Top Stories / National
Wednesday, 05 Apr 2017 11:46 EATnmuthoni@kenyafreepress.com
The ODM is under scrutiny for violence on Sunday in Migori where three of its top leaders were engaged in a confrontation with the local governor Okotho Obado. ODM deputy party leader Hassan Joho survived a bullet fired in his direction by a police officer during the violence. The bullet however got into one of his bodyguard who underwent medical treatment.
As expected, the violence has left room for recriminations, with some leaders accusing Migori Governor Okoth Obado of having plotted it. To its credit, the ODM national leadership has summoned some of the leaders involved and promised that it will investigate the incident thoroughly as part of its preparations to oversee free, fair and peaceful party nominations.
The event was the campaign launch of ODM director of elections and first term Suna East MP Junet Mohamed’s re-election bid. That Mr Mohamed invited the party's leadership cream including Joho and Senators James Orengo and Anyang Nyongo to such a small event signifies the deep undercurrents that preceded the meeting. No such event, in the party's stronghold no less, has attracted a deputy party leader and senators from outside the immediate region.
Mr Mohamed and Migori ODM chairman Philip Makabongo claim that Governor Obado was behind the violence, adding that the governor had earlier in the day used his county’s workers to block ODM leaders from holding a rally at the Migori stadium, as did Joho, Orengo and Nyongo. “Everything was going well until Mr Obado stormed in with his bodyguards and youths,” said Mr Orengo after being spirited away from the scene by his aides.
The politicians claim that Mr Obado’s supporters also attempted to petrol-bomb a newly-built ODM office that Joho was supposed to officially open. “We ask Obado to tell Kenyans his role in the chaos. He blocked us from accessing the stadium. When we relocated to an open ground in the town, he followed us with his youths and bodyguards. It was a clear provocation,” said Mr Mohamed.
As the Suna East MP said so well, Mr Obado was opposed to the meeting because he feared it would give mileage to his opponent for the gubernatorial seat, Ochilo Ayako. Obado has denied having a hand in the chaos. Through his spokesman, Nicholas Anyuor, Mr Obado said that although it was wrong for the ODM officials to organise Joho’s visit without involving him, he had nothing to do with the violence. “It was the governor who stopped them (the youth) from more violence,” the governor’s spokesman said.
The issue of who organised the violence can only be understood in the context of the political tensions between Mr Obado on one hand and Mr Mohamed and the local ODM branch officials on the other. The latter have openly campaigned against the governor and championed the politial interests of Mr Ayako.
While ODM has been receiving political defectors to its fold (more recently, former Nairobi women representative aspirant Esther Passaris, on Sunday), the local ODM officials have blocked Mr Obado's defection to the party at a later date, insisting that the nomination only be conducted among the aspirants who bought party nomination papers. Blocking Mr Obado, who is a member of the PDP, would help Mr Ayako's chances, according to analysts from the ground.
It is Mr Ayako's campaign that Messrs Joho, Orengo and Nyongo went to bless, even as the party promises fair nominations in the backyards of Orengo and Nyongo who are also running for nomination as governor in Siaya and Kisumu. Even in Migori, Mr Ayako is running against two other candidates, and if, as the leaders believe, he is strong enough to win, there would be no need impose him on the electorate.
Recognizing the dilemna from the conflict, ODM executive director Oduor Ongwen told Mayienga FM yesterday the party is not pleased with the kind of violence witnessed during the rally and must crack the whip on errant members found culpable. He said that leaders present at the rally during the chaos must appear before the party’s disciplinary committee to give an account of what transpired before any action could be taken including exoneration of the innocent.
“The party has summoned all leaders alleged to have involved in the chaos for interrogations to help in pursuing further investigations over the matter,” Mr Ongwen said, reiterating the party’s commitment instill discipline and execute punitive measures against politicians who thrive in violence saying noting that it damages the party’s image.
The director urged the party luminaries and officials to avoid taking sides ahead of nominations saying it is recipe to chaos, adding that party leader Raila Odinga had also kept off party primaries affairs to enhance a level playing ground for all the contenders. Mr Joho has been accused by ODM members at the Coast of championing preferred candidates, and the accusation seemed to be confirmed when he planted himself in local political disputes in Migori.
There was also a matter of double standards in the fact that Joho could visit Migori without informing his colleague Obado, when he is the one who has been championing the notion that a governor of a county must be courteously informed when a senior person visits his county. While the president is definitely a senior person, Joho himself is no junior operative. He is the deputy party leader of ODM.