Sunday, September 7, 2008



Monday, September 08, 2008
By Obadiah Ayoti and Edwin Mutai
Kenya Times

Disgruntled elements within ODM yesterday blamed Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the Pentagon for leading the party astray but Raila told the leaders to stop wrangling to avert a possible disintegration of the party. The tough talking Raila asked ODM members to resolve any internal differences to avoid a split in the party which he said had a national outlook saying the move would be detrimental as preparations for the 2012 elections were already in top gear.

Referring to demands by a section of MPs fronting for the formation of a grand opposition, Raila said the demand was uncalled for. Speaking during the party’s retreat in Naivasha yesterday, Raila dismissed the MPs calling for the formation of a grand opposition in parliament as those who were disgruntled after missing ministerial positions when the grand coalition government was formed.

Said he: "This is a scheme by some leaders who are playing regional politics precipitated by disillusionment by their failure to be appointed as ministers. We need to understand that not everybody can be in government."He reiterated that the grand opposition was unwarranted as the Grand Coalition Government was formed under very special circumstances."This is not like an ordinary coalition that usually has willing partners. It was a product of necessity to stop the country from degenerating into a civil war. "You can’t score into your own goal," added the PM.

The PM said special Grand Coalitions as was the case in Kenya, are formed to avoid hung parliaments and that where all parties are in government, coalition partners checked each other. "In such cases, ministers can even be whistleblowers", he said.Acknowledging that to err was human, Raila appealed to them to embrace nationalism and not look back since ODM had national roots. "In modern democracy, the trend is to move to national parties", pointing out that in England, Germany and the US, only two main political parties served the electorate and urged Kenyans to follow suit.

Raila said ODM was seeking change through a common ideology and vision. "The ODM party policy was clear in its environmental agenda especially with regard to the protection of the five water towers in Western and Rift Valley provinces", said the PM as he castigated MPs taking a populist approach with regard to resettlement of squatters in the Mau Forest.Soon after delivering his speech, Raila was put to task by MPs Isaac Ruto (Chepalungu ), Ababu Namwamba (Budalang’i), Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany) and Gideon Mung’aro who claimed the party had lost its course and direction.In order to revitalise the party and comply with the Political Parties Act, the party agreed to conduct grassroots elections, sources told Kenya Times.

But the MPs insisted on the establishment of a neutral team appointed to carry out the elections to ensure they are free and fair to avert a possible repeat of the nomination fiasco. "This time round we are not leaving anything to chance in order for the party to reclaim its vibrancy. We don’t want to see a situation where losers are announced winners as it happened during the party nomination ahead of last year’s general election," said the leaders, a source at the two-day meeting told us.

At the same time, a reliable source at the meeting intimated to Kenya Times that ODM ministers are set to hold a meeting to review the party’s role in the grand coalition government. The planned ministerial meeting from the Orange party comes at time when there is a perception that the party is being shortchanged by PNU despite the fact that President Kibaki agreed to share power equally with Raila as stipulated in the National Accord and Reconciliation Act.

Barely five months after the grand coalition government was formed amid high expectations, there is growing anxiety within a section of the ODM ranks that had expected to benefit from the new power-sharing arrangement. The Naivasha meeting also looked at amendments to the party constitution to make it comply with the demands of the new Political Parties Act that came into operation on July 1, 2008.

The Political Parties Act has placed December this year as the month by which all political parties should have held their national elections, put structures, opened up offices throughout the country or else risk deregistration.Also top on the agenda of yesterday’s charged meeting was the role of the Pentagon in the running of party affairs.The meeting also thrashed out various matters including the growing discontent and rebellion among disgruntled party MPs especially those from South Rift Valley, Western and Coast Provinces.

There was a clear divide between those who believe ODM is in government, and needs to pursue a national agenda, and those who think the party was not "fully" recognised in the coalition and was being treated as such. A number of legislators took issue with the way ODM is being treated by its coalition partner, Party of National Unity. Some of them think ODM should pursue its own agenda in preparation of 2012 general election.

Others with contrary views believed they had a right to be in government and would assert their presence and remain in government until the next general election. The deliberations also touched on the party position with regard to youths held custody following the post-election violence and the controversial planned evictions of Mau Forest settlers scheduled to be effected latter this month.

Some South Rift MPs expressed their discontent over cabinet appointments and other top government positions saying they received a raw deal.The region inhabited largely by the Kipsigis, got only one Cabinet portfolio while the second largest tribe in the community, the Nandi, which is second in size, got three.The MPs from the community also demanded that one of their own be appointed to the Ministry of Roads that was left vacant after the plane crash that killed Kipkalya Kones who held the position.