The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) is fighting to reverse the perception of “violence” that continues to characterise the party — from heckling at political rallies and funerals to fighting at party events.
ODM is the lynchpin of Cord, and the conduct of its affairs could have implications on the Opposition. The botched party nominations ahead of the 2013 General Election, the disruption of internal elections by a group nicknamed Men in Black, the ejection of then ODM Executive Director Magerer Langat from the party headquarters and the violence that marred the Homa Bay Senate primaries are cited as recent examples.
An introductory tour by Mr Moses Kajwang’, the party’s candidate for the Homa Bay Senate by-election, was also marred by violent scenes blamed on youths allied to disgruntled candidates.
At the January 10 funeral in Bondo of Fidel Odinga, son of ODM leader Raila Odinga, the crowd heckled Cabinet secretaries Raychelle Omamo, Charity Ngilu, and some political leaders. Some Cord politicians also gave fiery speeches at the event, just as they did during the funeral of Senator Otieno Kajwang’, further exciting the charged crowd.
The trend has escalated to a point where even journalists from media organisations perceived to be anti-ODM have not been spared.
While some leaders contacted by the Sunday Nation termed jeers that target certain leaders a spontaneous process of “social audit”, others said the heckling and violence witnessed in some ODM and Cord rallies were beyond their control.
However, ODM Secretary- General and Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba admitted the perception of hooliganism, violence, insults and uncouth posturing was politically costly. “The conduct is not our official party policy. We must condemn it in the strongest terms possible,” Mr Namwamba said.
CULTURE OF VIOLENCE
He defended the party he said was founded on the principles of the rule of law, national unity and cohesion.
ODM Secretary for Political Affairs Opiyo Wandayi said the culture of violence was neither new nor unique to ODM or Cord. He attributed such reactions at meetings to frustration, especially with the Jubilee government.
“When, for example, the government does not come out in the open to explain mysteries around deaths and corruption, the suspicion creates room for such acrimonious reactions,” said Mr Wandayi, who is also the Ugunja MP.
Mr Austine “Makamu” Omondi, known for working crowds up at ODM rallies in western Kenya, said the reactions – targetting both Opposition and government leaders– cannot be controlled because they are spontaneous and informed by discontent.
“Cord supporters, especially from Luo Nyanza, want leaders who are straightforward. These noises come because some of the leaders have either betrayed the trust of the people or have taken a stand that we don’t recognise as a coalition,”
An ODM MP who asked not to be named because he ws already on ODM’s “bad books” said “These violent scenes are used as a tool to advance the party’s interests against those who have a contrary opinion.”
TNA Secretary General Onyango Oloo lashed out, saying that from its inception, ODM has been known for violence, hooliganism and disorder and dismissed suggestions Jubilee had a hand in Cord’s woes.