February 21st 2018

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

Raila Odinga within his rights to reject anti-ODM independent candidates

Unfortunately the party primaries' fiasco has given room to even genuine losers to still go ahead as independents and thereby blame Raila for their "loss". Interestingly, the Jubilee independents complain of flawed processes but do not blame Uhuru.

By Millie OdhiamboSunday, 21 May 2017 16:55 EAT

The members of Kenya Association of Independent Candidates

I wish to give my opinion on NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga's support for ODM and NASA candidates and his rejection of independent candidates who defected from the coalition's affilliated parties. Though I have been advised by some friends not to utter a word on this subject, I have chosen to state my mind on this important issue.

Let me begin by addressing myself to the issue of unfair ODM primaries. It is a fact that party primaries were not conducted well. Even though I won in Mbita, it was a fight and I was not happy with the process. I lost my bodyguard, my house was torched and several of my supporters beaten. There was even a threat on my life.

Earlier there was a very spirited attempt to interfere with the appointment of the Returning Officer and presiding officers and this partially succeeded. After the results were announced, I was taken before the Tribunal and still won. God was merciful I won despite all these challenges. I have spoken to many who were not as lucky. There is a lot of anger over the process.

Secondly, all big parties were affected by poor primaries hence the unprecedented number of Independent candidates. Indeed there is an alliance, the Kenya Alliance of Independent Candidates, spearheaded by Governor Kabogo that supports President Uhuru Kenyatta's candidature. There is conversely none at the moment supporting a Raila candidature.

Jubilee is covertly or openly supporting its own Jubilee candidates not independents but welcome the support of the independents for it's presidential candidate. Supporters of independents of Jubilee only support their candidates but ODM supporters support their candidate but unlike Jubilee, spice it by hurling abuses at ODM party leader too. We are generally more expressive. 

Thirdly, there are many opportunists out there masquarading as independent candidates. Unfortunately the party primaries' fiasco has given room to even genuine losers to still go ahead as independents and thereby blame Raila for their "loss". Interestingly, the Jubilee independents complain of flawed processes but do not blame Uhuru. 

Given this, the response by Raila in rejecting independent candidates is well informed. The question is, should Raila be mute and only seek his votes? I will answer this by sharing experience from the 2007 elections. I was the Campaign Manager for the late Otieno Kajwang in the 2006 -2007 election period. After bungled primaries, there was a lot of anger.

We formed the Western Kenya Presidential Campaign team to campaign for Raila and I was the Coordinator. My personal aim was only a focus on a Raila presidency since primaries were unfair! The old hands like the late Kajwang', Oburu Odinga, Musa Sirma and others overruled me and pushed for a three-piece party agenda.

We went allover and were physically attacked in several areas while pushing this agenda. The public finally saw the need for a three-piece agenda but many were emotionally and financially wounded. The same thing happened in 2013 and we again did a similar campaign though some candidates in friendly parties from our coalition managed to sail through. History is repeating itself in 2017.

But we should not lose the big picture. Party politics is at the heart of everything in our governance structure: good laws, resource allocation (through parliament), defence of the Constitution, nominations in county assemblies and Parliament (Senate, National Assembly, EALA, PAP, ACPEU) and appointments to constitutional offices all depend on numbers.

The current parliament has been the worst because of " tyranny of numbers". We have passed very harmful laws because of tyranny of numbers. We have appointed very questionable office holders because of tyranny of numbers. In the circumstances, it will not be smart politically for any party leader to shoot himself on the foot by not supporting his own party.

Unless of course he chooses to dissolve his party. Why is Wiper insisting on amalgamation of small parties to Wiper? Why did Wavinya not just continue with CCU? It is because of the above.

In this election, some NASA partners have asked Mr Odinga to keep off Western so that FORD K and Amani can reap the seats. It's about numbers. So what is the party leader of ODM supposed to be left with? No ODM everywhere? So he becomes leader of what? 

Related to the above is the question of how independent are the independents. It is said all independents from our strongholds will automatically support Mr Odinga once in office. That is a fallacy. Last week, independent candidates joined hands with Jubilee to start a process of shooting down ODM candidates in EALA. Once a person is an independent, you do not control them as they are moved mainly by incentives (which unfortunately in our circumstances is more likely to be monetary).

ODM supporters who follow their conscience and choose to defy the party leader's appeal and vote whoever they want maybe expecting too much of Mr Odinga to campaign for independent candidates regardless of the circumstances. 

Ultimately we must address the issue of bungled elections as this is really the crux of the matter. At a personal level, I have prepared a draft law "Political Parties Primaries Bill" that seeks to:

a) Set up an independent body to conduct political parties' primaries. Yes, this will be expensive but what we have seen is more expensive emotionally and financially. 

b) Give parties leeway for direct nominations of candidates and pre-selection of candidates.

The writer is a lawyer, human rights defender and Member of Parliament representing Mbita Constituency.

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