How shrewd Kenyan players set out to beat politicians at their own game

Lawyer Mugambi Imanyara PHOTO: COURTESY

It is the season of plenty for those who dabble in politics, particularly specialists in registering parties to be offered to desperate politicians.

These are people who will go through all the registration processes required for a political party and wait to give it away at the opportune time.

Some expect to be nominated to Parliament or be given jobs while others just receive money from defectors who want to use their party's ticket after losing nominations. But in some cases, the promises are never fulfilled, exposing the treachery that characterises political wheeler-dealing.

For instance, parties such as Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Orange Democratic Movement-Kenya (ODM-K) were not originally owned by those who used them to vie for the presidency.

A majority of ODM supporters recall the tussle for the Orange party but some don't know what role lawyer Mugambi Imanyara played in securing the name.

Mr Imanyara said he was inspired to register the party by the outcome of the 2005 referendum.

"The referendum pitted Yes against No, represented by the banana and orange respectively.

After the No team won, I knew that the orange was going to transform itself into a political movement. I acted fast and registered the party," said the lawyer.

But he reckoned that at the time, it was not enough to register a political party.

"One was required to launch the application process with the Registrar of Political Parties and then wait for a long vetting process by the National Intelligence Services (NIS).

You could only register after getting the green light from NIS," Imanyara recalled.

But he was lucky - because of powerful people behind the Orange party, he did the legal paperwork and paid a nominal fees for registration. He then applied without the formal process of vetting.

"One year after registration, there emerged another party claiming to have registered using the ODM name. They realised the party had been registered. We agreed that the new party could be registered but using a different symbol from mine. Then ODM-K was born," Imanyara said.

The lawyer revealed that he enjoyed a good relationship with Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Deputy President William Ruto, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala and other politicians.

But problems arose four months to the 2007 elections, when current Makueni MP Dan Maanzo, the ODM-K chairman, declared that the party belonged to Kalonzo.

"Those who felt left out by Kalonzo's party, including Raila, approached me to give them the party to use as there was little time left. I met many times with Raila and agreed to give him the party," Imanyara said.

He revealed that he gave Raila the party because political temperatures were rising and could turn chaotic if he did not run because he was a major political player.



"Many of my friends and other politicians advised me not to give Raila the party. To avoid legal battles, I advised Raila to register some of those close to him as party officials before we made the announcement," he said.

The lawyer maintains that reports that he surrendered the party in exchange for millions of shillings are not true.

"I was not given a penny. If there is anyone out there who says I was given money, let him stand up and tell Kenyans the truth. Those peddling the lie want to hide the fact that they have never kept their promise," Imanyara said.

But he did have a pact with Raila that he says has not been honoured to date.

"When I handed over the certificate, Raila asked me what I wanted. I told him I wanted the party ticket for Kasarani constituency. But Raila refused and said he would nominate me to Parliament," said the lawyer.

"I couldn't be paid and then be nominated. After the 2007 elections, I went to see Raila at Pentagon Centre and met him with Ruto and Henry Kosgey. I asked him about the nomination. He told me I might not get it."

Imanyara said the reason given was that there was a likelihood of a re-run for the presidential elections and he wanted to keep the Pentagon team together.

"So my nomination slot was given to Joseph Nyaga, a member of Pentagon who had lost his Gachoka seat. I was told Eastern region had only one slot. MPs from ODM, who were the majority in Parliament, had also refused to elect Nyaga as Speaker," Imanyara recalled.

Raila offered him another job which proved legally impossible.

"Raila told me that I should become the Nairobi mayor. Hata mayor ako na bendera (even the mayor flies a flag). But I could only become mayor after being nominated as a councillor. And I couldn't do that because I was a registered voter in Imenti South, in Meru. So I refused," the lawyer said.

When Raila became Prime Minister, he offered Imanyara a job as legal and constitutional advisor.

"I refused because as a civil servant, it would mean I had to quit my legal practice, which I could keep if I became MP. Even the salary of Sh150,000 wasn't appealing to me. It is not enough to pay fees for even one of my five children," Imanyara said.

He said Ruto then suggested that he should be paid the equivalent of an MP's salary until he was nominated. "Raila refused, saying he didn't think I needed the money," he said.

Despite it all, Imanyara said he is not a bitter man. "In 2011, I quit the ODM party as its secretary for legal affairs. I don't feel I lost anything. I still interact with Raila at the Raila Education Centre in Kibera where he is patron and I am chairman. His daughter Rosemary is my personal friend," Imanyara said.



The lawyer revealed that he has moved to Jubilee and will vie for the Meru senatorial seat.

Meanwhile, Makueni MP Dan Maanzo said he had no intention of harming the cordial relationship between Orange leaders and supporters.

"I registered ODM-K based on dynamics in the country that favoured Kalonzo to win the presidency. I don't regret it because Kalonzo became vice president.

I did not steal it as it was claimed by some ODM leaders," Mr Maanzo said, revealing that he registered the party with the help of two ODM members including nominated Senator Janet Ongera.

"Me and Ongera were promised nominations that never came. I thought the party could fund my campaigns in Makueni but they saw me as the weaker candidate and left me alone," Maanzo said.

He later joined the civil service as secretary for youth and later co-operatives. "Joining the Government helped me learn many positive things and made it easy for me to win the Makueni seat," the MP said.

But he is quick to point out that what happened in the past should be forgotten.

"We are all together - the Orange family - in CORD. Let us stay united and form the next Government."