Kenya: Divisions arise over
Dennis Itumbi, AfricaNews reporter in Nairobi, Kenya
Sunday 9 March 2008
The Orange Democratic Party (ODM) walks into a peace treaty with
the Party of National Unity (PNU) as a divided house,
AfricaNews.com can reveal.
A row simmering over who should occupy the ODM’s deputy premier
post, with the tug of war pitting two heavy weights is likely to
divide that party and even the parliament which it dominates.
William Samoei Ruto and Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi are both eying
A cross section of Rift Valley MPs led by Charles Keter set the
ball rolling with a poorly covered press conference where they
said, “ We have endorsed Raila Odinga as the Prime minister, and
William Ruto for the post of deputy premier.”
By the time of going to press there was little leakage from the
Mutula Kilonzo and James Orengo team, however credible sources
indicated that the two deputy Prime ministers will hold the
dockets of Defence and Internal Security respectively.
PNU on its part was said to be considering Prof. George Saitoti
for the post, or someone from Coast.
According to the Rift Valley ODM MPs, Mudavadi should not
automatically ascend the post of the deputy premier, since ODM had
voted in Kenneth Marende who hails from Western province as the
“We have to be fair to all regions that brought victory to ODM and
stood with the party, we have already given Nyanza the Prime
Minister, Western the House Speaker and now Rift Valley should get
the post of deputy premier,” one of the MPs told this writer in an
interview on the sideline of the press conference.
Though Nyanza Mps like Dalmas Otieno on their part pleaded
ignorance to the development, we can confirm that lobbying for the
post is already on, since Mombasa legislators also want the share
of the key post.
However, unlike Western and Rift Valley, Coast MPs were yet to
name who should go for the post.
Western Mps on their part stuck to their guns, “Mudavadi is the
natural choice for the post, we will discuss it with our
colleagues, but that should not be a discussion.”
Chris Okemo a seasoned legislator told us on phone, “ we will
cross the bridge as we get there, there is no division in ODM we
have not started even discussing who get what, when we begin we
will tell you.”
However when we insisted on a hypothetical answer, Okemo was
philosophical, “ as a region we will present our case, we will
remind everyone of where we have come from and then we will listen
and make a party decision.”
The more vocal Bundalang’i legislator Ababu Namwamba who also
spoke to us in a phone interview choose to be evasive, “right now
we are busy awaiting for parliament to re-open so that we can
begin our legal and representative duty, we are not discussing
power, we are not power hungry.”
However, MPs who spoke to us at length, took us back to the 2007
Kasarani gymnasium where ODM conducted its presidential primaries
and explained that Western as a region agreed to back Raila after
the Prime minister designate announced Mudavadi as his running
mate thereby creating the formidable Western Alliance .
“Remember that we even sought the blessing of the prophesy made
years ago by our own people like Muliro that only someone from the
lake would deliver the top seat to the Western people, something
that galvanized the entire region, we stood by Raila long before
other regions thought about it,” a youthful legislator from the
upper side of Western confided on condition of anonymity.
He also explained that Mudavadi was more experienced and mature in
government administration than Ruto and therefore deserved the
However, Rift Valley MPs argue that Ruto was the one initially
promised the Prime Minister’s post and that it was just by respect
that they had agreed to let go the post and should therefore get
the deputy premier post.
“After Kasarani it was clear who was to be President, Vice –President
and the Prime Minister, so it should not be a debate who takes
over as deputy Prime Minister, besides our region gave Raila more
votes than anywhere else, we have to be rewarded accordingly,” the
MP who is serving his second term explained.
Asked what happens to Coast in the power sharing arrangement,
legislators from both Rift Valley and Western remained mum
preferring to refer the mater to “consultations in the party.”
“But I can tell you that the Coast People will not be let down
they will get very powerful ministries in the arrangement,” the MP
Raila Odinga is all set to assume the Prime Minister’s post after
a peace deal was finally signed between him and President Mwai
Kibaki on February 28th.
Ruto and Mudavadi have brief political careers that have taken
them to the highest echelons of power especially under former
President Daniel Moi.
In the event Ruto takes the post, Mudavadi will be the loser since
he has always held more powerful positions than Ruto in successive
On the other Hand a Ruto appointment would be welcome news for his
Rift Valley region, especially Eldoret that is devastated by ruins
brought about by the post 2007 General election violence.
It appears that as Raila takes the Prime Minister’s office and
strives to create a niche of operations in an office without
governance precedence in the country, he will have to bring order
in his party that enjoys a majority representation in parliament.
A task he has to accomplish with some sense of balance to avoid
the kind of dissent that is steaming form Vice President’s Kalonzo
Kalonzo on his part, contrary to popular opinion did not lose
anything that goes with his office, In fact in terms of government
operations he remains the second most powerful politician, since
he will still be the leader of Government business in parliament
and will succeed the President in case of death and in his absence
the Speaker will take charge.
The emerging division in ODM will require the operation of a swift
politician to ensure it does not cause a schism in the party.