Friday, December 19, 2008



By David Ohito and Isaac Ongiri

ODM held its crucial National Delegates Conference amid protests over some names in the pre-agreed list of national officials. The party officials, however, shook off the dissent to assemble a national outfit and promised Kenyans it will not relent in its fight for reforms.

Warning of a difficult road ahead, coupled with wrangles afflicting the coalition Government, ODM appeared united for now, but still bemoaned what it calls "a stolen victory" at last year’s General Election.

The party held the national elections at Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi, in its bid to meet the requirements of a new law — The Political Parties Act — that comes into effect on December 31.

The party managed to steer through internal wrangles and have Prime Minister Raila Odinga elected party leader unopposed.

To avert a fall-out within its ranks, positions of two deputies were created and assumed by Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi and Agriculture Minister William Ruto who have been jostling to deputise Raila.

However, there were troubled moments when two ministers were elected amid protests that the elections were not transparent.

Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o and his Co-operative counterpart Joseph Nyagah did not it smooth sailing as delegates booed attempts to deny their opponents a chance to contest the positions.

Prof Nyong’o survived and attempts to nominate his rival, Mr J T Okinda, were thwarted.

Mr Nyagah managed to trounce Mr Mugambi Imanyara in an election in which officials were elected through acclamation.

Tourism Minister Najib Balala — a member of ODM’s Pentagon — did not get a national position as Coast MPs Ramadhan Kajembe and Hassan Joho were elected vice-chairman and national organising secretary respectively.

Shouts of haki yetu (our rights) drowned National Election Board Chairman Philip Okundi’s voice as he steered the elections through tricky moments.

At one time, Regional Development Minister Fred Gumo had to step in and help.

Midway through the elections, the officials realised the legal mathematics was not adding up. The Political Parties Act requires that a third of the national officials be of either gender.

Of 31 national seats, no single woman had been elected after 15 positions had been filled, prompting Assistant Minister Margaret Wanjiru to grab the microphone and demand women officials be picked.

At this point, the elections were suspended for an hour to allow further consultations.

Assistant Minister George Khaniri grumbled as he left the election venue: "These are sham elections. Democracy has been thrown away. Even Kanu was better. You could speak and be heard."

Okinda, who wanted to contest against Nyong’o, said: "I will challenge his registration as the secretary-general. I paid Sh40,000 to run against him as required by the party, but I wasn’t even offered the opportunity to undergo nomination."

But in his speech, Raila said: "Today you have given ODM new impetus to steer the country to greater heights. ODM is built on a platform of change and we must deliver it."

He added: "Like our brother Barack Obama did in the US, we can bring the change we can believe in through mobilising resources. We don’t have gold and diamond, but it is in our youth where we have it. Investment in infrastructure is the solution."

He went on: "We want to move with confidence. You have shown the party is growing. I salute our members who have stood with the party in the trenches, in water, on mud in difficult times".

Raila told ODM supporters who had thronged the auditorium: "This is a transition period and we will restructure our party, develop a strong base with ideology. We want to send clear messages for change."

Mr Mudavadi on his part said: "I acknowledge the resilience of Kenyans and ODM followers. We went through difficult times. You burned the midnight oil, spent long hours determined to ensure the party takes the leadership of this country. Unfortunately, it was stolen!"

He went on: "There was a moment for the country to reflect through great sacrifice, but Raila said tomorrow is another day. We signed a power sharing deal. It is truly a manifestation of what Kenyans needed then.

"We must have hope because hope must guide us. The road to change is far from over, going to be difficult and will suck time and resources.

"To change the Constitution will not be simple. It took us one year to disband the Electoral Commission of Kenya. A lot of time and resources will be lost. But we must not despair," Mudavadi said.

He was cheered when he said many ODM supporters felt party officials had let them down.

"We must plead with them that coalitions are not easy," he said.

Ruto spoke in similar terms.

"We went to the elections on a platform of change. Those who voted for the party voted for change.

"ODM believes in change and we believe it is deliverable. Not for the few but for the majority. We have come here as a family. It is a new beginning. I want to promise Kenyans that the political machine assembled here is capable of delivering changes Kenyans yearn for."

We have unemployment, poverty, poor infrastructure … I’m persuaded that even in the face of such huge challenges, they are surmountable."

Ruto now one of the deputy party leaders alongside Musalia said: "Kenya has the most valuable asset in its manpower and energy of the youth. It is possible to put together that machine of leadership."

He added: "ODM believes a new constitution must relieve hunger, poverty and hold leadership to account. It is no more business as usual."

The Agriculture Minister said Kenya was a great nation, but Kenyans are under achievers because they have never had good leadership free from the yoke of tribalism.

"I am confident ODM has the capacity, potential and wherewithal to put this country where it should be. We want a parliamentary system where leaders are accountable to the people," Ruto said.

"We must harness talent, intellect and energy to fight poverty. We may not have oil, but we have the strength in the resilience of citizens. If we organise the resource, we will turn around the country," he said.