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ODM takes battle to political rivals as it prepares to weed out rebels through poll

Saturday January 22 2011

By WALTER MENYA [email protected]

The Orange Democratic Party (ODM) is promising its political rivals a bruising battle in the 2012 General Election as it embarks on countrywide rallies beginning Monday.

And even President Kibaki will not be spared in this political encounter, according to a party insider close to Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Beginning Monday, the Premier sets off on a two-day tour of North Eastern and Upper Eastern in what his press service said was to “undertake an audit of the drought situation in Northern Kenya”.

But the Premier is using the visit to counter the alliance involving Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, Deputy PM Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto that is fast gathering momentum.

“(Mr) Odinga, who is expected to lead a high-powered delegation including Deputy Premier Musalia Mudavadi, is also scheduled to commission several water projects in the arid region.

“His itinerary during the two days working tour of the North includes meetings with the local leadership to map out ways of improving the living conditions of the pastoral communities,” PMPS said in a statement.

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Elections set

Party elections set for March are also meant to strengthen it ahead of the elections next year, said ODM secretariat’s communications director Philip Etale.

“The party elections will bring in new leaders who are keen to move the party forward into the next elections,” he said.

The ODM hierarchy is unhappy with President Kibaki’s visit to Eldoret last Friday where he was hosted by Rift Valley MPs and those fronting the KKK alliance.

And the party insider says it’s time to act, and fast, before a lot of damage is done.

“President Kibaki wants to have a hand in his succession. He seems to have cast his lot with KKK alliance, and we are going to take the battle to his doorstep,” he said.

Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo also weighed in with stinging criticism of the President, arguing that the timing of the visit was suspect.

“While Raila is busy trying to unite Africa, the President is associating with people suspected of criminal activities,” Mr Midiwo, who is also the grand coalition joint whip, said.

“As ODM, we acknowledge that he is the President of the Republic and has a right to visit any part of the country, but the timing is in bad faith.”

The rally in Eldoret, one of the focal points of the violence that followed the December 2007 elections, came just days after a group of Rift Valley MPs led by suspended minister Ruto held talks with the President at Harambee House.

MPs who were there said that meeting focused on the need for peace in the region and the resettlement of internally displaced people.

President defended

Mr Musyoka defended the President against ODM accusations that he was dividing Kenyans along ethnic lines.

“The President is on a peace and reconciliation mission. He is out to unite all Kenyans,” Mr Musyoka told the Sunday Nation through his spokesman Kaplich Barsito.

The VP further denied the existence of a KKK alliance and said ODM was engaging in shadow-boxing.

“There is no such thing as KKK. The VP or any other leader within the PNU coalition has never advocated an ethnic-based alliance,” Mr Barsito said from Addis Ababa where the VP had gone to lobby for deferment of the ICC process to a local judicial option.

“What is in the works is a coalition of several parties with following from every corner of our great nation,” said the Vice-President, to which Mr Midiwo responded that the group cannot run away from the ethnic alliance.

“They cannot run away from KKK alliance, yet they have been shouting from the rooftops about a Kikuyu, Kalenjin and Kamba union. They are behaving like cowards,” the Gem MP said.

The PM begins his in Marsabit where he will meet local leaders. He will then proceed to North Horr, Sololo and eventually hold a public rally at Moyale.

On Tuesday, he will make stopovers in Wajir North, Garissa and Mandera before returning to Nairobi.

“We are going to run around there quite a bit,” the source added.

ODM has been jolted by a rebellion of MPs mainly from Rift Valley and North Eastern provinces allied to Mr Ruto.

Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto has stated that they were going to decamp from the party at the appropriate time while his Eldoret North counterpart has been at the forefront in attempts to bring Mr Musyoka and Mr Kenyatta together in an alliance that could seriously clip Mr Odinga’s wings.

At the same time party chairman Henry Kosgey, who was named by ICC chief prosecutor among the six people suspected of bearing the greatest responsibility for the 2007 post-election violence, is understood to have submitted his resignation from the party.

Mr Odinga’s other ally, Aldai MP and Agriculture minister Sally Kosgei, was last week quoted as saying that she was not “in the business of committing political suicide” a day after she resigned as the deputy leader of government business in Parliament.

The PM has told the party rebels that they were free to quit ODM.

But nominated MP Mohammed Affey (ODM-K) and a close ally of the Vice-President, said ODM was fighting a losing battle.

Mr Affey said the Premier has been seriously wounded by the rebellion by the Rift Valley MPs within his party.

“We are confident the team bringing together the Vice-President, Uhuru (Kenyatta), Ruto and Saitoti among others will carry the day in next year’s elections,” Mr Affey told the Sunday Nation.

According to the Gem MP, Mr Ruto, who opposed the new Constitution, as well as Mr Kenyatta and Mr Musyoka who were “watermelons ”, cannot be entrusted with the responsibility to implement it.

While Mr Ruto, Mr Musyoka and Mr Kenyatta have been criss-crossing the country to draw crowds to their side, ODM has been relatively quiet. However, Mr Midiwo says this is set to change.

Tell the truth

ODM’s game plan, Mr Midiwo said, would be to go directly to the people and tell them the truth.

ODM grassroots elections are set to run from March 5 to 8.

The party will then hold its National Delegates’ Conference to elect national officials from March 8-9.

“Although ODM has faced ups and downs, we have managed to maintain vibrant internal democracy and won most of the by-election seats,” Mr Philip Okundi, chairman of the National Elections Board, said.

The party plans to conduct voter education activities from January 26 to February 12 aimed at teaching the party members voting procedures.
The elections are intended mainly to replace the Rift Valley MPs.

Mr Okundi explained that the elections will consolidate the party as an institution for governance and implementation of the new Constitution “lest it falls in the hands of non-reformists’’.

The party has recently been rocked by internal wrangles that threaten to tear it apart.  Mr Ruto, who is the deputy party leader, blames Mr Odinga for the internal strife within ODM.

“It is sad that Mr Odinga destroyed ODM immediately we began the coalition government. He first denounced the youth who supported him through demonstrations and who were later arrested. He later went ahead to make sure there were Kalenjin IDPs by evicting them from the Mau,” said Mr Ruto, whose relationship with Mr Odinga is at rock bottom.

The Eldoret North MP was named on the Ocampo list alongside Mr Kenyatta, Mr Kosgey and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang.

Others on the Ocampo list are head of public service Francis Muthaura and postmaster-general Hussein Ali.