CORD warns of stern action on members opposed to referendum

Kisumu Senator Prof Anyang' Nyong'o (second left) and CORD principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetang'ula and Raila Odinga during a Press briefing after a meeting at the Boma Hotel, Tuesday. [PHOTO: COLLINS KWEYU/STANDARD]

The Opposition is cracking the whip on dissenters it views as too friendly to the ruling Jubilee coalition, and has warned them that they risk stern disciplinary action, including losing their seats in Parliament.

Keen to close ranks and speak with one voice, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) put on notice MPs who have been vocal in opposing the proposed referendum being spearheaded by its three principals, Raila Odinga (ODM), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya).

To ensure their referendum agenda is consultative, CORD yesterday unveiled a four-member committee of experts chaired by Raila’s former legal advisor, Paul Mwangi, to guide the process. Working with him are lawyer Kethi Kilonzo, former Labour Permanent Secretary Beatrice Kituyi and Khelef Khalifa.

“The committee of experts is forthwith charged with the responsibility of crafting and formulating the referendum issues. This team will be increased as appropriate with regard to its workload on expertise requirement,” Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o said in a statement he read for CORD.

But even as CORD unveiled the four, it was forced to confront the elephant in the room in form of the rebels in its ranks. Reliable sources who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter told The Standard that during a joint parliamentary group meeting in Nairobi, some MPs called for the replacement of certain party members from key parliamentary positions.

Support government

Targeted, were a section of Coast MPs fighting the push for a referendum and who have previously declared they would work closely with the Jubilee government. Their fellow legislators who have remained loyal to the Opposition bitterly attacked their colleagues who have been attending functions of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto where they declared their support for the Jubilee.

Some ODM MPs from the region last week skipped the Iftar (dinner to break the Muslim fast during Ramadhan) organised by Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho, and attended by Raila as well as Wetang’ula, Senator Hassan Omar, Changamwe MP Omar Mwinyi and his Nyali counterpart Hezron Awiti. It was reported that Raila was angered by the snub.

Joho asked local politicians, he said have a foot in the Government and another in CORD, to quit and seek a fresh mandate “if they think they are strong on the ground.”

The fallout in CORD started last month when Ruto visited Kwale and Kilifi counties to preside over high-profile meetings before President Kenyatta visited Taita Taveta last week. ODM, Ford Kenya and Wiper held separate parliamentary group meetings last week. Yesterday’s meeting was meant to establish a common resolution binding CORD members to pave way for disciplinary action against the rebels.

According the Political Parties Act, parties may discipline members for violating both the Act and their respective party constitutions through suspension or even expulsion.

At yesterday’s meeting, MPs from Coast, Kisii and parts of Ukambani region were named and accused of dismissing the coalition’s call for a referendum. A vocal senator from the Coast pushed for Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung’aro, seen as the lead rebel, to be stripped of the post of National Assembly Minority Chief Whip.

The senator said it was unfortunate that Mung’aro, who should lobby CORD members to fight for the coalition’s cause, was leading dissenters. Those pushing for Mung’aro’s removal want him replaced by an MP from the coalition’s Coast Parliamentary Group. They dared the rebels to resign and seek a fresh mandate outside CORD.

But after much haggling, the decision on Mung’aro was shelved to another meeting after others said it would be in bad faith to replace him while he was outside the country.

Previously vocal

The fate of Mung’aro, who is in Italy, will be determined later to give him an opportunity to defend himself, they said. The CORD PG that was attended by about 80 MPs and senators unreservedly adopted a roadmap for a national referendum in an event that saw a number of previously vocal anti-referendum legislators change heart and support the process.

Among CORD leaders who have previously opposed the push for a national referendum are Nairobi Governor Dr Evans Kidero who, like Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba, was present at the meeting held at the Boma Hotel, and endorsed the calls.

Other leaders who have spoken against the referendum plan, and who were also present include Kajiado Central MP Joseph Nkaissery, Borabu MP Ben Momanyi, Wiper Chairman David Musila and Mwingi North MP John Munuve.

Ford Kenya MP Khatib Mwashetani (Lungalunga) and Kwale Woman Representative Zainab Chidzuga said will work with Jubilee “without any regrets”.

In yesterday’s meeting, members, smarting from the whipping by their respective parties, appeared convinced with the unveiling of an eight-arm structure to guide the referendum bid and ensure it is all-inclusive.

Some of the rebels had argued that the coalition’s principals never consulted them on the matter.