Top Stories / 2017 Elections
Saturday, 15 Apr 2017 14:17 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
The decision by the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Disciplinary Committee to absolve Suna East MP Junet Mohamed from grilling over the violence that rocked Migori Town on Monday April 3 was a last-minute decision by party leader Raila Odinga to save the MP embarrassment after a series of losses that have put the first-time MP's future on the balance.
As ODM goes to nominations in Migori County on April 21, Mr Mohamed's standing as a top party official has been dented by skirmishes in the Migori party branch that now threaten his re-election chances. Far from the confident pose the MP, who is also ODM's director of elections, wears at national platforms, he is suddenly involved in a tough nomination contest against his predecessor John Pesa.
The violence on April 3 was triggered by local governor Okoth Obado's arrival at the event where Mr Mohamed was launching his re-election campaign. Present at the meeting were Mombasa governor Hassan Joho, who is an ODM deputy party leader and senators James Orengo and Anyang Nyongo. Joho was the chief guest.
As ODM’s deputy party leader, Mr Joho was never to be grilled for the violence, but a party statement announcing Mr Mohamed's removal from the list of those to be grilled also included the governor's name, leading close political observers to wonder how this happened.
ODM sources who spoke to this website said the Committee had initially wanted to have Mr Mohamed investigated for the violence, but the MP appealed directly to Messrs Odinga, Joho and Orengo to intervene and save him from facing the panel. While committee members felt strongly that he needed to appear, Mr Odinga intervened, according to party insiders.
However, the former PM's intervention followed two days of no communication between him and Mr Mohamed who was frantically trying to reach him, a development seen by those in the know as part of Mr Odinga's way of rebuking the MP for the violence. After pleas from Joho and Orengo, the sources informed this website, Mr Odinga agreed that Mr Mohamed should be saved from the committee.
However, his solution for the dispute was a win-win situation for Mr Mohamed and his nemesis, Governor Obado, who was fined Sh2 million but allowed the party’s gubernatorial nominations against former cabinet minister Ochilo Ayako. In the absence of Mr Obado, Mr Ayako was almost guaranteed of victory in the April 21 nomination.
A source at the ODM headquarters informed this website that Mr Obado's clearance was the culmination of high-level negotiations within the party involving a number of Luo elders and professionals from Migori County who appealed to Mr Odinga to make a decision himself after party organs had developed cold feet in welcoming the governor.
Some leaders from Migori County informed Mr Odinga that Mr Obado was a "buffer" between violent forces of Nyatike MP Omondi Anyanga, who is fronting his wife Anne for the governor’s seat, and Mr Ayako, a former minister for energy whose political career has been marked by violence since 1997 when he first ran and won the Rongo parliamentary seat.
While he’s been out of politics for ten years, Mr Ayako has been blamed, his supporters say wrongly, for several acts of violence and death in the current campaign. The thrust of his campaign has been his loyalty to ODM, from where he did not defect even after losing nomination battles in the past, and his camp anticipated Mr Odinga's tacit endorsement which has not come thus far.
To cement his credentials as the party candidate, Mr Ayako enlisted the support of Mr Mohamed, who had recently assured supporters at different events that Mr Obado would never be welcomed in ODM. The ODM Elections Board also initially made a determination not to accept the governor unless he resigned officially from his PDP party.
As the gubernatorial race heated up, Mr Mohamed took the Ayako campaign as his personal project, alienating several constituencies, including youth groups, clans and some professionals, which had trouble accepting the former minister as an inevitable candidate.
Mr Mohamed's public statements against Mr Obado soon began to reflect in the MP's own re-election campaign, where his opponents promoted the message that he using his proximity to the party leader to dictate the politics of Migori.
"Matters came to a head in March when Mr Mohamed began bragging publicly that Mr Obado's political life was soon coming to an end since he had blocked the governor from ODM," said a local activist who told this website that the MP relied on his personal assistant, who is a leading ODM blogger, and bloggers working from Orange House to project Governor Obado's fate as sealed.
All along in March, a source from Orange House told us, the MP's confidence was dipping. "He and his bloggers began saying publicly that it was either him or Obado in ODM but not the two of them. Well, Mr Obado's clearance gave him the answer, to choose whether he would resign from ODM or stay."
These developments, which many party supporters in Suna East are aware of, have brought the MP's seat into play, after nearly three years when it was taken for granted that he would easily win re-election. The MP's fate and that of Mr Ayako are tied.