Wednesday, December 17, 2008



By Beauttah Omanga

As the deadline for compliance with the Political Parties Act nears parties have shifted gear to election mode as big guns both in PNU and ODM jostle for top party positions.

The intra-party competition for national positions has become so stiff amid fears of imminent break-ups and fallouts in the two main coalition parties.

Cabinet ministers, some serving as interim officials are fighting to fend off strong challenge from ambitious politicians.

The interim officials, who helped market ODM and PNU, both outfits formed some few months to last year’s General Election are staring at political uncertainty.

Competition has become stiff as they operate at full throttle with politicians who had little input out seek to reap where they did little at sowing.

Campaigns for top positions in the leading two coalition partners intensified last week ahead of this weekend’s National Delegates Conferences for both parties.

It will be a delicate balancing act for both President Kibaki and PM Raila Odinga (both party leaders) as they try to maintain cohesion within outfits sharply divided along regional support blocs.

Regional Cocoons
In ODM, Raila has a tricky balancing act as majority of his MPs seem to have retreated to their regional cocoons from where they are demanding national positions in the party.

ODM heads to Bomas of Kenya for its delegates conference on December 18 where some 26 national positions would be up for grabs.

The party was yet to decide if an additional position for post of Deputy Party Leader would be created.

Among the positions ODM has created to spread its national leadership are two positions of Deputy National Chairmen one in charge Operations and one for Programmes.

There are two positions for Deputy National Organising Secretaries Political Affairs and for Administration, and two National Treasurers Finance and Audit and another for Planning.

Another 13 positions of Secretary have been created which will be up for grabs. They include Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Publicity and Information, Women Affairs, Youth, Special Interest Groups, Environment and devolved Government.

By last night the party was still to agree on the number of delegates to attend the NDC but grassroots elections have ruffled many a feather.

Yesterday the chairman of the National Elections Board Mr Philip Okundi confirmed there was bitter rivalry in Rongo where Cabinet Minister Dalmas Otieno’s line up was battling that of his political nemesis Ochillo Ayacko.

In Nyakach, MP Pollyns Ochieng’ Daima was battling it out with a councilor Mr Alfred Apuoyo who has been interim branch chairman.

Elevate Ruto
A section of Rift Valley leaders insist on having William Ruto elevated to deputy party leader. Assistant Minister Joseph Nkaissery has his eyes set on the party organising secretary, a slot that has attracted Isaac Ruto, the Chepalungu MP.

Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi would be seeking to defend his position when the elections are called.

Rift Valley MPs have threatened unspecified action if Ruto is not made a deputy party leader while their counterparts from Western Province hold that the position must be automatically given to Mudavadi, Raila’s running mate in the elections last year.

Yesterday, Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny said Ruto will not accept position of ODM secretary general.

"Ruto has been a secretary general of an equally bigger party Kanu. He cannot go for the same seat again. We want him appointed deputy in command to Raila," said Kuttuny.

Ruto seems to be playing his cards close to his chest and is instead letting friendly MPs do the talking and scheming.

ODM’s current officials are Chairman Henry Kosgey (Industry minister), Secretary General Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o (Medical Services) and Treasurer Omingo Magara who is assistant minister for Trade

Already Coastal leaders want to take the chairman’s slot, a position also Nyanza party members feel should be given to Roads minister Chris Obure.

Nyong’o said all positions plus would be up for grabs when the delegates converge at Bomas.

Khaniri who has declared his candidature for Nyong’o seat says those who have been interim officials have served their time and should give way to a new crop of leaders.

Unpopular Leaders

ODM MP Charles Onyancha said all must be done to ensure equal representation saying there was need to let Magara retain his seat as party treasurer.

The board was accused of altering lists presented by returning officers to the demands of unpopular leaders among them MPs.
Okundi denied some MPs were favoured. ‘"We carried out fair elections to all and those who raised questions we gave them another chance by canceling results from 15 branches." Okundi said the board has approved results from 195 branches whose certificates are now ready for collection. He said his board was satisfied with the returns filed by returning officers.

In PNU, those facing challenge for their positions include party spokesman George Nyamweya and party co-ordinator Dr Noah Wekesa. Nyamweya a long time confidant of President Kibaki is facing a test of his political career as Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi positions himself for the position of party secretary general, which he too is eyeing.

Kibaki Succession
Even though Nyamweya and Kibaki have a long history, pundits aver that his position was precarious as the Mt Kenya team angles itself to take total control of the Kibaki succession.

When Kibaki won the presidency he retained Nyamweya by nominating him to Parliament.

Kiraitu’s candidature has complicated matters for Nyamweya. Both Nyamweya and Kiraitu are close political comrades of the President.

While Kibaki said to have automatically clinched the position of party leader, he faces a tricky situation to decide whom between Nyamweya and Kiraitu he will root for. But Kiraitu, who represents the Meru vote, cannot be ignored. The Ameru, who have been openly grumbling that Kibaki shortchanged them in Cabinet appointments, will be closely watching the President as he plays his cards.

In addition to the fact that Kibaki retires in 2012 complicates matters for Nyamweya with the Saitoti-Kiraitu axis bringing in a former associate of former Cabinet minister Simeon Nyachae, Mr Jimmy Angwenyi.

To starve Nyamweya of the support of even his own backyard delegates, Saitoti allies have reportedly promised to support Angwenyi for the Vice chairman’s slot to take care of the Kisii interests.

Besides Nyamweya, Dr Wekesa is fighting for his political life at the helm of PNU.

The Kwanza MP said he was not bothered with campaigns mounted by Internal Security minister Prof George Saitoti adding "all I know I have done a lot for this party and party members will not abandon me for fence-sitters".

Wekesa using a helicopter visited many parts of the country including stopovers at Budalang’i on Saturday and another meeting in Migori on Sunday.

Saitoti on his part has been meeting delegates in various towns where he pleaded with them to give him a chance to head the party.