Raila Odinga moves to mend cracks in ODM as he pushes for referendum

 ODM party leader Raila Odinga addresses the press after holding the Parliamentary Group meeting at the party headquarters yesterday where Saba Saba resolutions were discussed. [PHOTO: TABITHA OTWORI/STANDARD]

Kenya: Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement’s Members of Parliament dissatisfied with the way their Coalition for Reforms and Democracy is executing its work as the main Opposition, shared their frustration at being sidelined in the build-up of pressure for national referendum with their leader.

Sources said majority of the 72 ODM MPs who attended a meeting chaired by Raila at Orange House told the party leader that the referendum push would flop if the process was not “consultative and all-inclusive”.

One MP who attended the meeting described it as stormy and Raila’s at Orange House told the party leader that the referendum push would flop if the process was not "consultative and all-inclusive".

One MP who attended the meeting described it as stormy and Raila's attempt to try calm dissent was discernible from reports that the ODM party leader took almost 45 minutes to state CORD's case for the push for a referendum which was announced during the Saba Saba rally in Nairobi on July 7.

As Raila met his team, former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula were also leading separate Parliamentary Group meetings for their respective Wiper and Ford Kenya parties at Maanzoni and Elementaita lodges respectively.

The three parties are set to hold a joint PG on Tuesday next week to agree on the structures in the proposed national referendum team.

The meetings between the three CORD co-principals and their party MPs apparently were held to try to defuse simmering discontent within the opposition rank and file who felt the leaders were making rushed and unilateral decisions. "You cannot go to war as a commander without giving your troops clear instructions; there must also be a briefing and debriefing sessions and that is what we told Jakom, (Raila)" an MP who attended the ODM's PG revealed.

The MPs, sources said, told the ex-PM that there has been disquiet among its ranks and file, with most legislators feeling left out of the opposition party plans, following his return from the US on May 31.

The MPs, argued that Raila and his co-principals were acting either as lone rangers or had deliberately decided to isolate their troops.

One source revealed Raila took almost 45 minutes to explain himself and why CORD cannot wait for the 2017 General Elections to change the state of affairs. South Mugirango MP Manson Nyamweya who attended yesterday's briefing told The Standard the meeting was stormy but the party leader was given ample time to explain himself and other CORD co-principals.

"We have had issues in past but after today's meeting, I think all the members who attended have seen in it the sense to support the proposed national referendum which will enable Kenyans to make a determination on issues like funding of Devolution," Nyamweya explained.

Sources said Raila was hard-pressed to convince ODM MPs to support his push for a national referendum, an agenda that has caused a split in the opposition. Raila moved to seal cracks that have emerged within his own party amid dissenting views emanating from his spirited push for a referendum, which he argues will enable Kenyans take a vote on key issues affecting the country.

A section of opposition MPs and Governors including those allied to the Orange party have differed with referendum calls, with some arguing that the agenda would not solve the many challenges facing the country. Interestingly, Nairobi Governor Dr Evans Kidero who is among CORD Governors who have opposed the referendum push yesterday made a technical appearance at Orange House and left before the meeting ended.

Kidero last week dismissed the push for a referendum, saying the opposition would better address the national challenges like insecurity and high cost of living through parliamentary process .

Sources at the meeting said Kidero argued it was important for the opposition leaders to explain to representatives at all levels, including Members of the County Assemblies, since all of them would be at one point required to play a role.

A number of the party's MPS who have opposed the referendum calls however gave the meeting a wide berth, including Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba who was said to be out of the country.

Namwamba who is the ODM interim joint secretary has skipped a number of CORD rallies since the Bonchari by-election, among them those held in the build-up to the Saba Saba rally at Uhuru Park on July 7.

Others who snubbed the event were Bomachoge Chache MP Simon Ogari and Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka who last week hosted Namwamba in Nyamira where they castigated the referendum calls.

A source said the MPs who support the referendum calls were angered by the fact that some of their colleagues had defied the party position to go ahead and publicly dismiss the calls for a plebiscite in contravention to the party constitution.

Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo is said to have asked her colleagues opposing the referendum to come on board and present their ideas on how best the Opposition can proceed to liberate the country.

Those who raised objection to the referendum calls argue they were kept in the dark and point out the confusion in the run up to the Saba Saba rallies and subsequent 'unexpected' attendance. The poor show they said was a warning to CORD leaders on why they should take along their troops, especially in the planning stages.

Some Governors had also complained over non-financing of the CORD rallies by the secretariat, a hitch that had seen them left to foot huge bills outside their budgets. For instance Governors had been left with the responsibility of paying for the public address systems, the venue, mobilisation of supporters and lunch for the CORD leaders.

CORD's attempt to amend the constitution through a popular vote will require the support of at least 24 counties

But yesterday, Raila assured his troops that the referendum way was the safest route to take in involving all Kenyans to determine their destiny, arguing parliament was itself rogue and dominated by non-progressive elements opposed to reform.

Kisumu Senator Anyang' Nyong'o said the meeting had been held to endorse the Saba Saba resolutions, with emphasis on  push for a referendum.