Raila Allies in Rift Valley Quit ODM
But even before the dust settles on its defeat in the March 4 General Election, ODM is staring at yet another setback.
Raila’s key allies in the Rift Valley are leading an exodus from the Orange party.
Former party loyalists, Franklin Bett and Margaret Kamar, both of them former Cabinet ministers in the grand coalition government – have already tendered their resignation from the party.
Other strong pillars have curiously taken a low profile.
On Friday, during the burial of his mother in Nandi, ODM chairman Henry Kosgey, hinted that he could be willing to work with the Jubilee government.
Referring to URP leaders who attended the burial, Kosgey said: “We have now left the (leadership) baton to those in Government. We will now support you.”
Kosgey said he was willing to be consulted saying he would be ready to offer his contribution to nation building.
Then came a surprise announcement by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s political affairs adviser Joshua Kutuny.
“Kosgey is one of our respected leaders and soon we might even give him a post in the Jubilee government,” he said, a statement that probably pointed to the reasonJubilee leaders attended the burial.
Jubilee elected leaders at the burial included senators Kithure Kindiki, Kipchumba Murkomen and Governor Isaac Ruto as well as MPs Alfred Keter, Alex Kosgey, Cornelly Serem, Julius Melly and Oscar Sudi.
Speaking to The Standard on Sunday, Kamar said she was now working with the government as a consultant and that is why she resigned from ODM.
She said she landed a job at the Centre for Parliamentary Studies and Training, which is run by the government. She is part of a team training the new bicameral Parliament following the introduction of devolution.
Kamar also disclosed that she is now a consultant with the Transition Authority, helping in operationalisation of county governments.
“It was therefore untenable to continue being in politics because these roles expect that I be impartial. That is why I resigned from ODM,” said Kamar, who was the Uasin Gishu ODM chairperson.
Kamar was highly rated as the most likely first Uasin Gishu governor, a post she ran for in the March 4 general election, but lost to URP’s Jackson Mandago.
Many voters supported her but argued she was in the wrong party with many even calling on her to quit ODM for URP to win the seat.
In 2007, ODM enjoyed mass support in the region until the URP and TNA wave swept across the region in the March 4 elections winning most elective posts.
The ODM top guns from the Rift Valley were not present in last week’s party governing council meeting held in Nairobi and attended by party leader Raila Odinga.
Mr Magerer Langat, the ODM executive director, said the ODM meeting was convened to review the status of the party and also its role as official opposition.
“We want to ensure the party plays its role well and also ensure it is well organised. But it was not a meeting for all,” said Magerer, seeking to explain the absence of key Rift Valley party leaders.
Until the last general election, the party had in its fold powerful ministers from the region including party chairman Kosgey (Industrialisation), Bett (Roads), Prof Kamar (Higher Education), Dr Sally Kosgei (Agriculture) and Musa Sirma (East African Community).
They were Raila’s key pillars who also mounted spirited campaigns for the party ahead of the elections despite strong opposition from residents.
But today, they are hardly visible even in the court battles waged by the party since it lost to Jubilee in the race for State House.
Raila has held various functions in parts of the region only accompanied by Magerer.
Bett confirmed that he had received an invitation for the governing council meeting but did not attend saying: “I now want to involve myself with personal and family matters only”.
Declaring he had quit ODM, Bett also stated that he couldn’t force himself to sing a tune that the Kalenjin community does not want to hear.
He said he would remain in support of the government as long as it puts in place policies that are beneficial to all.
“Every policy in this government that will enhance welfare and the wellbeing of all and to the economy, I will support. You cannot fight the hand that feeds you,” he said.
Bett did not seek any elective position in the March 4 polls while his colleagues who sought various positions on an ODM ticket lost to political first timers riding on a strong Jubilee wave.
The former Bureti MP who spoke to The Standard on Sunday on the phone said he no longer wants to be involved in politics at the moment hinting that he did not defend his seat because of the URP wave in the South Rift.
He said: “Whether there is ODM, URP or TNA, I want to involve myself with personal matters. There is always a time for everything as the Bible says in Ecclesiastes Chapter 3”.
The former State House Comptroller said he did his best to serve the public and the party while in ODM and said he will not be looking for any elective post in the future. “I will not look for any votes again,” he said.
Bett asked the Kalenjin community to respect their former and present leaders.
“I protest the way we handled our former leaders as a Kalenjin people. We mishandle and even neglect them yet we required their assistance when they were in top positions,” he said.
The position of Sirma and Dr Kosgei regarding their political future remains unknown as efforts by The Standard on Sunday to get them on phone were futile.
Some of the senior ODM leaders from the region are however said to be considering quitting active politics considering the odds against Cord’s future political prospects.
Trying to explain the absence of ODM leaders from Rift Valley in the Nairobi meeting, Magerer said, “the governing council is not a free for all affair” adding that there are no provisions for former MPs to attend.
He said the meeting was for the national elections board and chairmen of 47 party branches in the country.
Asked why some leaders in Rift Valley had suddenly disappeared from the party radar, Magerer said he could not speak on their behalf.
“Some people were there by virtue of their positions. The party constitution allows members to be as active as they deem and we cannot push anyone to be active,” said Magerer.
The director however admitted that there was disloyalty ahead of the last elections with some party candidates in some regions campaigning only for themselves and not the party.
“Some were asking voters to elect whoever they wanted for the presidency for example so long as the electorate considered them for the individual positions they were gunning for,” said Magerer.
On the absence of the ODM chairman in the meeting, Magerer said Kosgey would have been present but he could not attend because he lost his mother a day prior to the meeting.
But at the burial, Raila led a strong team of ODM leaders to pay their last respects.
The party also paid for an obituary in the dailies announcing the passing on of Kosgey’s mother.
Rift Valley political analyst and Maasai Mara University lecturer, Philip Chebunet, said the move could have been a genuine gesture to support Kosgey, an ally who stood by the party during campaigns for the March 4 general elections.
“Kosgey really campaigned for them and it was only fair for them to be by his side during the funeral. But we are yet to see whether their political union will continuenow that they lost their bid for State House twice,” he said.
Magerer confirmed that Kamar had tendered her resignation from the party about three months ago.
“I received Kamar’s resignation three months ago. She is one of the trainers for county governance and they are not supposed to be in political parties,” said Magerer.
He said members resolved that the next delegates convention, which is normally held after five years, would be convened in February next year.
The meeting, he added, will also be used to replace top officials who quit the party and will also address any weaknesses that might have affected popularity of the party.
“As a party, we in ODM belief in appropriate party structures unlike others. We are also the only ones who held national elections early last year,” he said.
Magerer said the party requires a fresh approach in the Rift Valley saying “I shall be moving around the region to reorganise branches and sub branches”.
He took issue with Jubilee government for delays in releasing money to political parties, claiming that the government feels threatened by ODM.
“These funds could allow us undertake our activities smoothly because we want to employ county directors to manage the party branches,” he said.
Uasin Gishu County ODM chairman David Songok and his Nandi counterpart Jacob Keino who attended the meeting said it was convened to chart the way forward for the party.
Songok however expressed fears that communication “may not have been well coordinated” and said they want an active office that will coordinate affairs well.
Keino said: “The governing council meeting was well attended and was for elected governors, senators and MPs and chairmen of branches and youth executives”.
Keino added that the party still commands a good following in Nandi County and would gain more popularity once funds are released to streamline its operations.
The URP under the Jubilee umbrella swept majority of elective seats in Rift Valley ranging from the Senators, governors, MPs, Women representatives and Members of County Assemblies.