Fresh infighting has erupted in former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) that could distract the party from the CORD coalition’s push for a referendum.
Factional wars linked to the abortive party elections that had gone underground re-emerged as rivals engaged in bare-knuckled exchanges. Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba lit the fuse on the latest feud when he claimed that Raila had no moral authority to lead referendum campaigns that malign the credibility of the electoral commission yet his Orange party failed to hold credible polls.
Namwamba, who led one of the camps to the ill-fated party elections early this year, said Raila should have organised party polls before calling for a referendum.
In an uncharacteristic attack on his party boss, Namwamba alleged there was a scheme to block him from the secretary general’s post when the Men-In-Black disrupted the elections on February 28 at Nairobi’s Kasarani Sports Gymnasium.
“If you cannot trust Ababu Namwamba with the secretary general of a party because he doesn’t look trustworthy, because he comes from a different community, then how will you work with his community when you become President?” Ababu posed.
The remarks by Ababu, who criticised Raila as having no moral authority to call for a referendum when his ODM party suffered from “democratic mistrust” were uttered on Sunday at a fundraiser in aid of Mushiliro Anglican Church in Navakholo, Kakamega County, and sparked angry reactions.
Reached by The Standard for comment yesterday, Raila’s spokesman Dennis Onyango responded: “We will not talk about Ababu. Let him say what he wants. We will answer him at an opportune time.”
Raila is reportedly away in Tanzania.
But the ODM leader’s allies came out guns blazing to attack Namwamba as working for Jubilee to rock the ODM boat from within.
Raila’s elder brother and nominated MP Oburu Odinga was more scathing, saying he was not surprised that Ababu is making such statements.
“We know that Ababu is going to bed with our enemies. What he is saying is not meant for our ears, but for the ears of his masters who gave him four choppers to use in his campaigns for the ODM secretary general’s post. He has no financial muscle to mount such an expensive campaign,” Oburu claimed.
Oburu said ODM knows that Ababu is up to no good because he has chosen not to attend party meetings and rallies.
“Ababu has deliberately chosen to skip ODM rallies for the referendum. We expected to hear what he is saying now. Referendum is not a Raila but party issue. I wonder why he still wants to vie for a post in ODM, a party he fundamentally disagrees with,” Oburu added.
The bungled elections had the party in disarray, and shortly afterwards, Raila flew to the US on a study tour only to make a sensational return in May and re-energising the Opposition.
But leaders who spoke in support of Namwamba argued that the first agenda the party leader should have pursued was to unite the party by conducting credible elections before plunging into referendum campaigns.
While signalling a possible walkout from the party, Namwamba said what ails Kenya’s democracy was lack of leaders with a keen ear to listen. He pleaded with the leadership of major parties to listen to the cries of Kenyans and not to push tribal agendas to the national platform.
Namwamba hinted at a political shake-up that he claimed would shake the country in the run-up to 2017 election and claimed he was being mistreated in ODM.
“An army of one million men can be stopped, but you cannot stop an idea whose time has come. The reason I am being fought is because I am good. I am viewed as a threat to certain interests,” said Namwamba.
“Our country is crying out for leadership. We have resources, good weather and hard working citizens. Kenya is a blessed land but lacks leaders. Kenya needs leaders that don’t trade in politics throughout the week,” he said.
While supporting Namwamba’s sentiments, Butere MP Andrew Toboso said ODM should have concluded its elections to provide the party with solid leadership before going into a referendum.
“My position remains the same. That we need to strengthen our own (ODM) internal structures to offer effective leadership in the coalition (CORD),” Toboso said.
He said since the departure of Amani Coalition Leader Musalia Mudavadi, who served as deputy ODM party leader, there has never been a replacement.
“There are many leaders who left ODM ahead of the 2013 elections. There is no substantive ODM deputy party leader since Mudavadi left. Now we have so many loose ends which we must tie up before we do anything else,” he added.
Sirisia MP John Waluke also backed Namwamba saying Raila should have first addressed matters in his own party to strengthen it in order to get the mandate to lead.
“When officials who do not have the mandate of the people to address issues to do with the party purport to speak on its behalf, it is a case of gross misrepresentation of information.
Kakamega County Woman Representative Rachael Ameso said it was not fair for Ababu to be swindled in his pursuit of the secretary general’s post.
But Siaya Senator James Orengo hit out at Namwamba saying ODM elections should not be linked with calls for a referendum. “There is no justification in the utterance. There is no emergency and vacuum in the ODM leadership. The aborted elections were to fill vacant positions left by Musalia Mudavadi and Deputy President William Ruto. Let Kisumu Senator Anyang Nyong’o continue leading the party,” Orengo said.
Orengo added that ODM has not broken any law as far as holding internal elections is concerned. “We are within the law which stipulates that a party must hold internal elections in five years. We will do that when we are ready, and after rejuvenating our branches and ensuring a presence in all parts of the country,” he said.
“The referendum is a bigger question that involves non-ODM players and every person in the country. That is why Martha Karua, Peter Kenneth, and governors want it,” Orengo said.
Funyula MP Paul Otuoma concurred, saying ODM party politics should not be linked to the referendum. “The national referendum is different from ODM party elections and the two should not be confused. I know some leaders still feel aggrieved over the aborted party elections and we all are,” Otuoma said.
Suba MP Millie Odhiambo said Ababu was misleading ODM members.
“Ababu is in the ODM caretaker committee that is supposed to give us a report on the way forward for the party. Instead of asking Raila for elections, let him apprise us as party members on what he and his team that is to chart the way forward for ODM have done,” she said.
Ugunja MP David Ochieng supported Ababu on party elections, but differed on the timing of the referendum. “I want party reforms first but I support the referendum. Let us separate the two because they are not mutually exclusive,” Ochieng said.