Raila, Uhuru parties battle internal strife

By Vitalis Kimutai

KENYA: It is 23 days to elections and leading presidential candidates are struggling to contain internal rivalries sparked off by last month’s nominations storm within their coalitions.

Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) for which Mr Raila Odinga is the presidential candidate and Jubilee alliance whose flag bearer is Mr Uhuru Kenyatta are the hardest hit by factional wars.  The feuds arose from the sham party nominations in some areas where the coalition boasted of popularity, but where in the end some strong candidates were forced to defect so as to get their names on the ballot paper next month. 

The parties hard hit are Orange Democratic Movement and Wiper in Cord, as well as Uhuru’s The National Alliance in Jubilee.

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However, despite the storm, Raila and Uhuru are keen to have Governors and Members of Parliament from their perceived strongholds elected on ODM and TNA tickets respectively, rather than smaller parties supporting their presidential bids. 

Partly is to avert the crisis President Kibaki found himself in after the disputed 2007 presidential vote whereby Party of National Unity secured minority seats in Parliament because others were scattered in smaller affiliates.

Candidates oppose

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Raila and Uhuru are also apprehensive about difficulties in whipping MPs who may ride in their coalition’s wave to Parliament, but later claim their loyalty was with their smaller parties.

The consequences of a President facing a rebellion in a Parliament that now has sweeping powers, including approving nominees and even initiating impeachment proceedings, cannot be underestimated.

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Raila, the ODM leader, lit the fuse on the internal revolt in Cord with the six-piece voting pattern call to supporters in Nyanza in which he rallied them to vote for ODM candidates in all the six elective positions.

At a rally in Homa Bay on Wednesday, a hostile crowd expressed disapproval by heckling Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang’, who controversially secured ODM’s nomination to run for Senate.

On Thursday, candidates who fled ODM after the chaotic primaries to parties affiliated to CORD fought back accusing Raila of betraying democratic ideals he claimed to champion by seeking to impose elective leaders in Nyanza. 

“Raila should not get embroiled in the controversy. Many people are supporting him, but he should let the electorate pick their representatives,” said Olago, who is the outgoing Kisumu Town West MP.

Olago, who left ODM for Ford-Kenya after the disputed party primaries, said the six-piece voting pattern was unpopular with majority of the electorate in Nyanza.

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Uhuru has pointedly asked supporters, particularly in Central, Kenya to vote as a bloc for TNA candidates telling them the PNU debacle stoked the credibility crisis around President Kibaki’s re-election in 2007.

Last week, Uhuru toured Embu, Tharaka Nithi and Meru Counties, where Alliance Party of Kenya of Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi has fielded candidates in competition with TNA.

Mr Lenny Kivuti, the APK deputy party leader, said the issue of a six-piece suit, voting pattern would not arise especially in the larger Mount Kenya region. “The people will vote for credible candidates for all the other positions but they have no problem voting for Uhuru for president,” Kivuti added.

Grand National Unity whose party leader Mr Mwangi Kiunjuri is running for Laikipia governor’s post has also fielded candidates in Nyeri and Nyandarua in competition with TNA but pledged support for Uhuru.

Bickering in Central

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Former Cabinet minister Mutahi Kagwe has also secured Narc party ticket to run for Nyeri governor seat while ex-minister Chris Murungaru is vying for the Nyeri senate seat on a Democratic Party ticket.

In Othaya constituency, businesswoman Mary Wambui secured the TNA nomination but her rival Gichuki Mugambi, who has the backing of President Kibaki’s son, Jimmy, is running for it on a Saba Saba Asili ticket. To ward off opposition, TNA candidates in the region have also picked up the six-piece voting pattern, which was amplified at a meeting in Nakuru.

Bitter feuds are also raging in Ukambani where Raila’s running mate Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper Democratic Movement is engaged in turf wars with affiliate parties.

Wiper candidate for Machakos County Senate Johnstone Muthama has traversed Machakos and Makueni counties seeking to have candidates sponsored by other CORD-affiliate parties side-lined.

This has not gone down well with CORD partner parties, which include Muungano, whose party leader Prof Kivutha Kibwana, is competing with Wiper’s Phillip Kaloki for Makueni governorship. The other CORD affiliates that have fielded candidates are Mr Kalembe Ndile’s Tip Tip and Wavinya Ndeti’s Chama Cha Uzalendo.

Education minister Mutula Kilonzo conceded the internal feuds were a distraction to campaigns. “We wouldn’t be talking about these issues of big and smaller parties if we conducted joint nominations because we would be talking as CORD,” Mutula said.

Additional reporting by Daniel Nzia, Karanja Njoroge and James Omoro

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Mutula Kilonzo Cord coalitions Kibaki Nyanza ODM