Raila Odinga's ODM accused of double standards on rebels

A section of ODM 'rebel' MPs Elisha Odhiambo, Felix Odiwuor aka Jalango, Paul Aburo and Caroli Omondi after  addressing  the media at Parliament buildings, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

A report by ODM’s disciplinary committee recommended a harsher punishment for rebel MPs but the National Executive Committee softened it, The Standard has established.

On Wednesday following a NEC meeting, the party resolved to expel five elected MPs who, early this year, visited President William Ruto at State House Nairobi and have been accompanying him in his tours to Western.

Sources within ODM told The Standard yesterday that the disciplinary committee chaired by Prof Ben Sihanya recommended expulsion and suspension plus fines for the eight members. That was however moderated at the NEC sitting, chaired by party leader Raila Odinga, where suspension was dropped for expulsion and fines.

ODM chairman John Mbadi however said NEC’s decision was democratic and they did not punish anymore beyond the recommendations by the committee

“We did not make a harsher punishment or more than what was recommended by the disciplinary committee,” he said. He added: “Our work was either to uphold the punishment proposed or moderate it based on the discussions around the findings of the committee.’’ 

According to procedures of the party, NEC is only expected to either adapt or moderate recommendations of a disciplinary committee depending on how the members defended themselves. 

The party’s disciplinary committee had recommended expulsion for the rebel MPs who ignored its summons and suspension plus fines for members that defended themselves. 

Meanwhile, the party’s decision has been described by critics as double standards within the opposition outfit.

President William Ruto’s allies were among leaders accusing the party of hypocrisy. Through social platform X previously known as Twitter, the legislators said the leadership of ODM was biased. 

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei termed the move intimidating and blackmail. “Double standards by Azimio-OKA/Tinga is unprecedented and hypocritical because Kalonzo was in State House yesterday. Before him, my law lecturer Senator OJienda, Jalang’o and others visited and have been expelled; will Kalonzo also be expelled from Azimio-OKA/ wiper party for going to state house yesterday? Tinga has met Ruto several times. Will he also be expelled from ODM/Azimio-OKA?,” Cherargei tweeted.

Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale said the affected lawmakers should not be worried as they will continue serving for the reminder of their term “Small matter. This Senator and MPs will remain in office until the end of their term in 2027,” Khalwale said. UDA secretary general Cleophas Malala accused ODM of trying to criminalise freedom of thought and association.

Gatanga MP Edward Muríu said: “Yesterday, Raila Odinga greeted DP Rigathi Gachagua and attended a government function on #ACS2023, today Kalonzo Musyoka was at State House. Why have they not been expelled? The will of the people is greater than the will of an individual.”

The leaders also questioned why the party only targeted MPs yet ODM governors had pledged to work with the government.

ODM party boss had given the greenlight for governors to work with Ruto’s administration for the sake of development.

“We had a sit down with our governors and because they are elected to represent the people, we recognise the existence of a two-tire government. Governors can meet whoever is sitting as President,” Raila said early this year.

Mr Mbadi said the party is yet to receive any letter pushing to have any governor deregistered for being disloyal to the party.

‘’We need to acknowledge the leadership of every party. Just like Migori Senator Eddy Oketch wrote to us against the MPs any member who feels any governor should face the disciplinary committee should formally write to the party citing reasons and as a party we will follow up. So far we have not received any letter against any governor,’’ he told The Standard.

Mbadi faulted most expelled MPs for snubbing summons by the disciplinary committee. He however said they have an opportunity to argue their case at the party’s National Governing Council.

Governors Simba Arati (Kisii) Fernandes Barasa (Kakamega), Wavinya Ndeti Machakos), Jeremiah Lomurukai (Turkana) and Joseph Ole Lenku (Kajiado) are some of the county bosses that have affirmed their commitment to work with President Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza administration. Mr Barasa last week said he has a good working relationship with the President for the sake of development and does not need to seek permission from anyone to work with him.

“Shame on you to those out there (political detractors) saying I have joined UDA. I am an ODM governor but I have a good working relationship with the President for the sake of development,” he said.

However, things are different for MPs as Raila has in the past said they do not require to visit State House to solicit support for development noting that Parliament allocates funds for various activities and projects including the devolved unit’s funds.