Kenya could go into a “little general election”, similar to the one witnessed in 1966 should the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) affiliate parties expel its rebel MPs and senators.
With just 10 months before the General Election in August, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is likely to face an uphill task conducting by-elections for more than 20 parliamentary and Senate seats with massive financial and logistical implications. It costs Sh50 million to conduct a by-election in just one constituency.
ODM alone is targeting to unseat 10 MPs said to have defected to the Jubilee Party. Two governors — Kwale’s Salim Mvurya and Ukur Yattani of Marsabit — who are among those targeted by ODM, may not have the chance to defend their seats since the Constitution states that a governor who leaves office should be replaced by the deputy for the remainder of the term. If both the governor and the deputy are forced out of office, the County Assembly speaker takes over in an acting capacity.
In 1966, the government had to dig deep into its kitty to fund by-elections after 29 Kanu MPs defected en-masse to the newly-formed Kenya People’s Union (KPU) then led by the country’s first Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.
Like is happening now where ODM is trying to force its rebel governors and MPs to resign and seek a fresh mandate from the people, Kanu in 1966 convened an urgent Parliamentary Group meeting that pushed for a constitutional amendment to force the MPs to contest in by-elections. Among those subjected to the by-elections was KPU leader Jaramogi, who was then the MP for Bondo.
Jaramogi retained his seat with a landslide victory, but 12 of the defectors lost. Among them were freedom fighters Achieng Oneko, who lost the Nakuru Town seat, and Bildad Kagia who lost the Kandaria seat.
Those who retained their seats on the new KPU were Luke Obok (Alego), Odero Sar (Ugenya), Okuto Bala (Nyando), Francis Oduya (Elgon West, later Teso) and Okelo Odongo (Kisumu Rural).
During the campaigns that kicked off in May 1966, President Jomo Kenyatta was personally in charge of the Kanu campaigns. He not only used State resources and the State broadcaster, Voice of Kenya (VOK), but also traversed the country, campaigning against Jaramogi and his team.
On May 1, during Labour Day celebrations in Nairobi, President Jomo Kenyatta was quoted in The East African Standard as saying, “I have done my part in removing these false prophets from Parliament and it is up to you to ensure that they are not returned to public life.”
Fast-forward to September 2016 and the same scenario is facing Opposition leader and Jaramogi’s son Raila Odinga.
Just like Kenyatta forced a constitutional amendment to subject KPU defectors to gruelling by-elections, Raila wants history to repeat itself. He has already asked the rebel ODM legislators to resign immediately to seek a fresh mandate on a Jubilee Party ticket.
The party’s disciplinary committee has recommended the expulsion of 13 members who have defected to Jubilee. Committee chairman Fred Athuok said the party was taking up the matter with the IEBC, Parliament and affected counties to have seats declared vacant and by-elections called to replace the leaders.
“These leaders have by conduct or statement indicated their intention to defect from the party or by expressly attending the overt functions and activities of the other parties,” Mr Athuok said in a statement last week. “Under sections 14(5)(c) of the Political Parties Act, the disciplinary committee deems such a member to have defected.”
Elected ODM leaders facing expulsion are Yattani, Mvurya, Kwale Woman Representative Zainab Chidzuga, Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi, MPs Stephen Kariuki (Mathare), Mpuru Aburi (Tigania East), Gideon Mung’aro (Kilifi North) and Mustaffa Idi of Kilifi South.
It is not clear how the party will handle Maangi, since the law is silent on how to replace a deputy governor.
The targeted leaders have, however, dismissed planned action against them, saying they were protected by the law, adding that their seats could only be declared vacant if they formally resign.
But The Standard on Sunday has learnt that the ODM is determined to punish the rebel MPs and has even written to the Registrar of Political Parties and the National Assembly to have their salaries stopped and their seats declared vacant.
ODM chairman John Mbadi said resolutions had been made, backed by the provisions of the Political Parties Act that clearly defines the parameters of defection.
“Article 103 of the Constitution tells us that if a person is deemed to have resigned from the party that sponsored him or her to Parliament. We have to notify the registrar within seven days,” said Mbadi.
“We have done this because the rebel MPs have no locus standi to continue drawing huge salaries with the name of ODM, yet they subscribe to ideals of our opponents.”