Raila's fury over insider bungling of party poll

ODM leader Raila Odinga with party members during the presentation of the nomination certificate to Bernard Imran Okoth (second right) who will fly the ODM flag in the Kibra by-election. [David Gichuru, Standard]

A furious ODM leader Raila Odinga reportedly pressed top party officials to explain mistakes in the party voters' register that marred Kibra by-election nominations during a heated meeting last Tuesday.

While the numerous cases of names of party members missing in the voters' register on the day of the primaries were initially viewed as oversight, Raila is reported to have been alerted that there could have been a deliberate ploy to influence the outcome of the vote.

Fingers were pointed at some top officials at the secretariat, who are alleged to have doctored the register to disenfranchise some voters.

A good number of the ODM members who turned up to participate in the exercise either found their names missing or had them mixed up, effectively denying them opportunity to cast their vote.

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Last Tuesday, Raila convened a closed-door meeting at Orange House, where he expressed his anger with the officials, who, he said, could soon be kicked out in a restructuring to clean the outfit of rogue officials.

It is in the meeting – which lasted about an hour – where the well-orchestrated doctoring of the voter roll was laid bare, with some senior officials being implicated. Claims of money exchanging hands were also raised at the meeting.

Several top party officials who were in the meeting, said the mistakes in the register were introduced. They confirmed that heads would soon roll at the secretariat.

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“Raila was very unhappy with the turn of events because the party’s top leadership cannot be working so hard to have a free and fair process then some people in the secretariat sabotage it at the last minute,” said an official.

At least six of the 10 aspirants in the primaries attended the heated session and shared their frustrations with how their supporters were denied opportunity to participate in the exercise.

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After raising the concerns, the Opposition chief prevailed upon the aspirants to back Bernard Okoth (Imran), who was declared winner in the exercise.

They were later paraded at a Press conference to declare their support for the party candidate.

But it seems some issues are yet to be ironed out after The Standard established that Raila was planning yet another meeting with aspirants early this week before the party can hit the campaign trail in the constituency that has traditionally backed him.

Other top officials who were in the meeting were Secretary General Edwin Sifuna, National Chairman John Mbadi, George Aladwa (Nairobi County Chairman and Makadara MP), Junet Mohammed (Director of Elections and Suna East MP) and National Elections Board boss Judy Pareno.

The source disclosed that Mr Sifuna owned up to the errors and apologised to the party leader since the register “came from his office”.

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But in a rejoinder, Sifuna said it was not a matter of him owning up to some of the few challenges the exercise faced. He, instead, said everybody acknowledged that there were some few mistakes.

He, however, defended the exercise as generally free and fair, and asked critics to give credit where it is due.

“It is only six out of 24 polling stations that had problems, and everybody, including the Elections Board, owned up to the mistakes,” said Sifuna.

“Let’s agree the exercise was free and fair, unless you are just out to find fault in how the party conducted the nomination,” added the party's secretary general.

Another official said the mistakes in the register were introduced with the authority of a senior party official.

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He said it was frustrating for Raila – after he had assured the candidates of a free and fair process – that some officials went behind him and hatched a plot to influence the primaries.

“People always complain of the leadership bungling nominations when it is always the staff charged with the mandate. Raila gave his position that he would want a free and fair process, then someone decided to play with the register. The mistakes do not look innocent,” said the official, who sought anonymity.

The outfit

Mbadi yesterday confirmed that the outfit was planning major restructuring, but de-linked the reforms from the alleged bungling of the Kibra primaries.

“The issue of restructuring of the secretariat is one that has been there. It is not tied to the claims about Kibra primaries,” he added.

On Saturday, Raila hosted Nairobi ODM officials at his Karen residence to plan the party’s campaign strategy for the November 7 mini poll.

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Raila OdingaOrange HouseSecretary General Edwin SifunaThe Standard