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What next for ODM after botched polls?

By Stephen Makabila | March 2nd 2014

By Stephen Makabila       

After the chaotic ODM National Delegates Conference (NDC) on Friday, focus now shifts to the National Governing Council (NGC) meeting tomorrow.

The big question, however, is what next for the country’s single  biggest political party and its leader Raila Odinga?

Will the party join the ranks of Ford Kenya and ODM Kenya, which split after Raila left?

Perhaps it is too early to make a call but the dilemma is that the Ababu Namwamba team will not be attending the NGC convened by the party tomorrow.

The camp allied to the Budalang’i MP and Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho has declared itself the new office bearers, claiming delegates gave them the mandate on Friday.

“If the Namwamba group declares itself as winners and goes ahead to assume office on Monday, then its like staging a coup and complicating matters in ODM further. If things move this way, we are starring at an imminent split in the Orange party,” says Prof Macharia Munene of the United States International University -Kenya.

A cross section of leading political analysts say that the way out for ODM is to allow generational  change to take root.

They also urge that the party should open up internal democracy and Raila to disengage from a clique of self-appointed leaders who have denied other stakeholders a say in the party .

Observers also fear that a leadership vacuum now exists in ODM amid the increasing confusion, after outgoing Secretary General Anyang Nyongo and chairman Henry Kosgey gave their departing speeches at Kasarani, only for chaos to shatter their plans of handing over leadership batons.

The party’s reputation is also at stake, with some political analysts censuring the ODM leadership  on its inability to root out thuggery and violence. Focus also remains on ODM not only as the biggest political party in the country, but also as the cornerstone of the opposition CORD coalition.

CORD co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka   who is the Wiper party leader was at Kasarani where he spoke on the need for ODM to remain united. Kalonzo delivered apologies from fellow co-principal Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, the Ford-Kenya party leader and Senate Minority Leader.

Change of guard

The way out for ODM is to honour  generational change of guard from the old- guard to youthful leaders like Namwamba, end domination of the party by personalities from the Nyanza region and manage well what is emerging to be the Raila Odinga succession, with coastal and western-Kenya alliances at the centre of it all,” says Prof Peter Kagwanja, the Chief Executive of the African Policy Institute.

Kagwanja argued that what ails ODM is its failure to eradicate violence, making the party to be seen as the embodiment of political chaos.

“Chances are that repeat elections may also be disrupted unless this vigilante violence problem is sorted out. That unfortunately will be too expensive for the party in terms of cost, and even individuals contesting for positions,” added Kagwanja.

Political scientist Prof Amukowa Anangwe says the future of ODM looks bleak unless free and fair elections are held to allow popular leaders take charge.

“If nothing happens, ODM should anticipate a mass exodus from the party and that way, Raila and the party will be losing credibility  as potential leaders of government in future,” added Anangwe.

Powerful forces

The Namwamba group, which held a press conference in Nairobi yesterday said it considers itself the winners of the election, going by how the delegates received them at Kasarani. Political analyst David Makali observed that Raila has been made a prisoner of powerful aides who frustrate those they perceive to be enemies of the party.

“A few self-appointed guardians of Raila and the party are the cause of all these problems. They are not willing to open up space  for other players,” Makali told The Standard on Sunday.

He concurs that Raila should have some strong hold on the party by virtue of it being his vehicle for the 2017 presidential election, but should also give room for healthy competition and democracy to prevail.

Contributing to the debate, the head of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Nairobi, Dr Adams Oloo, blamed ODM for failing to manage the popularity of the party.

“There is a sense of the Raila succession and the question of ODM after Raila and there are those who feel he is soon leaving the stage and so have to position themselves and that is why the battle is fierce. There are young leaders out to take the party if Raila’s single bullet fails in 2017 elections,” said Oloo in the interview.

As party leader, he said, Raila has to deal with the issue of violent ODM youths effectively to free the party from the ‘violence tag’.

Raila himself has promised the party will take full responsibility and bring those behind Friday chaos to book.

“We want to get to the root cause of this matter. At this point we do not want speculation,” said Raila at Kasarani.

And even if new officials are elected at some stage to take-over ODM, challenges ahead are enormous as pointed out by Nyong’o and Kosgey in their speeches at Kasarani.

The two leaders said the new leadership had the difficult task of delivering the presidency to ODM. They, however, said there was hope in the incoming leadership to accomplish the task ahead — acquiring political power in 2017.


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