Kenya: Members of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) who had left the party after its bungled nominations in 2013 are rejoining the party.
The members, who include those who lost the party nominations but used other parties to vie as Senators, MPs or Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) in the last General Election, now say they have been urged to rejoin ODM by their supporters.
But political analysts and leaders believe that those returning have no option to be elected as leaders if they don’t align themselves to ODM, the most loved party in Nyanza.
Prof Edward Kisiangani, who teaches political science at Kenyatta University, says those rejoining ODM have nowhere to go due to the nature of Kenya’s politics.
“Our politics is based on ethnicity. So, however good you are, you can’t make it if you go against the ethnic fabric,” Prof Kisiangani says, adding that the defectors are returning to ODM because it was sired by the residents of the larger western Kenya.
“ODM dominates the region just as the National Alliance (TNA) in Central Kenya and United Republican Party (URP) in Rift Valley. That is why those who leave the ‘home party’ are seen as traitors,” says Kisiangani, adding: “It is the for the same reason that Musalia Mudavadi and Eugene Wamalwa can’t succeed in selling the Jubilee agenda in Luhyaland. In fact, their body language indicates they might join the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD).”
In Homa Bay County, 350 members have rejoined ODM and some of them have taken over the branch party leadership.
Former Rangwe MP Martin Ogindo, who had left the party, is now the Homa Bay County branch chairman after ousting Senator Otieno Kajwang’. Ogindo says he led his deputy chairman Charles Ong’ondo Were and other 350 members to return to ODM. Ogindo says he is an ODM life member and is back to make the party vibrant by ensuring the next party nominations are done transparently.
“We know the problem with ODM is the way it conducts its nominations. But for us to form the next government, we must rebuild and reform the party. We need the numbers and that is why we are coming back with all our supporters to make ODM stronger,” Ogindo says.
He says: “We are bringing in new leadership that listens to those who are disillusioned. We want to bring more people back to the party and add value to it.”
Notable members who have returned to the party are politicians Hillary Alila, Everest Okambo, Adipo Okuome and Duncan Andiego, who decamped from ODM citing favouritism by the party leadership.
Alila, who contested the Homa Bay County Senator’s seat on a People’s Democratic Party (PDP), says he is rejoining the party after being urged by delegates and his supporters. “I lost the nomination unfairly but I got more than 60,000 votes. My supporters want me back so that I can win the seat in 2017,” Alila said.
He added: “We are ready to work with all elected leaders. We are interested in party unity and consolidating votes from Wananchi and make Raila Odinga the president in the next General Election.
He said although Nyanza voters love Raila, the only weapon to use to ensure he becomes President is to work together with him and make sure majority register as voters.
Were says the journey to energise the party has began in Homa Bay but will spread to other counties.
“We have started it here and many of our members are coming back due to the new party leadership we have in this county,” Were says.
He added: “Our people are disillusioned and that is why most of them don’t vote when because leaders of their choice are denied party tickets, even after winning.”
The leaders have vowed to reach out to those who may still be reluctant to rejoin the Orange party. “We are sending a delegation to Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno and other members who are unhappy to reconsider their positions,” Were says.
Dalmas has fallen out with Raila and has vowed to form a new party to rival ODM in the region, going by the name Kalausi. Nairobi Governor Dr Evans Kidero, who is a close ally of the Rongo MP says the idea of a new party in Nyanza is not good. Earlier, however, Kidero had appeared to back the formation of another outfit.
“We need strong political parties to advance our political values and development agenda. I want to reform ODM from within. I know we can make it stronger if we tolerate each other,” Kidero says.
Former Bonchari MP Oroo Oyioka recently decamped to ODM from the Kenya African National Union (Kanu).
Oyioka, who was ODM’s flag bearer in the June 3, 2014 in Bonchari by-election, says he realised ODM is the most liked party in the region and that his supporters had urged him to remain in the Orange party.
Elisha Odhiambo, who had claimed victory in Gem constituency during last year’s ODM nomination, is also back. “It is in the public domain that my victory was stolen and given to area MP Jakoyo Midiwo, but 2017 is coming. That is why we want to be where our supporters are,” Odhiambo said.
Those who want the rebels and defectors to stay fear the party might lose them to their opponents come 2017, the same way ODM lost key members ahead of the 2013 polls.
Bigwigs like Deputy President William Ruto and Amani Coalition party leader Musalia Mudavadi were among those who quit ODM then.
Nominated Senator Elizabeth Ongoro says the party should not let those viewed as rebels go away since it needs them. Ongoro said the party has had a tendency of letting go of its members because of misunderstandings that could have been solved from within.
“We should not make that mistake again. Let us bring everyone on board even those you have broken ranks with for us to form a formidable team,” Ongoro said.
Uriri MP John Kobado said as the party seeks a national outlook, it must also work towards bringing the people of Nyanza together.
“If we do not unite as a region, it will be a tall order for us, come 2017,” said Kobado.
Bondo MP Gideon Ochanda urged ODM leadership to follow the example of the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga who always listened carefully to advice and made decisions that never disintegrated his party.