Kenya: Why party is over for ODM

The fortunes of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) appeared to be dwindling this weekend, as it emerged that discontent was mounting over the running of the partys affairs.

And some of the partys MPs are withholding their membership fees to protest what they describe as lethargic leadership. Its dismal performance in the mayoral elections countrywide, despite its numerical strength in municipal councils, amply demonstrates its changed fortunes, barely a year and a half after its electoral success.

The party could be over for the behemoth that registered electoral success in the last election and its humiliation at the parliamentary House Business Committee elections seem to point to the grave situation.

The warning shot, analysts say, came when the party lost resoundingly despite enjoying a majority in Parliament.

“We know why ODM lost crucial committee seats. Our own MPs trooped to vote for our political rivals,” confirmed ODM Secretary General Anyang Nyongo.

Now a major test is coming up by way of two by-elections in Shinyalu and Bomachoge, where party nominations have been riddled with uncharacteristic bickering.

Raila preoccupied

The Nairobi mayoral election on August 3 is another test where Mayor Geoffrey Majiwa is fighting tooth and nail to retain the seat.

Insiders say trouble has been brewing in the party since last year. At the core of the problem, they charge, is party leader Raila Odinga, who is perceived to have abdicated ODM leadership to concentrate on his duties as Prime Minister and his alleged preoccupation with international networks.

Party chairman Henry Kosgey is reported be detached and lacking clout and failing to develop a strategy for the secretariat management.

Trouble began with grumbling over nomination to the Pan African Parliament where the partys Parliamentary Whip Jakoyo Midiwo is said to have single-handedly picked the names of nominees at a time a section of MPs wanted the party parliamentary group to meet and discuss the issue. Insiders say MPs felt slighted by this and paid back in kind by ensuring ODM lost during the election of chairpersons for House committee.

The re-election of Naivasha MP John Mututho to head the Agriculture committee was just such a protest against the alleged imposition by Raila of an ODM MP to gun for the seat. As a consequence, other interested MPs had to step down.

If Mr Midiwo is to blame for the mess in Parliament, sources say, Prof Nyongo is to blame for imposing a list of councillors to be nominated by the party. A number of MPs are angry that the party leadership would not allow them a say on those to be nominated councillors in their own constituencies. They felt helpless that Nyongo and Midiwo claimed to be acting on the PMs orders.

Meetings called off

On two occasions, MPs have called meetings to have Midiwo replaced as party whip, but the meetings were put off at the last minute at the instigation of Nyongo and Kosgey, The Standard learnt.

Reached for comment Midiwo defended himself as having performed his duties as whip in accordance with Standing Orders.

“To the Pan African Parliament I nominated Rachael Shebesh (Nairobi) Musa Sirma (Rift Valley) and Gideon Mungaro (Coast). What better options would one give?” he posed.

On the withholding of members contributions, Midiwo said: “A party is a members club. MPs pay a monthly fee but the greatest critics do not even pay the monthly subscription fee,” Jakoyo said.

There is a growing feeling that if it is Nyongo and Kosgey who will be signing certificates in 2012, then they stand no fair chance. Consequently, some are said to be eyeing other parties. Nyongo dismissed the allegations as the work of detractors who are keen to see the party at war with the aim of breaking it up.

“There is nothing wrong with being academic,” he said of the charge that he is aloof. “It does not pay to be ignorant,” he chuckled.

“ODM is only second to ANC in Africa. We are busy building networks across the country and the fear of rivals is how well organised we are,” Nyongo said.

“Recently, we were in Malindi, Sotik, Bomet and North Rift on party visits. We are active and equal to the task,” Nyongo said.

PM consults widely

The PMs advisor on coalition Affairs Miguna Miguna said: “The PM meets regularly with ODM Cabinet ministers, consults widely and engages professionals and strategists. The party has submitted the most comprehensive papers to the task force on police reforms, the Committee of Experts on Constitution review and on any matter as expected. ODM rivals have not.”

Centre for Multiparty Democracy chairman Larry Gumbe echoed these sentiments. “Parties are built around powerful individuals who finance and run them at their whims and ODM is not unique.”

“Without proper funding and a functioning secretariat employing professionals who research and develop party positions on key issues, parties will wrangle,” Gumbe says.

A party official who talked to The Standard said Deputy Party Leader Musalia Mudavadi is seen by many as too diplomatic and shying away from controversy while others see him as a fence sitter. On Sunday, his associates said he is not interested in commenting on the matter.

Fellow deputy party leader William Ruto is seen as ambitious but quick to exploit his power base and ready to flaunt his prowess to others who may wish to court him.

Some Rift Valley MPs say the PM is putting them in an awkward position over the Mau Forest saga, which has caught the imagination of virtually all politicians owing to its importance as one of the nations water towers.

The Standard

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