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Ababu hints at forming third political force

Members of the Orange Democratic Movement's central management committee led by Ababu Namwamba (right), the party's secretary-general, at a press conference at Orange House in Nairobi on June 29, 2016 amidst a rebellion by some leaders from the coast and western regions. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Members of the Orange Democratic Movement’s central management committee led by Ababu Namwamba (right), the party’s secretary-general, at a press conference at Orange House in Nairobi on June 29, 2016 amidst a rebellion by some leaders from the coast and western regions. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

ODM Secretary-General Ababu Namwamba is expected to make a major decision on his future in the Opposition party on Wednesday.

The announcement, to be made after the Budalang’i MP meets voters from his constituency, will be coming only days after his ally, Dr Paul Otuoma, announced that he had quit as the party’s vice-chairman. Wednesday’s meeting will be attended by ODM delegates, elders, religious leaders and professionals from his constituency.

Mr Namwamba, Dr Otuoma and seven other western Kenya MPs allied to them have in the recent past protested against the top ODM leadership, especially Party Leader Raila Odinga, whom they have accused of undermining and frustrating them. They have also expressed interest in decamping to the Labour Party of Kenya, whose leader is Dr Julia Ojiambo. In the 2007 elections, Dr Ojiambo was Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s running mate. They finished third behind President Mwai Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga. They all later formed the grand coalition government.

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In an interview with the Nation in Kisumu on Tuesday, Mr Namwamba made it clear he was not headed for Jubilee. He was responding to overtures by Mr Onyango Oloo, the TNA secretary-general, who had on Monday said that Mr Namwamba and other ODM rebels were welcome to join the ruling coalition.

“I am not going to Jubilee. Jubilee is not even an option. Jubilee is not on the table,” said Mr Namwamba.

He hinted at the possibility of teaming up with like-minded politicians to start a Third Force to counter both Jubilee and Cord, which Mr Odinga leads.

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“I will make a decision after the meeting with the people of Budalang’i. They will make the decision and upon that decision I will make my mine,” he said. “I find the idea of a third force… attractive. Something akin to the Liberal Democrats of the UK, who sit between Labour and the Conservative Party.”

For the past two weeks, Mr Namwamba has been the subject of debate in ODM, with some MPs from Nyanza region challenging him to quit.

Mr Namwamba’s exit will certainly be a blow to Mr Odinga, who is fighting to retain his political grip on the increasingly restless western Kenya voting bloc in the face of a strong onslaught by Jubilee, which is seeking support ahead of the 2017 elections. There is a likelihood that other disgruntled politicians from the region could jump onto the bandwagon.

The ODM secretary-general has in the recent past been taking positions that contradict his party leaders.

On Sunday, he criticised the home-coming prayer rallies spearheaded by Mr Odinga for the Cord lawmakers arrested a fortnight ago for alleged hate speech. He said he would neither support nor participate in activities that seem to glorify hate speech.


On Tuesday, he cited four instances to illustrate what he called an orchestrated campaign to undermine or ignore him in the party. First was a decision by the party secretariat to overturn his announcement after a retreat of ODM leaders in Maanzoni that the party’s elections board would be disbanded.

“After declaring to the whole world that the board would be disbanded, a junior officer from the secretariat released a statement contradicting me to my utter shock,” he said. “I cannot be rallying to disband the national elections commission but protect a corrupt elections board in my party.”

Mr Namwamba also claims he was not involved in the decision to nominate Mogotio MP Hellen Sambili to the Parliamentary Select Committee to discuss the future of the electoral commission. Neither was he consulted on the street protests that ODM called to push for the ouster of electoral commissioners.

“The ODM party structures have failed. The issues we are raising are not personal. I have nothing against Mr Odinga who is my political mentor,” he said. “The issues are shared with many other colleagues. They are structural and ideological. We want consistency.”

Besides Mr Namwamba, another Busia legislator, Dr Otuoma of Funyula, has also expressed his discomfort in ODM. However, there are those who think that he is interested in gunning for the governorship of Busia.

Dr Otuoma has declared that he will be seeking to oust Mr Sospeter Ojaamong, an ally of Mr Odinga.

His critics have opined that his decision was informed by the fear that it may be difficult for him to wrest the ODM ticket from Mr Ojaamong.

Meanwhile, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya has downplayed threats by the rebel ODM politicians from the western region to leave the party.

“What is happening in the party is a small misunderstanding over issues that can be resolved amicably so that our party can remain stronger as we prepare for the polls next year,” said the ODM Deputy Party Leader.

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