Preparations for the ODM elections due at the end of this month kicked off with a controversial demand by Luo politicians that the Secretary General’s position must be set aside for a Luo.
This was not received well by the public and Raila Odinga, as the ODM Party Leader, moved quickly to contain this public relations nightmare, and told off his tribesmen for threatening to destroy the image of a party that has shown its national footprint in two General Elections.
For the record, it was foolish of Luo MPs to go public with something as negatively ethnic is ring-fencing an elective party position. However the former Prime Minister also does not see the irony of telling off these Luo MPs while trying to prove how national ODM is, by quoting votes garnered in a general election where the Secretary General was still Luo.
The fact is that ODM is not a national party; Kenya does not have any such thing. However ODM could easily be the first; but it will require a lot more than putting a few non-Luo people into its top offices.
First, the party must actively recruit members from across the nation. This will give it a national membership, which is the foundation of a national political party. This national membership must then be allowed to freely elect the delegates who will represent their interests at the national delegates’ conference.
After we get genuine delegates, ODM must then allow any party member who wants to run for any office, to do so; and enable a level playing ground for everyone, without discrimination. Finally, ODM must conduct free and fair elections.
The party must start by not confusing mass street support, with membership. ODM needs to actively recruit members, not only in Nyanza, Coast and Western, but also in Central, Rift Valley and Eastern regions. The members must be put on record and invited to invest time and resources into the party, so as to build it as a mass movement, rather than allowing a few people to ‘own’ it because they fund its operations.
ODM must also move away from the tradition of making up delegate lists in private rooms; delegates must be chosen in a transparent format by members. Finally, ODM must have party elections that are as free and fair, as it demands from the national electoral commissions during presidential elections. Ironically Kenyans will believe the party is national when Luos run and lose elections fairly, to candidates from other regions!
In summary ODM (or any other party) just needs to get its membership from everywhere, and then allow transparency in the determination of delegates. The party will then, by default, elect ‘national’ officials; and be genuinely national. There is no shortcut.
The reality is that ODM is a focused on securing its Coast and Western support base, and intends to use its senior party positions as bait for leaders from these regions. This is why it has no problem practicing reverse ethnic discrimination against Luos, because it does not expect any formidable threats from there; nor is it making any effort to get key supporters into leadership from Rift Valley or Central, because it has no presence in these regions.
However the ODM Party leader should be concerned that in trying to achieve his goals, he and his party now look like dictators, as they force young elected leaders to step down from their ambitions, for no other reasons than that they are Luo. Kenyans from outside the Luo community are watching these and other Luo leaders being humiliated into submission, and it is scary. Someone somewhere must be contemplating what such a party and leader can do to people from outside his strongholds, who dared challenge him and his government were he ever got into power.
On Wednesday, (February 5, 2014) the International Criminal Court convenes for a status conference on the Uhuru Kenyatta case, after Prosecutor Bensouda’s admission of lack of enough evidence to sustain trial.
President Kenyatta’s team has asked the court to permanently terminate the case. The Prosecution on the other hand is asking the court to adjourn the case until the Kenyan government complies with requests made to it.
I remember Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo once telling us how he had all the evidence he needed to win his cases, and that all his witnesses were in secure locations in foreign countries. Today Prosecutor Bensouda says that she does not have enough evidence, admits that she was not able to secure her witnesses, and needs the court to instruct the Kenyan government to help her get new evidence, before she can proceed.
I am now convinced that the Prosecution is now just going through the motions, and around in circles.
This is not helping the Kenyan nation, the victims, or anyone else. I therefore pray that this week the court will rescue all of us and bring closure to this situation, permanently.
(Wambugu is the Executive Director of Change Associates Trust)