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ODM row stalls business in Kenyan Parliament

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 24 – Parliament has started on an acrimonious note with wrangles in the Orange Democratic Movement being replayed on the floor of the House effectively paralysing business.

The House was forced to adjourn early twice during the morning and afternoon sittings on Wednesday after Members hit a deadlock over the membership of the influential House Business Committee. 

A section of ODM MPs allied to Agriculture Minister William Ruto were unhappy that his party had replaced him with Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey on the 21-member committee.

In the afternoon sitting, the MPs backed by those of rival Party of National Unity forced the adjournment of the House through a vote to allow ‘parties’ to consult and table a new list of nominees on Thursday.

“That was not about our list, but another 24 hours for the ODM to split further,” said a PNU MP who did not wish to be quoted.

Also replaced on the ODM list was North Horr MP Chachu Ganya, who is regarded as a rebel in the party and ally of the Agriculture Minister.

Also curiously missing from the list was party leader Raila Odinga who was replaced with ODM secretary general Anyang’ Nyong’o, a pointer that he had dropped his desire to head the HBC.

The HBC sets the agenda for the House and no business can be conducted until it is constituted.  Ex-officio Member, Speaker Kenneth Marende chaired it in the last session on a temporary basis after both the PM and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka laid claim to the seat in the last session.

Earlier in the day, the House adjourned 30 minutes into the morning session over the same matter and parties were given time to consult.

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“We did not have much problem with our list. We were just helping the ODM (rebels),” one assistant Minister allied to PNU said.

Mr Ruto who was in Kisumu for official business lashed at his party for replacing him accusing a cross section of the leadership of \’petty\’ politics. He maintained that the list was prepared without consultations.

“ODM should ensure that party and individual differences are not sneaked into the running of the parliamentary calendar,” he said.

After the morning hitch, a hurriedly convened ODM Parliamentary Group meeting resolved not to alter its list.  Party Chief Whip Jakoyo Midiwo said the MPs agreed to stick by their list maintaining that enough consultations had been done.

“The issue about the list is a matter of the whips and we have explained that to our members,” he said.

Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto who spearheaded the campaign to reject the list moved the motion of adjournment in the afternoon session saying “there was need for more consultations by his party before the list is re-tabled,” a proposal that was opposed by ODM MPs supporting party leader Raila Odinga.

It was a day of statements and counterstatements in the House over the now popular  ‘consultations.’

“We should practice democracy not dictatorship,” said Tourism Minister Najib Balala, another ally of the Agriculture Minister and a perceived rebel.

Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang\’ defended the list saying the House was not the place to resolve party differences.

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“This House cannot supervise political parties,” he said.

Gachoka MP Mutava Musyimi prodded the warring factions to sit together and agree: “The mood in the country right now is that of consultations.”

The conflict between the Agriculture Minister and Mr Odinga has escalated in the last two weeks after the unsuccessful attempt by the Premier to suspend him over corruption allegations.

Rifts have emerged in the party with the defiant Mr Ruto enjoying the support of over 20 MPs mostly from his Rift Valley home turf.

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