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Betrayal, mistrust blamed for ODM party 2013 fallout

By Eric Wainaina
Thursday, December 5th, 2019 00:00 | 4 mins read
ODM Pentagon members (from left) William Ruto, Raila Odinga, Joe Nyaga, Musalia Mudavadi and Najib Balala. Photo/PD/FILE

Betrayal, mistrust and ambition for power by top opposition leaders, led to the fallout in the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) during the run-up to the 2013 General Election, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi says.

Mudavadi says he was forced out of the party in 2012 by alleged schemes by ODM leader Raila Odinga and his backers to stop him (Mudavadi) from carrying the party’s flag in 2013 through skewed party primaries.

 Writing in his new book, Musalia Mudavadi: Soaring Above the Storms of Passion, the former deputy prime minister says after the 2007 loss, top party leaders were each determined to carry the ODM flag and none of them was willing to compromise, forcing key people to leave.

Strong party

“We had built a very strong party and we saw victory (2007). We saw Raila winning the election and going on to serve two terms.

I knew that I would have to wait for 10 years before I could meaningfully have a crack at the presidency,” Mudavadi says in his autobiography written with publisher and communication expert and ANC secretary general Barrack Muluka.

 Having lost to Mwai Kibaki in 2007 when he claimed theft of his victory, leading to political clashes, Mudavadi says he expected Raila to have considered stepping down for another candidate in 2013 even though there was no such agreement.

 “This is the practice in most mature democracies. If your party loses, the leader makes way for someone else to have a go at it.

There was no clear understanding, however, that he would step down for anybody in 2013, certainly not for me. Indeed, if he had won, it would only have been natural to expect him to seek a second term and we should continue to support him,” Mudavadi writes.

The party had a top decision making group known as the Pentagon, which comprised Raila, William Ruto, Charity Ngilu, Najib Balala, and Joe Nyaga, but all had fled ODM by 2012, citing lack of democracy in the party.

Mudavadi, who had resuscitated his political life during the 2005 referendum, would be the last to leave and after shopping for a new party, he found refuge in the United Democratic Forum (UDF), which he used to unsuccessfully run for the presidency in 2013. 

There was competition for control of the party leadership post, mostly between Raila, Ruto and Mudavadi, who were all yearning for the presidency.

Machinations by the Raila brigade in the party, according to Mudavadi, catalysed the ODM fallout. The party constitution stated that the party leader automatically became the presidential candidate.

 The party was supposed to hold elections in 2011 and Ruto, who was a strong member of the party and his backers, were agitating for the deputy party leader’s position which was being held by Mudavadi.

“I advised Raila that if it was thought necessary, we could split the position of Deputy party leader into two and allow Ruto to be one of the two. I did not mind sharing the portfolio with him, if that was what would take to hold the party together. Ruto was shortly after made a co-deputy party leader with me. This deflated the tension for a while,” Mudavadi says in the 418-page book.

The easing of the tension, the one-time vice-president says, prepared grounds for the party polls, but that was not to be.

Instead, a rigging plot was hatched, while the party elections were to start at the grassroots where delegates would have been picked to vote to the next level, the list was being manipulated allegedly by the Raila wing, and Ruto got furious.

 “Someone was working towards a list that would favour him at the national party elections. The list from Western province (where Mudavadi comes from) was particularly manipulated.

We had a party meeting at which a compromise was reached,” he writes. However, it was a matter of time before the Ruto rebellion began, leading to his convergence with the Uhuru axis. Ruto eventually exited ODM, without formally resigning, Mudavadi recounts.

 At the time, Uhuru, who was in Kanu and Ruto, were battling charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in relation to the 2007/08 post-election violence which left 1, 300 dead and more than 350, 000 people displaced.

 The two, who were later acquitted by The Hague-based court due to lack of evidence and would later form the Jubilee Alliance, had been accused of bearing the greatest responsibility for the violence. 

With the exit of Ruto, competition was left between Mudavadi, who was keen to make a stab at the presidency, and Raila.

Mudavadi thought the 2007 arrangement when Raila was presidential candidate and he the running mate would remain in 2013 but Raila’s men led by his cousin, former Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo, were not excited about it.

 Mudavadi says a narrative was coined that he and Raila were from the same region, western Kenya, “and more specifically Lake Basin” and for their bid for have a national outlook, the party leader and automatic flag-bearer (Raila), “should cast his sights elsewhere for a running mate”.

 This meant that Mudavadi was not of great value to ODM. “The first salvo came from Midiwo.  I could not help asking myself hard questions. Was Midiwo speaking his own mind, or was he Raila’s sounding board?” he writes.

 Before he could digest Midiwo’s message, the soft-spoken politician says another salvo was fired from Meru where the ODM fraternity asked Raila to choose a running mate from them and shortly after, he (Raila) started making trips there.

“Was this a coincidence or was there a scheme to edge me out? Raila did not join the debate, however. The vibes kept coming from his supporters, nevertheless,” he adds.

Fair primaries

 Meanwhile, Mudavadi called for free and fair party primaries, hoping it would give him a chance to become the party’s flag-bearer, and the campaigns started.

His call for credible primaries fell on deaf ears with party stalwart James Orengo, saying Raila was the automatic candidate.

Midiwo and the late former  Homa Bay Senator Otieno Kanjwa’g would coin a phrase ‘Raila is ODM and ODM is Raila’, Mudavadi observes. Eventually Mudavadi ditched the party and Ngilu would soon follow suit.

He began shopping for a political party and the options which first presented themselves were Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya or Eugene Wamalwa’s New Ford Kenya, Ngilu’s Narc and there were also talks between him and Peter Kenneth and Raphael Tuju.

Wetang’ula, who was also toying with the idea of vying for the presidency, promised him the ticket but shortly after, he joined Raila to form the Cord Coalition while Wamalwa would team up with Uhuru and Ruto. 

 Regarding Ngilu, Mudavadi says “some of her people wanted to offer me one of her (Ngilu’s) parties-NPK. Their offer was commercial. My instinct told me that this was a slippery path”.  

He ended up reaching out to former Mandera Central MP Adikadir Mohamed, who he describes as a trusted friend, and who led him to UDF, which he eventually used to run for the presidency but came a distant third with 500, 000 votes. 

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