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Will they be new pillars of Raila odinga's party in Rift Valley?

By Steve Mkawale and Patrick Kibet | January 26th 2014
           ODM leader Raila Odinga at a recent rally in Rift Valley. Some of his top allies from the region have ditched him. [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]

By Steve Mkawale and Patrick Kibet

As campaigns for the upcoming Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party elections gain momentum, the party is keen on bringing on board new faces to take up its leadership in Rift Valley.

Key party officials say they have identified new faces to lead the Orange party in the region after key political allies shied away from the upcoming party elections.

ODM Executive Director Magerer Langat also downplayed the exodus of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s key pillars in region, saying the party still maintains a huge following and that plans are underway to bring on board fresh blood.

“We have identified prominent Kalenjin leaders to contest top eight positions in ODM during the National Delegates Conference.  Those who have left the party were not loyal members but self-seekers,” Langat told The Standard on Sunday.

Langat, now seen as the remaining key politician from the Rift Valley who has stuck by Raila since the major fallout in ODM that cost the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) presidential candidate the crucial vote in the region, said he was in consultation with a number of Kalenjin leaders.

Big names

Those being wooed to be the new faces of ODM in Rift Valley, Langat revealed, include one time Cabinet minister Kipruto arap Kirwa, former Telkom Managing Director Sammy Kirui, Harold Kipchumba,  whose nomination as Senator was challenged at the High Court  and the Reverend Lawrence Bomet. “I have planned a series of meetings with ODM delegates in Central and South Rift region beginning Sunday to chart the way forward for the party,” he said.

The faces it seems represent the three most populous sub-tribes of Kalenjins — Kirui coming from Kericho is a Kipsigis, Kirwa a Nandi while both Bomet and Kipchumba represent the Tugen sub-tribe.

Kipchumba confirmed that he was indeed approached to be one of the new faces in the region but has opted not to take up leadership in the party.

“I was approached by the party but I have decided not to take up any leadership role though I am still firm in ODM,” Kipchumba said, adding: “I know we shall have leaders from Rift Valley.”

He also noted that the party elections are geared towards strengthenits organs throughout the country through election of young and effective leaders.

“We want to institutionalise ODM as a party that is no longer about individuals. We want to make it a national party with young and effective leaders,” he said.

When asked for comment, the Reverend Bomet, who lost the gubernatorial race for Nakuru County, said he will only comment on the matter when the party make a final decision.

Homabay Senator Otieno Kajwang, while meeting delegates from Nakuru County echoed the sentiments of the Executive Director, saying that the party is keen on bringing new faces on board.

Kajwang, who is eying National Vice-chair, said that party has been strong at the top and added that it was time to strengthen its branches.

“We have been strong at the top and we want to move to reorganise other organs. The coming election is about new leaders who can take the party forward,” he said.

He said the incoming party officials will be key in moving the outfit forward, noting that though ODM had lost two consecutive elections, it had remained strong unlike other parties.

“Though we have suffered two election losses, the party has grown bigger despite the setbacks. We are going for the elections to strengthen the party,” he noted.

Face of Kenya

Another key issue which has dogged the party is the sharing of NEC positions to reflect the face of Kenya without causing further divisions.

Kajwang said the party is engaging members from all regions to ensure that one is left out in the top party organ to maintain the national support ODM enjoys.

“I cannot go for deputy party leader position or the chairperson since top party officials cannot come from same region. We must have regional, gender and ethnic balance,” he said.

Langat added that the meetings will culminate in a final one in Baringo County where regional leaders will reveal the names of members from the region to contest the eight national positions.

William Ating’a, an ODM politician in Nakuru County who will be contesting for the party’s deputy national organising secretary in the NDC, said ODM was committed to embracing change.

Ating’a a close ally of Raila in Central Rift, who one time served as the Nakuru County ODM coordinator, said the party was looking for fresh faces from the region that would be capable of filling the positions left by former party loyalists.

Youthful politicians

“Yes the party is looking for new faces, especially the youthful politicians who have an agenda and vision for the party,” he said.

The politician says though the party will miss the leadership of key Kalenjin politicians, there was still hope that the names of those floated to replace them are equal to the task.

Key Kalenjin leaders who stuck by Raila in the March 4 polls have either quit the party or shown no interest in contesting for key leadership positions.

Other Raila’s key allies in the region like party chairman and former Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey have kept off as junior party members jostle for national position in the forthcoming NDC.

Senior ODM key leaders in the region that have also kept a low profile after losing their seats in the March 4 are former Cabinet Minister Sally Kosgei, Musa Sirma and Prof  Margaret Kamar.

In 2007, ODM enjoyed massive support in the region until the URP and TNA wave swept across the region, winning most elective posts.

It will be interesting to see how Raila will handle the exodus of his key political allies in the Rift Valley taking into consideration that he still has one more chance to his luck on the presidency in 2017.

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