Abrupt, off-the-cuff unilateral decisions by Nasa leader Raila Odinga and his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party are at the heart of intense discussions in the opposition coalition, documents seen by the Saturday Nation have revealed.
Top among the decisions in dispute is the call for a January 30 “swearing-in”, one that multiple interviews described as a spur-of-the-moment decision by one actor rather than a product of consultation within the coalition.
On Friday, during a meeting in Machakos, the coalition vowed to go on with the parallel swearing-in ceremony for Mr Odinga and his running mate, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, during a rally to be held at Uhuru Park ten days from today. Should Nasa make good its threat, this is likely to height the increasingly confrontational political wrangles between Mr Odinga and his allies on the one hand President Uhuru Kenyatta’s and his government on the other.
Some of strategists in the Nasa coalition — who are not allied to ODM — have said that the Opposition is a house deeply divided because important decisions are being taken by ODM with the other parties and their leaders being told to support the already-made decisions. Some said they have been accused of betrayal after questioning such actions.
One informant said that the declaration to transform the National Super Alliance (Nasa) into the National Resistance Movement (NRM) on the eve of the October 26 poll — which the Opposition boycotted — was made without the consultation of other Nasa leaders.
“After the Uhuru Park rally, Tinga (Mr Odinga) would later remark to his colleagues that he had added the resistance tag after he failed to see an excitement from the crowd,” the Nasa insider said.
On the decision to be sworn in, which has threatened to split the coalition in the past few days, Mr Odinga, Mr Musyoka, Mr Moses Wetang’ula and Mr Musalia Mudavadi met on Monday and Tuesday following doubts about the commitment of the other co-principals to Mr Odinga’s course.
The Nation has obtained a list of six questions that Mr Musyoka, Mr Wetang’ula and Mr Mudavadi have been asking Mr Odinga in their meetings this past week.
The questions and concerns are centred on whether the oath route had been agreed upon by all parties, the effect it will have on Nasa supporters and the effect backing out of it will have on them politically.
“How was the decision on the swearing in made public, especially the dates of December 12 and January 30? This scenario leaves those who were not consulted in an awkward position. It looks like they must tag along, regardless that they have not been party to the decisions,” the agenda notes in the meetings shows.
Mr Odinga, who was to be sworn-in in a parallel ceremony on November 28 when President Kenyatta took the oath, had announced under a cloud of teargas after a violent confrontation between his supporters and the police in Nairobi that he would be sworn in on December 12, which he then postponed to January 30. December 12 was a national holiday to commemorate Kenya’s independence.
And in an interview with Voice of America (VOA) this week, Mr Odinga upped the stakes when he said: “We can even be a government in exile, one that works from outside. It has happened in other countries. What we are saying is that Kenyans can no longer allow an illegitimate government not elected by the people to rule them.”
His sentiments re-ignited debate over the legal and political implication of the parallel event which the Attorney-General has warned would amount to treason. The interview came against the background of a push by Nasa to ensure that its MPs do not recognise President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legitimacy.
Sources have said that the meetings have also discussed what happens after Mr Odinga’s swearing-in, what that would mean and what systems have been put in place to secure supporters.
“If Nasa supporters choose to march to State House after the swearing-in, will they get a safe passage or there is a real risk of a bloodbath? “If we are not taking power, are we going into the bush to fight? Do we have what it takes? If we do not have what it takes, are we ready to take responsibility for loss of citizens’ life in vain?”
These are some of the questions raised in the internal agenda notes which further ask: “In the event that we elect not to proceed with the swearing in, where will this leave us politically? How do we manage damage in a population that feels disillusioned and betrayed because of the levels of expectations the swearing narrative has raised?”
The Minority Whip in the National Assembly, Mr Junet Mohammed, said claims that no consultation took place and that ODM had adopted a bullying approach are being pushed by political opponents out of fear of the impending swearing-in.
“The claims are largely a product of a biased media,” he told the Saturday Nation. “We have done so many things and I wonder why the focus of the media has been on the split, no consultation and other negative things about the coalition. We know it is a mission and it will not succeed because we are all set to swear in the two.”
On the October 26 poll withdrawal, a top Nasa official said that Senator James Orengo had taken the lead in convincing Nasa that the boycott was foolproof and would force a postponement of the elections. However, a decision to actually withdraw had not been reached on October 10, a top Nasa official said. According to him, the day Mr Odinga withdrew from the repeat presidential election, Mr Musyoka, Mr Wetang’ula and Mr Mudavadi found out about the plan as they had lunch in Mr Mudavadi’s house.
However, the withdrawal backfired, with the Supreme Court later saying this was the point at which Mr Odinga lost a chance of the fight for State House.
Mr Orengo said that he has attended numerous meetings between the co-principals and detected no hint of disagreements, or decisions being made with no consensus.
“Those saying there is disagreement in the coalition are getting it wrong. The bigger question is electoral justice and on this, there is consensus across the board that this must be addressed. There are no cracks in the coalition,” Mr Orengo said.
A day after Nasa withdrew from the poll, Dr Ekuru Aukot of the Thirdway Alliance obtained a High Court order allowing him to contest in the repeat poll, which opened the floodgate for the inclusion of all August 8 election candidates, Mr Odinga’s withdrawal notwithstanding.
Sources inside Nasa also said it was not clear how the October 25 announcement on the formation of a National Resistance Movement (NRM) was done.
“It is not clear how much consultation and planning went into this announcement because there has been reduced visibility of the resistance effort. It is not clear whether the resistance is still on or not,” a Nasa strategist said.
On the question of what next after the swearing in, Mr Orengo said the question will be addressed, once the function is over.
“The thing will be addressed because we don’t want to act in vain. We shall explain to our supporters,” he said.
Nasa lead strategist David Ndii has said that the swearing in will, besides restoring the legitimacy of those who were elected on August 8, provide an opportunity to continue the national conversation on the kind of nation Kenyans want.
“We have had regional assemblies and it is only important that we convene the first national convention to bring Kenyans together and discuss the transformational changes the country needs,” Dr Ndii said.
Kisumu Woman Rep Rosa Buyu said the overriding thing in the quest to swear in the two leaders is the need for electoral justice whose absence has undermined the country’s democratic space.
“The claims are just insulting because it is not true that you can carry out this kind of thing (oath) without consulting with colleagues. All of us in Nasa, and Kenya at large, want electoral justice because we lost many lives after the poll. We have not given up on the struggle.”