The absence of Cord leader Raila Odinga has caused ODM and Cord to stagnate, both in and outside parliament .

Raila has already been away for one month attending a political programme at Boston University for former African political leaders where it is conditional that they do not get actively involved in politics. He is likely to be away for another month.

The former Prime Minister flew to the USA in mid-March, shortly after the botched ODM elections at Kasarani on February 28.

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Before his departure, Raila appointed outgoing Secretary General Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o as acting Party Leader in his absence.

However preparations for the elections of new ODM officials and scheduled investigations of the ‘men in black’ who disrupted the ODM elections seem to have ground to a halt.

Yesterday both the Cord and Jubilee leadership admitted that the absence of Raila has created a “huge political vacuum.”

“Raila is the gem of Cord coalition. We are feeling the effects of his absence in the Kenya politics. His absence breaks consultations. He has left a huge vacuum in the space he has been occupying. The country is too quiet and I am appealing to him to come back as soon as possible,” Suna East MP Junet Mohamed said.

“I admit that Raila is undisputed leader of the opposition. He has been away for a short time and the opposition has gone silent. When around, he raises issues that people will talk about for weeks,” said a Jubilee MP who requested not to be quoted for fear of “praising Raila”,

“Raila is always holding public rallies in various parts of the country, questioning thegovernment. His co-principals Moses Wetangula and Kalonzo Musyoka have gone silent indicating the importance of Raila being in the country,” the MP added.

“Raila Odinga is a Pan-Africanist, a great politician as well as household name. His absence in the political arena is not only missed by Cord but even his competitors in the Jubilee Alliance. Everyone misses him but it was important he takes the rest and do other meaningful things in the US which include mentoring the young leaders as he has been doing,” said ODM media officer Philip Etale.

UDF Nominated Senator Martha Wangare said development is more important than Raila.

“My honest view is that we are giving him too much unnecessary attention while we have serious issues to deal,” she said.

Whatever Raila’s personal contribution, ODM appears to be stagnating while he is away.

Part of the problem is persisting divisions among the two factions that were contesting for dominance in the Kasarani elections.

“In a way, the boss ground things to a halt before he left. You cannot have two protagonists as Secretary Generals and four chairmen and expect things to move. In fact the biggest test of this arrangement is the upcoming by elections. Who will sign the certificates and what happens when the two sides differ on the candidates?,” a source at the ODM secretariat asked yesterday.

Before he left, Raila set up a transitional interim executive committee with 12 members from both the Ababu Namwamba and Agnes Zani factions.

The committee had a 10 point terms of reference. However there has been virtually no progress on all the terms of reference.

The first one was easy, to confirmation membership of the committee. The others terms of reference were not.

Among the other TORs, the committee had to establish its own mandate and establish a framework to run the party.

It also had to “receive and consider” the report of the task force on the ‘men in black’ and then recommend how to conduct the next national delegates convention.

The committee had to recommend when campaigns begin, how to prepare voters registers and ballot papers, how to count votes, and how to provide security for the next convention.

In TOR six, the committee had to decide the date and venue of the next NDC for fresh elections, determine “debts and obligations” arising from the botched February 28 NDC, and undertake “preparatory work” including a budget for the next elections.

TOR seven, eight, nine and ten empowered the committee to conduct membershiprecruitment drive, push ODM as the main opposition party, strengthen CORD “with an eye on 2017”, and strengthen ODM’s role in parliament.

The interim committee has met twice since Raila left but seems to have made very little progress with party business.

In early March they called a press conference to release the report on the ‘men in black’ but no-one from the interim committee or report sub-committee showed up.

However a party official insisted there was no problem.

“They are on course. They have been working on the TORs. I have seen them at work on it, including in the last two days. Our party leader is not absent. He appointed an able acting party leader before he left through whom consultations have taken place,” said Wafula Buke, the new ODM director of political affairs and strategic communication. – the-star.co.ke

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