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Former MPs, top lawyers give SDP a new national face

Saturday October 30 2010
Charity-Ngilu

Mrs Charity Ngilu was the first female candidate to contest for presidency in 1997 on an SDP ticket. Photo/FILE

Former Cabinet ministers and MPs in the Ninth Parliament have regrouped to take over the Social Democratic Party.

A galaxy of youthful faces from civil society and private sector have been lined up apparently to give the party a new face. Some sitting MPs are also said to be interested in joining the party.

Top party positions that were left vacant before the 2007 General Election when SDP’s key officials moved to the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) have now been occupied by new faces and an array of former MPs, mostly from the National Alliance of Kenya wing of Narc.

Water and Irrigation minister Charity Ngilu is associated with the party that was founded by a fellow minister from Ukambani, the late Johnstone Makau. Mrs Ngilu contest for presidency in 1997 on SDP’s ticket.

Sources say the party’s National Executive Council convened two months ago and agreed to have the organ reconstituted and fill the various party positions with new faces.

In the new line-up, former Wundanyi MP Mwandawiro Mghanga is the chairman while the vice-chairman is former Co-operative Development and Marketing minister and Manyatta MP Njeru Ndwiga.

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“That’s true. I am the SDP vice-chairman. Officials of the party sat down and decided that there was need for new blood in the party to rejuvenate it,” Mr Ndwiga told the Sunday Nation.

The party secretary-general is former Information and Communication minister Mutahi Kagwe while his deputy is former Youth Enterprise Fund official Helen Tombo.

A former permanent secretary, Ms Rachel Nzombo, is the party’s treasurer with former Agriculture assistant minister and Kathiani MP Peter Kaindi deputising her.

The organising secretary is another former Cabinet minister, Mr Mutua Katuku, while former Mwea MP Alfred Nderitu is the environment secretary.

Others include city lawyer Kamotho Waiganjo (constitutional secretary), Ms Judy Thogori (women bureau), a Nairobi lawyer Mr C. K. Kihara, Ms Mary Kirwa (gender secretary), Johnson Sakaja and former ministers Morris Dzoro, Raphael Tuju and Prof Kivutha Kibwana.

Sitting MPs associated with the party include Kilgoris MP Gideon Konchellah, his Gachoka counterpart Mutava Musyimi and assistant ministers Peter Munya and Nderitu Muriithi.

The injection of fresh blood which, Mr Ndwiga says, will be followed by a grand re-launch of the party soon is done in such a way that it will appeal to the youth. Some of the officials are in their 30s.

“The idea is to have a mix of good qualities and youthfulness in its structures,” explained one of the officials.

Those involved in remaking SDP say they had mulled over various options before settling for the party as it was the first in the country to field a serious female presidential contender.

Officials say marketing the party to Kenyans will basically centre on its ideology of social justice and equity and the fact that it is a brand that has been ruling in many countries.

“It’s an international brand that is in power in countries like Germany, Greece and Ukraine among other countries. It’s not a new concept at the global level,” said Mr Kagwe.

At the local level, the SDP is a political vehicle that has probably escaped the label of a tribal party as it has MPs from across the ethnic divide.

Cabinet ministers James Orengo and Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o have in the past been elected on the party’s ticket as have a host of past MPs from Eastern, Central and Nairobi provinces.

However, Mr Kagwe, being a key official of the party, will have to put in some extra efforts to sell the party in his central Kenya backyard where the former Internal Security minister Dr Christopher Murungaru is trying to steer DP to the country’s leadership.

Gichugu MP Martha Karua, too, has a similar vision for Narc Kenya as is former Mathira MP Nderitu Gachagua and Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri with their Grand National Union party.

Mr Kagwe says the SDP will not fight with other parties and will leave room for future mergers.

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