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Fresh crisis as ODM power sharing deal collapses

A fresh leadership dispute has erupted in ODM after one faction demanded the election of new party national officials in the next 45 days.

The group allied to Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho met in Nairobi on Wednesday night and resolved that the stalemate from the botched elections on February 28 was dimming the party’s popularity and should end.

The group has been seeking to take over the leadership of the party.

After the elections were violently disrupted by “men in black”, ODM leaders formed a caretaker committee as the opposition party prepared for new elections in three months. The caretaker team comprises Mr Namwamba on the one hand and his rival for the secretary-general’s position, Dr Agnes Zani on the other.

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On Thursday, the Zani group described the demands for elections by the Ababu group as “arrogant” and said two conditions must be met before elections are held.

One was that the party should hold fresh grassroots elections to pick new delegates, who will then elect national officials. The other was that the party’s secretariat and election board should be restructured.

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However, the Namwamba group said: “It is our desire that elections should be held within 45 days or so because the interim team currently in office does not enjoy the mandate of the party delegates and the membership.”

Mr Namwamba told the Nation by phone: “It is not good to stay in the limbo and I believe majority of our members want us to sort (out) this matter and prepare to confront our rivals. You cannot face your rivals without putting your house in order first.”

He also clarified that the Wednesday talks were not meant to initiate an internal “coup”.

“We have reason to believe fresh elections can be held within 30 to 45 days,” Mr Namwamba said.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, who is Dr Zani’s ally, said, however, that it was impossible to hold the polls in 45 days.

Speaking by phone from the United States, Mr Oparanya, who was angling for the post of deputy party leader, said: “ODM has its members and it is them who will decide when we should go to the elections. It is not for a faction to arrogate itself the arrogance of demanding elections within a certain period.”

He said the terms set by the Zani group must be met before a new election date is set.

“We told them that we want proper elections at the grassroots and a fresh list of delegates compiled. We also demanded that weaknesses in the secretariat and elections board be rectified. If these conditions are met, we are ready for elections even tomorrow,” he said.

Funyula MP Paul Otuoma, who had been seeking the chairman’s post with the Zani group, was last evening expected to convene a meeting for like-minded candidates to take a position on the fresh demands made by the Namwamba group.

Speaking after the Wednesday night meeting at the Serena Hotel, Mr Josphat Nanok, who was Dr Otuoma’s rival for the chairmanship, said that the Namwamba team would redesign ODM into an election-winning machine.

“There are no camps in ODM; we are in this party to stay and all we are concerned with is how our party leader, Raila Odinga, can go all the way to winning the 2017 elections,” he said.

Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandai, who is in the Zani team, described the new demands as diversionary and regretted that they could ignite unnecessarily tension in ODM.

Busia County Woman Representative Florence Mutua said Mr Namwamba’s team was free to table its demands to the management committee.

“We will also be meeting as Team Zani to come up with a few proposals we think will take our party forward. As for Namwamba and his team, they are free to think the way they do so long as they are able to convince the membership to support their demands,” she

Ababu Namwamba at Kasarani on February 28, 2014. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU

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