Kenya PM Raila under siege
A tumultuous week culminated in a meeting on Saturday hosted by party deputy leader William Ruto in Mombasa which organisers said was meant to lay strategies on how to split the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party.
At the meeting, Mr Ruto and his allies began to drum the message that the time for young leaders to take over government had come. They appeared to be directing their jabs at Mr Odinga, who celebrated his 66th birthday last week.
Belgut MP Charles Keter told off Prime Minister Raila over the call for rebellious ODM leaders to leave the party, saying they will stay put until the time comes.
“We are ready to leave but we cannot say the time. We are not ready to leave at the moment and we cannot be intimidated or threatened,” he said.
He also alleged that Mr Odinga is not up to the task to mediate in the political crisis facing Ivory Coast and challenged him to leave that responsibility to someone else.
“How can you become a Kofi Annan when you cannot address problems in your own country? I want to tell him to leave that responsibility to someone else,” Mr Keter said.
He said the Hague case facing Mr Ruto will not stop the Eldoret North MP from going for the presidency next year.
The meeting was attended by Kanu’s Naomi Shaaban, the Gender minister, and PNU’s Eugene Wamalwa. Hundreds of grassroots leaders from the Coast also attended the meeting held at the Whitesands Hotel in Mombasa.
The Mombasa meeting came in the week that the PM has been losing allies faster than he has been making any.
The problem spilt properly into the public domain when the PM called a party leaders’ meeting which chairman Henry Kosgey, the suspended Industrialisation minister, skipped.
Mr Kosgey said he skipped Thursday’s ODM meeting because he was in meetings with his lawyers over the ICC case facing him. At the same time, Rift Valley leaders said they were bitter with Mr Odinga for not coming to his defence.
He also said he was still the party chairman and had not stated that he was out of race for the post of chairman.
“Who told you that I am not seeking the ODM party chairman’s post? Why can’t you wait until the time for elections comes and you can ask that question? For now, I am putting all my energy towards ensuring justice is done (at The Hague) and to have my name cleared,” he said.
A day later, Agriculture minister Sally Kosgei skipped a major function in her docket when the PM went to open the Butali Sugar Factory.
Mr Kosgey and Ms Kosgei remained the key pillars of Mr Odinga’s and ODM’s political presence in Rift Valley after the PM fell out with suspended Higher Education minister William Ruto.
But this week, they were reported to have attended a meeting in which party politics and the future of their community in ODM dominated the agenda.
As the political storm raged, former President Moi rode in from Nandi and said it would mark a turning point in Kalenjin politics.
“The trouble in ODM is a turning point in Kalenjin politics for people chose to join ODM without planning and consulting. People should try to avoid jumping from one party to another,” said Mr Moi. “We cannot talk about unity when we are from different political parties. I urge you all to come back to Kanu and we will work collectively. As an elder, I will forgive you all and we will work together.”
Belgut MP Charles Keter told the Sunday Nation that the group rebelling against the PM’s leadership in ODM would make a “major announcement” within one month.
But, as a section of MPs swelled their rebellion, it was revealed that the PM would counter it with grassroots campaigns and a shuffle of ministers from his party.
“He will be going directly to the people. There are also a number of MPs that he will be seeking to elevate and give strong political backing to. I don’t think it’s going to be too long before the Cabinet positions are filled,” said Mr Odinga’s spokesperson Dennis Onyango.
Mr Onyango was referring to the Higher Education and Industrialisation dockets previously held by Mr Ruto and Mr Kosgey respectively. The two have since stepped aside over charges they are facing in court.
The two have been important figures in the party. While Mr Ruto was in the party’s top brass – named the Pentagon – which helped to spread their political message across the country in 2007, Mr Kosgey is the party’s chairman.
The rest of the party’s top brass includes Mr Odinga, Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, Cooperatives Minister Joe Nyagah, Tourism Minister Najib Balala and Water Minister Charity Ngilu.
On Saturday, Mrs Ngilu told the Sunday Nation that she was waiting to see how the “kingpins” handle the party before making her statement.
In what is seen as a growing rebellion against the PM, Mr Kosgey this week hosted a daylong meeting of North Rift leaders, including those who are perceived to support the Prime Minister.
The meeting reportedly resolved to relinquish their party positions and any they hold in Parliament in readiness for a party switch as they prepare for the General Election in 2012.
If accounts of that meeting are to be believed, ODM chairman Kosgey and deputy organising secretary Benjamin Langat are expected to relinquish their party positions.
Also expected to quit party positions are leaders from other regions at the Coast and North Eastern including the party’s treasurer Hassan Joho, assistant minister for Livestock Adan Duale, deputy secretary general, and Moyale MP Mohamud Mohamed.
Mr Onyango also told the Sunday Nation that the PM was hoping that the party would release “excess baggage” in the party elections in March and April.
Separately, Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang joined in the call for those dissatisfied with ODM to pack up and leave.
“ODM is a mass movement and does not belong to an individual or a community,” he said. “Ruto should be made to understand that the problems currently facing him are his own and not that of ODM and the peaceful Kalenjins that he wants to drag in.”
The secretary to ODM’s parliamentary group, Mr Ababu Namwamba, remained optimistic that his party would weather the current storm.
“ODM is more than a political party. It’s a cause, a journey to a better Kenya for all, a mass movement anchored on the dreams, passions and energies of ordinary Kenyans. It’s only natural that such a force would face challenges as has been witnessed with movements like ANC with the exit of Thabo Mbeki. In fact, such hiccups are sometimes a blessing in disguise,” said Mr Namwamba.
As the political storm gained momentum, the party secretariat issued a statement and defended the PM against accusations by Mr Ruto that he had created IDPs with the Mau Forest evictions.
“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 forcefully evicting them out of the Mau,” Mr Ruto had said on Friday.
In response, the ODM secretariat communications director Philip Etale said: “The party notes with concern attributes to the deputy party leader Hon William Ruto that the Prime Minister denounced the youth who supported him in the 2007 General Election and had them arrested. It was also alleged that Mr Odinga ‘created’ the so-called Kalenjin IDPs by forcing them out of the Mau.”(Daily Nation)