Thursday, 27 February 2014


At the centre of debate before ODM’s internal polls is the matter of the party’s performance in the last General Election. While Raila’s fears might spring from his loss of support in the Rift, and parts of Western and Northern Kenya, the so-called ‘Obura group’ (named after Ken Obura) blames an Orengo-Nyong’o axis for the party’s misfortunes.ODM party leader Raila Odinga has Survived many political storms since he ventured into politics in the early 1990s.
Friday’s ODM National Delegates Convention is one such occasion where he is expected to draw on his political expertise to ensure the party he expects to use as his vehicle in the next presidential poll remains united following the emergence of two camps.
Mr Odinga is an accomplished grassroots mobiliser, with a huge political clout and forceful personality to match.And, although he has continued to influence Kenya’s political agenda, his detractors say he is a ruthless politician who will crush those he views as working against his interests.

His earliest brush with Kenya’s turbulent political landscape was in the early 1990s after a fallout in the then pro-equality Forum for Restoration of Democracy that was later converted into a political party, Ford.Following differences between two factions, one led by his father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, and another by former detainee Kenneth Matiba, the younger Odinga and other youthful politicians, dubbed Young Turks, teamed up with the doyen of opposition politics to form Ford Kenya.
The other splinter group led by Martin Shikuku and Kenneth Matiba registered its own party, Ford Asili.However, when Jaramogi died, Mr Odinga found himself fighting for control of Ford Kenya against another group led by then Vice-President Kijana Wamalwa.When supporters of the two factions converged at Thika Stadium on April 13, 1996 a fracas erupted after disagreement arose over certain delegates.
Each faction later conducted its own elections and sought to be declared the bona fide office holders. A protracted legal battle ensued, resulting in Mr Odinga leaving Ford Kenya and launching the National Development Party (NDP).In 1998, the NDP entered into an alliance with Kanu which resulted in Mr Odinga and several other members of the party becoming ministers in the government of President Daniel arap Moi.Earlier, Mr Odinga, a mechanical engineer, would be accused of masterminding the 1982 coup against President Moi’s government and was charged with treason and detained without trial for six years before fleeing to Norway in 1991.
In early 2002, Kanu held internal elections where Mr Odinga became secretary-general.Mr Moi was to surprise Mr Odinga when he endorsed Mr Uhuru Kenyatta as the Kanu flag-bearer in the polls.Mr Odinga led a walkout and teamed up with Kalonzo Musyoka to take over the little known Liberal Democratic Party.Come 2007, he crafted the Pentagon team ahead of the General Election. However, he suffered a major setback when current Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo handed over the ownership of ODM-Kenya to Mr Musyoka, leaving Mr Odinga in a dilemma.Lawyer Mugambi Manyara came to his rescue and surrendered ODM to him, which he used to contest the 2007 polls.On September 1, 2007, he was nominated ODM presidential candidate at the Moi International Sports Centre with Musalia Mudavadi as a running mate.The sports Centre is a familiar ground for Mr Odinga where he has fought many political wars, won some and lost othersAll is set for Friday's ODM national elections, even as competing factions dug in, with the team allied to Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho raising the red flag over alleged derailment of the former premier. Speaking in Mombasa on the last leg of their campaigns, the team asked party leader Raila Odinga to remain non-partisan, declaring that Friday's poll will be a litmus test for democracy in the party.

Among political parties in Parliament, ODM is Kenya’s oldest with a coherent institutional base. Like other parties, it was founded and built on regional-ethnic blocs. In a country whose salient political features include ethnic and regional brokerage, ODM must represent all regions in Kenya and, most significantly, those who supported the party in 2013. Common understanding regarding ODM’s popularity outside Nyanza – and specifically at the Coast – fails to appreciate that regional balancing is now the most significant factor in the party’s elections.

 The Coast has never had a serious national political party, and has produced only one presidential candidate, Chibule wa Tsuma, who ran on a KNC ticket in 1992, and came a distant sixth. Coastal parties have enjoyed little impact nationally or regionally. This has left the Coast susceptible to outside parties, while feeding its feeling of marginalisation. But voter turnout in 2013 was higher than in any previous election. Even more interestingly, Raila’s presidential vote grew, both in numbers, and as a proportion of the vote, while President Kenyatta captured fewer votes than Kibaki had in 2007. Consensus among politicians and analysts is that the Coast’s strong vote for Raila was a vote for the new Constitution and devolution. However, in discussion of the 2010 constitution, some representatives of coastal opinion made clear their dissatisfaction at the modest decentralization offered by the new constitution.

 The vijimbo constitution, as some dismissively call it, did not capture overwhelming support at the coast – a majority voted for it, but on a turnout of 537,000 voters, less than that of 2013. The failure of the new devolution to match up with popular conceptions of majimbo – which included strong local control for minerals, public sector service jobs, land and ports – reduced local enthusiasm for the new counties. And there was more than substantial scepticism at the coast about the sincerity of Raila’s interest in its grievances, as was apparent from the cynical response to his announcement of a new ‘task force’ to investigate them,a
nd Prof Nyong’o said: “We have recommended in the election rules that secret ballot is the best but we know that article 6 (2) (e) which is superior to the rules states that elections shall be through secret ballot or any other method preferred by the delegates.”

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