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Ababu's resignation from top party post a test for ODM

By Grace Wekesa and John Mondoh | Published Thu, July 7th 2016 at 00:00, Updated July 6th 2016 at 21:23 GMT +3
Budalang'i MP Ababu Namwamba dances with his supporters during a meeting with Bunyala ODM officials at Mundere in Busia. [Photo: Benjamin Sakwa/Standard]

Opposition leader Raila Odinga's ODM party unity was thrown into doubt following the resignation of Secretary-General Ababu Namwamba.

Namwamba, who has held the position for slightly over two years since the abortive 2014 party polls, announced Wednesday that he was resigning from the post, one of the powerful in the party hierarchy.

The development suggests attempts by the party to heal the rift created by a rebellion by Western ODM MPs had collapsed, as four days earlier Funyula MP Paul Otuoma had, too, quit as national vice chairman.

A meeting chaired by Raila last week had given dissenters two weeks to file their grievances, which were to be mediated through party structures but the action by Namwamba and Otuoma has escalated the power struggle in the party.

Although the two have insisted that they are still ODM members, avoiding renouncing the party like rebel Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung'aro did, party stalwarts believe it is just a matter of time before they jump ship.

The timing of the instability in ODM complicates matters for the party because it signals more trouble in its Western stronghold, 14 months to the General Election and distracts it from the mission to rebuild a credible team to face rivals.

The upheaval comes also on the back of a tussle between ODM and its partners in the CORD coalition, Wiper and Ford Kenya, for the alliance's presidential ticket that Raila, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang'ula are vying for.

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Wednesday, Namwamba made the announcement in Mundere in his Budalang'i Constituency during a meeting with party delegates, religious leaders, elders and professionals from the area.

"Today I officially resign as ODM secretary general. I have gone through a lot of suffering in ODM. If you disrespect Ababu, that means you have disrespected my electorate who are my employer," noted the Budalang'i lawmaker.

He, however, did not give any indication of leaving the party, which followed the script earlier written by Otuoma who on Saturday also maintained that he was still in ODM.

Namwamba said his decision to quit was triggered by frustrations that he has been facing in the party.

He disclosed that his woes started when he expressed interest to vie for the secretary general's post in 2013.

Namwamba did not state his next move, but told the electorate he will soon lead them to the next political destination.

"I have accepted the decision of my voters and I promise not to lead you to darkness. I will lead you to a political destination that is wise and worthy," he said.

When he resigned, Otuoma also cited frustrations and accused the party rank of trivialising their complaints.

When reached for comment, ODM Chairman John Mbadi said he was not aware of Namwamba's resignation.

"I am not aware of his resignation nor have I seen the letter. I cannot react to rumours," said Mbadi.

He said the party's national executive council will meet next Thursday and should the legislator submit his letter of resignation before the meeting, the council will be notified for the next course of action.

Kakamega Governor and ODM deputy leader Wycliffe Oparanya said the party belongs to the people, and those remaining will steer it to great heights.

"ODM is a movement that belongs to the people. If one person opts out, it does not mean the end of the party. I wish him well," said Oparanya.

ODM Elections Director and Suna East MP Junet Mohammed and Busia Woman Representative Florence Mutua said they were not surprised, and wished the Budalang'i MP the best of luck in his new political endeavours.

"I hope he will remember us when he gets to his destination," said Mr Mohammed, adding that was not surprised by Namwamba's decision to quit as he was using "frustration claims as an excuse to get out".

"The writing was on the wall. It was clear he wanted to leave," he added.

Ms Mutua said the MP was mature enough to make a sound decision, and the party had no reason to talk him out of his resolution.

Wednesday, Namwamba lashed out at Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo over his remarks that he had been handpicked and so he should not complain.

"I thank Midiwo for revealing the truth to us. I know why I was stopped at Kasarani, but my advise to Midiwo and Nyong'o is that their lies should be consistent," he said.

The legislator apologised to Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi for campaigning against him in 2013, and vowed that he will never forsake his brother again.

Namwamba also dismissed claims by party leaders close to Raila that he was a mole.

The Budalang'i MP's resignation came barely 24 hours after over 100 professionals from Busia County called on Otuoma, area Senator Amos Wako and Ababu to quit the Orange party.

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