasurer Timothy Bosire said the leadership will follow the party’s Constitution to the letter.

“We are prepared to steady the boat under the able guidance of the boss,” he told the Star.

“We have confidence in his guidance and commitment to steady the boat. Emerging ambitions and interests are a good sign of internal democracy,’’ Bosire said.

The former Kitutu Masaba MP insisted ODM’s “structural foundation is very strong, its organs functional and the Constitution very clear on how to navigate the challenges.’’

Factional wars have been fuelled by Raila’s recent endorsement of his two deputies ⸻ former governors Hassan Joho of Mombasa and Wycliffe Oparanya of Kakamega ⸻ to take charge of the party should he succeed in his bid for the Au’s top job.

Joho has declared he will run for president in 2027 and received the backing of almost all coastal MPs after traversing the entire coastal strip from Taita Taveta to Lamu, rallying for support.

“I have declared I am ready for the presidential bid, many people are discouraging us, but am telling you, this time, we are not changing our mind, we must be counted in the country politics,” Joho said.

“And we will go to every remote village, sensitising our people, then we go to the entire country and talk to everyone.”

He spoke after getting the endorsement of the Coastal Parliamentary Group as the region’s political kingpin and a 2027 presidential candidate.

Oparanya, who is the ODM’s first deputy party leader, is raising the stakes for his bid to succeed Raila, banking on his loyalty and recent support for anti-government protests when Joho was a no-show.

Besides the Joho and Oparanya rivalry, there are other groups including National Assembly Minority leader Opiyo Wandayi, ODM chairman John Mbadi and Embakasi East MP Babu Owino.

Some Luo MPs in ODM are bidding to succeed Raila, to the annoyance of Joho and Oparanya, triggering factions and warring camps within the party.

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