ODM faces tall order on party discipline

Kennedy Odhiambo receives a scholarship and other school necessities from Kisumu West MP Olago Aluoch. Odhiambo was admitted to St Joseph's, Kitale. [Photo: COLLINS ODUOR]

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) is facing a delicate balancing act between punishing rebels and winning back defectors who are popular at the grassroots.

Besides rebellious party MPs, Raila Odinga's ODM has to reckon with leaders who defected from the Orange party to protest controversial nominations in 2013 and subsequently won seats on tickets of other fringe parties.

Some of these MPs, who are popular on the ground, have associated with Raila's Orange party but are cautious about rejoining it because they feel party stalwarts they blame for their woes in 2013 are still misleading the party boss.

But even as ODM works to win over rebels, the party's top brass is determined to instill discipline, especially at a time some dissenters are openly teaming up with the rival Jubilee coalition to campaign against the party.

ODM and Wiper parties have kicked out four MPs from parliamentary committees for being sympathetic to Jubilee, with the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) warning it would extend the purge.

Raila, ODM's party leader, has welcomed defectors to return "home to the mother party" as he makes his fourth bid for the presidency.

But ODM Chairman John Mbadi has said the party can no longer tolerate indiscipline and pushed a hard line position on the dissenters.

Some ODM MPs and aspirants have complained that some party sycophants had perpetuated violence during party nominations and labelled rivals as Jubilee moles to gain undue advantage.

Wiper MP for Alego-Usonga George Omondi hit out at politicians who surround Raila saying "they have denied the CORD principal breathing and thinking space".

"We have so many sycophants around Raila who are busy hanging on his coattails instead of helping him secure votes outside Nyanza and this is suicidal," said Mr Omondi.

Asked whether he would vie on ODM ticket, he retorted: "I am ODM in heart, mind and soul. I even told Raila that I am in ODM but I am in Wiper technically because that was my ticket to Parliament and I do not want to break the Political Parties Act."

"Look at what Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga did recently by pulling down President Uhuru's photos from his office. Such levels of sycophancy and myopia only serve to hurt votes the CORD leader could win outside strongholds," he said.

Kitutu Chache MP Richard Onyonka said for the Orange party to survive, it must ensure democratic elections at the grassroots and let peoples' will reign.

Mr Onyonka said ODM still suffers from knee-jerk reactions and court jesters who intimidate dissenting voices even when their ideas are constructive to the party.

"It is wrong and illegal for ODM members to campaign for rival parties at elections and action should be taken," Onyonka concurred.

MPs Gideon Munga'ro (Kilifi North), Mustafa Iddi (Kilifi South) and Kwale MP Zainab Chidzuga have openly been campaigning for the Jubilee Malindi parliamentary by-election candidate in total breach of the Political Parties Act.

Migori Governor Okoth Obado maintains that ODM party members and supporters elected him after a botched nomination exercise and when the right time comes, he would be in the most popular party.

Yesterday, Kisumu West MP John Olago-Aluoch fired similar salvos at the party helm, saying "while Raila is welcoming us back, chairman John Mbadi and some leaders are treating us with suspicion".

He argued that the Orange party had not convinced him that the primaries would be fair and devoid of violence.

Mr Olago said he had not yet reached the decision to rejoin ODM since he does not want to disrespect the party that sponsored him to Parliament.

"My loyalty to Ford Kenya is still strong and I am currently enjoying political peace in the party. However, I am studying keenly the wrangles within ODM," said Olago.

With many issues bordering on indiscipline among members, Chairman Mbadi has asked the disciplinary committee to take its job seriously and expedite pending cases at Orange House so that the party can take decisive action to tame dissent.

"We have had many MPs who have openly denounced our party and declared their support for our rivals. Some do not even vote with us in Parliament," said Mbadi.

Mbadi has stated that ODM members are taking for granted the power of the party to discipline its subjects simply because the disciplinary committee is inept.

But Disciplinary Committee Chairman Fred Athuok clarified that they had dispensed with many issues quietly and served members with a verdict.

Mbadi warned ODM supporters against voting in leaders who shift their allegiance once elected to office.In Nyanza, Migori Governor Obado, MPs Olago, Onyango K'Oyoo (Muhoroni) and Omondi Muluan who were elected on affiliate parties are plotting a return. Die hard supporters claim they can't be trusted.

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