The Opposition party Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) always has a new crisis to grapple with. This time round, the party is struggling to hold together as a purge of errant members looms.
The frequency with which ODM plunges into crises creates the impression that the party is in a rapid down spin. From outside the party, the impression holds. Insiders concede the Orange party is paying the price for its deep-rooted aversion to internal democracy and adherence to its constitution.
What is not in doubt, though, the party is taking too long to recover from the 2013 nominations fiasco, the aborted February 2014 party elections and last month’s Homa Bay by-election nomination chaos. Added to the ever-present Raila Odinga succession battles in his Nyanza backyard, the party is reeling under too many crises.
Raila, who is also the CORD leader, kicked off the current furore when he gave the nod to party chair John Mbadi to rein in rebels. Pointedly, ODM embarks on a clean up of rebels at a time it faces onslaught on two other fronts: Party Secretary-General Ababu Namwamba, who doubles as chair of the Public Accounts Committee in the National Assembly and Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, are subjects of serious graft allegations.
Raila also warned CORD members in the PAC on Tuesday they risked being de-whipped if they supported a Jubilee scheme to eject Namwamba from the committee’s leadership. Funyula MP Paul Otuoma scoffs at the warning saying it does not advance democracy and constitutionalism, which ODM is in dire need of.
Former Centre for Multiparty Democracy chairman Larry Gumbe, concurs with Dr Otuoma saying the source of discord in ODM is an aversion to democracy, disregard of the party’s constitution and lack of principles members accused of indiscipline should adhere to.
“The Elections Act provides for how party members should conduct themselves. Going against your party position warrants disciplinary action, which includes expulsion. But you must also ask yourself what principles does the party stand for?” Prof Gumbe poses. He says discipline should be meted out against established and known principles and norms.
“I don’t see principles to follow. Party elections and nominations were badly bungled. And when you are disciplining a member, there must be an avenue where the aggrieved must be heard. The party has opened wars on too many fronts and in the process becoming vulnerable,” says the former member of the ODM think-tank.
He, however, does not think the Raila succession wars will harm the party.
The former prime minister stoked the current controversy when he directed party chairman to be tough on rebels. Speaking in Homa Bay during the burial of former acting county party chair of ODM Monica Amolo, Raila without naming names, warned that Rangwe MP George Oner and Karachuonyo MP James Rege who campaigned for another candidate, must account for breaking ranks with the party during the by-election.
Otuoma says of the threat, “You don’t discipline people’s representatives through rallies. Members must be told what the accusations are and be given an opportunity to file their defence.”
The choice of Moses Otieno Kajwang’ after planned nominations aborted triggered walkout from ODM, led by former Rangwe MP Philip Okundi, businessman Tom Alila and other hopefuls, who accused the former prime minister of dictating to the electorate what to do.
Some rebels, like Dr Kidero, have since made a hasty retreat and according to Suna East MP Mohammed Junet, some like Kidero are in “rehabilitation (observation) ward” before fully being re-accommodated in the party.
Insiders accuse Raila of being behind the bungled party nominations where Caroli Omondi was poised to win. A member of Homa Bay ODM county branch executive told The Standard on Saturday: “He (Caroli) was going to win the nomination and election, but Raila would not stand him. The process had to be aborted,” the source said.
Asked if the disciplinary action will result in expulsions, Mr Mbadi said the intention is to rally members to support party ideology and position on national issues. He says ‘disciplinary action is informed by the contradictory positions some elected leaders had taken on digital migration, the controversial Security Laws Amendment Act, referendum and corruption.
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“A party is formed to win elections. It is not a beauty contest where everybody is trying to outsmart the other,” Mbadi says.