Parties in the CORD team will on Sunday hold a joint Parliamentary Group (PG) meeting in the backdrop of simmering internal wrangles.
The meeting will take place at the residence of FordKenya leader Moses Wetang’ula in Karen, Nairobi. Coalition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka are expected in the meeting.
Raila’s ODM, Kalonzo’s Wiper and Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya are the key partners in the coalition.
The coalition has been outfoxed by the Jubilee Alliance on the legislative front and some members are disappointed with performance inside and outside Parliament.
Inside the individual parties, reports indicate that all is not well.
In ODM, internal leadership wrangles threaten to tear the party down the middle while the Wiper Democratic Party is enduring open dissent from a section of its members and elected leaders.
Even in its rank and file, the CORD coalition has been criticized over perceived inability to provide effective opposition.
And so tomorrow’s meeting carries significant political weight with insiders viewing it as an opportunity for the coalition to clearly define its role and evaluate its performance as the official opposition.
Some coalition MPs are angry at what they see as a fragmented opposition and its dismal performance.
According to Olago Aluoch (Kisumu Town West, Ford Kenya), “ CORD as an opposition performs below expectations because of lack of proper coordination and a common approach in facing major national challenges. Walking out of the National Assembly or Senate by CORD members as was experienced during debates to withdraw Kenya from the Rome Statute was a cowardly act.”
The legislator remained in the National Assembly as his colleagues staged a walkout on Thursday September 4. He took the floor to tell the Jubilee side that they were passing the withdrawal Motion at their own peril.
“My friend Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba who was then in Tanzania sent me a text message to congratulate me for being brave,” said Aluoch.
“It (coalition’s performance) is below par, and we have to style up to remain relevant,” said an MP from Siaya County who asked not to be named for fear of being seen as disloyal to the coalition leadership.
But Raila’s spokesman Dennis Onyango defended the walkouts by CORD MPs and Senators from Parliament and the Senate, saying they were designed to make the point that CORD was not party to the Motion being passed by Jubilee.
According to political scientist Prof Amukowa Anangwe, CORD is a like a ship with three captains.
He is of the opinion that the coalition was currently suffering from an identity crisis and that it is a divided house that cannot stand.
“ CORD was formed as a coalition to fight an election which it lost. Ideally, the three major parties should have gone separate ways but they instead decided to stick together without harmonising their structures,” says Prof Anangwe, who was a key ODM strategist in the 2007 presidential race.
Defending the coalition against accusations of poor performace Mr Onyango said CORD has an elaborate operational structure in place and will soon embolden as the official opposition.
Vanquished in the National Assembly and the Senate over the Rome Statute withdrawal vote, cracks are emerging within the coalition over a planned referendum on devolution.
Aluoch, Namwamba and Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa have openly opposed calls by their leaders for a referendum to increase resource allocation to the counties.
“While the timing is wrong due to the ICC cases, the same can also be realized by amending the Allocation of Revenue Act in Parliament, which only requires a simple majority to pass,” said Aluoch.
But ODM’s executive director Magerer Langat argued that CORD has performed well as an opposition, and that it was working on ways to further strengthen its performance.
He said the fact that CORD has fewer members in both the National Assembly and the Senate cannot compromise its position on key national issues.
Matayos MP Godfrey Odanga (ODM) also argues that CORD has performed above average in its capacity as the main opposition.
However, Prof Anangwe sees the coalition as suffering from self-denial in the execution of its minority mandate both in the National Assembly and the Senate.
“The coalition has less numbers compared to Jubilee yet it has the false notion that it can shape the legislative agenda,” he said.
He was quick to remind the opposition side that the majority must have their way and the minority their say.
His advice to CORD is that they should stop staging walkouts and instead must use the floors of the National Assembly and the Senate to persuade their colleagues in Jubilee to back their agenda.
Langat had earlier told The Standard would hold a retreat for its MPs on September 15 and 16. But he later confirmed that the retreat had been shelved to allow Cord-affiliated MPs to attend the PG meeting.
Tomorrow’s meeting comes at a time when the coalition is gearing for a bruising political battle with Jubilee in a number of by-elections slated for next month.
Some of the dissatisfied members in Wiper are reported to be working with the Jubilee government, causing great discomfort within the party ranks.
“I have been insulted that I am eating with the enemy. What my accusers don’t know is that one has to live with the enemy to understand him,” said Mwingi Central MP (Wiper) Joe Mutambu during his homecoming party in Mwingi town last weekend.
The coalition is preparing for a fight to retain three crucial seats in the October 17 by-election. These are the Siaya governor’s seat, the Kibwezi West parliamentary seat and the Matungulu parliamentary seat.
In the Siaya by-election, ODM and Ford Kenya are expected to lock horns.
Sources indicate that ODM is pushing to have Ford Kenya drop its interest in the seat lest the coalition creates an opportunity for the Jubilee candidate to benefit from the contest.
Parties to be dissolved
It is also expected that tomorrow’s retreat will formerly clear Wiper to field a candidate in Matungulu Constituency.
The party will also be expected to back former MP Kalembe Ndile for the Kibwezi West seat. Mr. Ndile belongs to The Independent Party, a member of the CORD coalition.
The joint PG comes a day before the re-opening of Parliament.
Out of the 349 members of the National Assembly, Jubilee has 216 MPs; only 16 short of the 232 needed for an absolute majority that can enable it make constitutional changes with ease.
A section of coalition MPs, among them Ugunja’s James Wandayi, want the VAT Act suspended.
Alternatively, Mr Wandayi wants amendments introduced to the Act when the Houseresumes.
“At the PG, we will also discuss insecurity and the possibility of going into a referendum to determine whether or not Kenya should pull out of the Rome Statute,” said Langat.
According to Aluoch, the best way out is for CORD affiliate parties to be dissolved to facilitate the formation of a single opposition party that can be well coordinated.