Tuesday, September 9, 2008



September 9, 2008
By Abiya Ochola
The Standard

The Orange Democratic Movement’s Pentagon is no more.

The apex organ, that consisted of six formidable politicians and which spearheaded last year’s elections for the Orange party, met its Waterloo on Monday at the end of a defining meeting.

In its place, two positions of non-elective Party Leader and Deputy Party Leader were created, despite demands from some party MPs that they be open to competition.

Retained were the posts of chairman, secretary-general and treasurer together with their deputies, which shall all be elective.

During the two-day Naivasha retreat, ODM politicians took party leader Raila Odinga to task over his five-month track record as Prime Minister.

However, a number of key burning issues that have threatened to rock the party remained unresolved even as the party put in place new party structures.

Proponents of the Grand Opposition led by Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba refused to introduce debate on the push for an official opposition outfit, saying it was a national matter that could only be discussed in Parliament.

"We decided not to raise the issue because it cannot be adequately handled by a party caucus. This is an idea whose time has come and we shall only discuss it in Parliament," said Charangany MP Joshua Kutuny.

Despite Raila’s pronouncements that the party had left the retreat more united, there was disquiet among some Rift Valley delegates who maintained that the region had been shortchanged.

Nagging issue

Sources at the meeting said the nagging issue of Cabinet appointments came up on Sunday night, with Nominated MP Musa Sirma claiming that Rift Valley’s representation in the Cabinet was not commensurate with its vote tally for the party in last year’s General Election.

This came up after the MPs from the region held a caucus and appointed the fiery legislator to present their grievances.

Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi (right), Nairobi Mayor Geoffrey Majiwa and Karen Ward Councillor Hellen Katangie at the Simba Lodge in Naivasha, on Monday. PHOTO:COLLINS KWEYU

Raila is said to have argued that all regions could not be given the number of slots demanded because "we had limited positions".

Muslim MPs and delegates are said to have railed at Raila for failing to honour his pre-election MoU. The delegates put Raila to task over the extra-judicial rendition of Muslims to Ethiopia under the pretext that they were terrorists.

Raila put to task

Coast MPs also put Raila to task over appointments to positions in institutions at the Coast.

"During campaigns, you said all resources at the Coast would be run by Coast residents, what has changed that you now push for outsiders to run institutions like Kenya Ports Authority?" posed MPs Ali Hassan Joho and Ramadhan Kajembe.

The proposed livestock insurance scheme by ODM also came up, but Raila dismissed the proposer, Mr Aden Doualle, accusing the Assistant minister of having failed to come up with a policy paper on the same.

"You are in that ministry but I have yet to see a proposal from you over that scheme," countered Raila.

Cabinet minister Fred Gumo argued that the party had been shortchanged in the coalition, saying President Kibaki and Head of Civil Service Mr Francis Muthaura enjoyed absolute authority.

"It is evident that Kibaki and Muthaura are in complete control as ODM remains a bystander. We should not allow this to happen," he said.

Another delegate is said to have demanded that ODM pulls out of the Grand Coalition so that other elections are undertaken.

The retreat came up with 11 resolutions, one of which targeted Muthaura for allegedly undermining the spirit and letter of the National Accord. "The functions of the office of the PM as spelt out in the Constitution and the Accord be respected and that there cannot be a Head of Civil Service who operates outside the provisions of section 15 (A) of the Constitution and Section 4(1)(a) of the Accord," read the resolution.

The National Governing Council also demanded that all youth being held in custody in relation to the post-election violence be immediately released.

The Government, the delegates demanded, should also demand the unconditional return of all Kenyans held in Ethiopia.The retreat endorsed that the party grassroots elections be held between November 22 and 24, this year.

The controversial Mau Forest saga also erupted at the retreat, with South Rift MPs accusing Raila of fighting his own supporters.

"The PM should respect our right to private property. We are not against moving people out of the forest but we demand that the issue of compensation and resettlement be exhausted before any move is undertaken," said Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto.

But his concerns were watered down by the delegates who affirmed their support to Government’s efforts to address the issue of Mau and other water towers.

"But we call for proper and humane resettlement of the people," said Party Secretary-General Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o.

The NGC also resolved to form a 10-member committee comprising representatives from the National Executive Council, Parliamentary Group, Orange Women Democrats and Young Orange Democrats to finalise the party’s strategic plan.

Yesterday, former Pentagon member William Ruto was absent while Najib Balala left early.

Mrs Charity Ngilu did not attend the retreat.

Efforts by Namwamba to have the position of Deputy Party Leader to be elective was shot down amid arguments that the MP seemed to be fronting for a certain interested personality.

In his closing remarks Raila said he would not engage in early campaigns for 2012, terming it misplaced and unwarranted.

"That is missing the point. We are just from an election and people expect us to deliver.

Let us not campaign because people will not see the difference. Let us work and deliver in our duties because this is the only sure way that will see ODM winning the election in 2012," he said.

He challenged party MPs to champion the agenda for constitutional reform.

"We cannot afford to fail on this. Our MPs must take this seriously because if we fail, Kenyans will not forgive us," he said.

On appointment to top jobs in key government portfolios, Raila dismissed as cheap and pedestrian calls for such positions to be based on tribes and regions.

"Let us look beyond the picture and ensure equity but also avoid tribalising positions.

Any Kenyan should head a government body anywhere in Kenya," he said.