D-Day for men seeking Orange Democratic Movement’s Homa Bay ticket

As 406 Orange Democratic Movement ( ODM) delegates converge today to nominate a candidate to succeed the late Homa Bay Senator Otieno Kajwang’, there are more reports of parallel delegates’ lists and claims of missing delegates. Hilary Alila, an aspirant, who came second to Kajwang’ in the 2013 General Election after garnering 60,000 votes, claimed that the Orange party locked him out of today’s nomination.

Mr Alila said the party’s National Elections Board on Friday declined to accept his documents over claims that he was not a member.”This is part of a wider scheme to lock me out of the elections because everyone in ODM knows that I am a member. I have tried to convince the board otherwise, but they have failed to listen to me,” a furious Alila said. Alila had decamped to the People’s Democratic Party following the chaotic ODM primaries in 2013, but he says he returned to ODM at the beginning of 2014. “I am still in the race. I will offer myself to the the Homa Bay residents as an independent candidate so that the voters can decide,” he said.

But proposed ODM Chairman John Mbadi denied the allegations, saying the board had not drawn his attention to the matter. “I am not privy to that information. The elections board only informed us of one George Omburo who was not cleared because he was from the diaspora and so he never registered as a voter,” Mbadi said. He added: “But if the board ruled that Alila was not a member of the party, then we cannot dispute because he has been on and off.” The exit of Alila and Omburo leaves seven candidates to contest today’s ODM nominations.

Former National Social Security Fund Managing Trustee Fred Rabongo, Moses Kajwang’ (Otieno Kajwang’s brother), former Raila aides Silas Jakakimba and Caroli Omondi are among the aspirants battling for the party’s ticket to contest the February 2, 2015 by-election. Other candidates are former Rangwe MP Philip Okundi, Kasipul politician Kenneth Kambona, businessmen George Mboya and Innocent Masara.

Universal suffrage

On Wednesday, the party announced that the nomination would be conducted by 196 delegates from the county due to the “short notice” given by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for parties to name their candidates, which it indicated compromised its ability to carry out nominations by universal suffrage. Mbadi clarified that the party increased the number of delegates to participate in the nomination exercise to 406, a change he said was intended to give the county’s women Orange Democrats a chance to participate.

In the new arrangement, 58 delegates drawn from each constituency will join the nine MPs, 48 Members of the County Assembly and the governor in nominating the party’s flag-bearer. ODM has a keen interest in who succeeds Kajwang’, owing to the slippery political landscape in South Nyanza, which is home to most of the perceived party rebels. Some political leaders in the region had approached former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is also the party leader, to vie for the senatorial position but he turned down the offer.

Although local MPs were still divided on who to back for the seat, Homa Bay Town MP Opondo Kaluma, who was among the local leaders who had fronted Raila for the position, declared that he was in support of Mr Kajwang’, raising speculation that the party leadership had preferred him. “After a whole week of serious soul searching, I have resolved to support the candidature of Moses Kajwang’.

This is partly on account of my past relationship with the late senator Kajwang’,” Kaluma posted on his Facebook page. Initially, party officials were reluctant to reveal the nominations’ venue at the Homa Bay County Assembly for fear that goons would be hired to disrupt the exercise. Members of the elections board were in the county ahead of the vote to finalise preparations. This happened as aspirants traversed the county, mobilising delegates to support their bids.

Bribery incidents

“As candidates, we have not agreed on the exact list of delegates to be used in the exercise. Some of us are also worried about bribery incidents where some candidates have allegedly locked some delegates in rooms to come and vote for them,” said Dr Kambona. On Thursday, the aspirants converged at the party’s headquarters in Orange House, Nairobi to resolve the differences over the delegates list ahead of today’s exercise, but it appeared they never reached an agreement. Other candidates threatened to contest on tickets of other parties affiliated to the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), or even to vie as independent candidates if they lost the nomination unfairly.

Some of the party officials at the Homa Bay county branch also raised issues with the delegates’ list, claiming it had been doctored to favour some candidates. “Some members have been struck off the delegates list and as a result, we have decided that we will snub the nomination exercise,” claimed ODM Branch Vice Chairman Charles Were, who is among those leading the rival faction. But Mr Mbadi told The Standard that ODM has measures in place to ensure the exercise is transparent.

“We will investigate any report of anomaly and take action. As a party, we are determined to ensure the process is free and fair,” he said. Raila’s candidature could have troubled the coalition given his co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka had also faced a similar situation over the Makueni County Senate by-election after the death of Mutula Kilonzo, but he too decided not to run.