ODM can’t demand democracy when party runs like private club



Immediately after the last General Election, CORD started a narrative that it had not lost the elections; Jubilee had stolen its victory. On May 6, 2013 I was quite categorical when I wrote that we – and I used ‘we’ because I had been part of that campaign – had lost not because Jubilee had stolen our votes, but because they had out-organised us at literally every crucial stage of the elections. I advised that CORD needed to evaluate where we had gone wrong, learn from the mistakes we had made, and make appropriate changes. Blaming third parties would not help.

What the CORD leadership thought about my advice was shown in an article that Raila Odinga’s long-time confidante Sarah Elderkin wrote in rebuttal to my column, a few days later. She basically suggested that my advice was meant to bash CORD, so that I could cull favour with Uhuru Kenyatta’s (then) new government.

On February 3, 2014 I wrote that as far as I was concerned the events preceding the ODM party elections; including suggestions that some candidates had been asked to step down, and the voices that spoke truth-to-power called ‘moles’, indicated that there was no democracy in ODM; that the ‘D’ was silent. Again I was vilified and this time it was the party leadership’s thoughts on my advice were represented in a harsh right-of-reply penned by the ODM Public Relations Officer, suggesting that I did not know what I was talking about.

The truth is that since we lost the elections I have used every platform available to me to tell the ODM leadership that it must change if ODM is to survive. My advice has been consistently ignored and I have been called a mole; a turncoat; and a Jubilee government ‘rent-seeker’. However the ODM elections disaster has shown the whole world that I was right; ODM is a party where disorganisation is the order of the day and intimidation a political tool kept close at hand. As Kenya’s vibrant social media is suggesting, ODM showed that as currently constructed, it cannot win an election even where it is competing against itself!

I have been vindicated embarrassingly well.

I am done with ODM. I mentally resigned from the party on Friday afternoon immediately after delegates were manipulated to pass a resolution increasing party positions; I understood that Party Leader Raila Odinga was not ready to cede control of the party to the next generation of the party’s leadership, despite the fact that his position was not being challenged. I emotionally resigned when ODM’s ‘Men-in-Black’ stormed into Kasarani, and in a well choreographed move ensured the elections would not proceed by destroying the ballot boxes. I understood that the party’s ‘owners’ had decreed that the will of the people did not count in how the party runs its affairs.

I officially resigned from ODM, because I have had to admit to myself that ODM will never respect internal party democracy; not for as long as the current leadership exists.

Mine is only but a single resignation that might not have any effect in a party whose presidential candidate received 5.3 million votes. However it is the only way I can pass a message to the ODM leadership.

Party Leader Odinga, You cannot have your cake and eat it. You cannot call for democracy nationally, while running a public-funded political party like it is a private club. You cannot tell off IEBC for fraudulent elections, and watch the same happen in ODM. Finally, you cannot use young people to fight your political wars then discard them after elections are over.

But I have not quit on Kenya’s political system yet as I still want to be part of a team that will get Kenya the kind of party our Constitution envisions.

So I am now looking for a party that has some kind of institutional structure, a national brand, and especially, an inbuilt mechanism to survive beyond personalities. As a pragmatic I realise that it will currently be difficult to find all these qualities together in an existing party today so I am willing to work within a party that does not necessarily have all these qualities now, but that is willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve them.

I am also thinking that if a party like TNA can repackage itself and win the Presidency, all in less than a year; any party whatever its state, can clean itself up in the four years remaining to the next elections, if it is willing.

However the party I will finally support moving forward must genuinely embrace and recognise the role of young people in Kenya’s politics today. It must therefore be willing to accommodate them in its current leadership structures, as well as mentor and propel them into national leadership. After looking at my list, my first port of call is KANU. I will keep you posted.

(Wambugu is the Executive Director for Change Associates Trust)

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